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Listening Room: Drive-By Truckers, North Mississippi Allstars and Kate Voegele
Drive-By Truckers, “Brighter Than Creations Dark” (New West) ***1/2
North Mississippi Allstars, “Hernando” (Sounds of the South) ***
When it comes to rock ’n’ roll, the South’s been doing it since well before Charlie Daniels declared it was gonna do it again. But this pair of new releases from the south side of the Mason-Dixon line shows that the musical stars ’n’ bars are still waving proudly. And potently. Georgia’s Drive-By Truckers, of course, cranked out a full-scale “Southern Rock Opera” seven years ago and haven’t trimmed their ambitions since, loading up “Brighter Than Creations Dark” with a whopping 19 tracks from the band’s three writers that nevertheless preset a cohesive kind of hodgepodge. Group leader Patterson Hood, who co-produced Bettye LaVette’s Grammy-nominated “Scene of the Crime,” gets things off to a rocking and rootsy start on “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife,” one of a number of dark tales that populate the album. Mike Cooley quotes Bob Seger’s “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” in “3 Dimes Down,” but bassist Shonna Tucker is the album’s revelation, stepping up in place of her ex-husband Jason Isbell, who’s left the band, by writing three exceptional tracks, including the down ’n’ dirty “Home Field Advantage.” These kinds of “Creations” make for a bright entry in the Truckers’ catalog.
North Mississippi Allstars also expand their musical path on the group’s fifth studio album, stepping away from its established “hill country” sound to embrace a more straightforward blues-rock direction. Named after their hometown and produced by Jim Dickinson — the legendary father of Allstars Luther and Cody Dickinson — “Hernando” still has one foot in the juke joints on tracks such as the funky “Shake” and the rockabilly-styled “Blow Out,” but the trio makes a bigger noise and larger sonic footprint on the likes of “Keep the Devil Down,” “Long Way From Home,” “Eaglebird” and “Mizzip,” while “I Want Love to Be a Hippy” delves into a cosmic kind of blues. Like previous releases, “Hernando” is a showcase for guitarist Luther, who’s now doing double-duty in the Black Crowes, but his playing this time out delves deeper into his ’70s classic rock influences, from Jimi Hendrix to ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons.
Kate Voegele, “Don’t Look Away” (MySpace Records) **1/2
Kate Voegele is everywhere these days, from MySpace (which is also her record label) to the CW’s “One Tree Hill,” where she’s in the midst of a multi-episode arc. Fortunately the 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Cleveland makes music that merits the attention — big, full-bodied songs that showcase a rich pop/rock voice and lovelorn lyrics that alternate between age-appropriate naivete and wisdom beyond her years. Voegele is particularly strong on piano-led pieces such as “Top of the World,” “One Way or Another” and “Kindly Unspoken,” but her rock chops are also convincing on tracks like “Might Have Been” and “Only Fooling Myself.”
NEW AND NOTEWORTHY
The Backyardians, “Born Go Play”(Nickelodeon/SonyBMG) — The kiddie rock band’s third album is notable for guest appearances by Alicia Keys, Cyndi Lauper and Adam Pascal.
Natasha Bedingfield, “Pocketful of Sunshine” (Epic) — The British singer’s second North American album incorporates songs from “N.B.,” her sophomore set in Europe, as well as a duet with Sean Kingston on the single “Love Like This.”
Big Noyd, “Illustrious” (Koch) — The New York rapper presents more episodes of a “Hustla” on his sixth solo release.
Cat Power “Jukebox” (Matador) — Chan Marshall returns to the covers world with this stylized set of songs made famous by Bob Dylan, Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, Billie Holiday, Janis Joplin and more.
Matt Costa, “Unfamiliar Faces” (Brushfire) — The second album from the California singer, songwriter and occasional skate punk.
Dengue Fever, “Venus on Earth” (M80) — The third album from the Cambodian pop group recently celebrated in the documentary “Sleepwalking Through the Mekong.”
Liam Finn, “I’ll Be Lightning”
(Yep Roc) — The debut set from the son of Crowded House/Split Enz veteran Neil Finn.
Patty Larkin, “Watch the Sky” (Vanguard) — The Boston singer, songwriter and virtuoso did all the writing, production and engineering for her latest release.
Lisa Loeb “The Purple Tape” (Furious Rose) — The singer-songwriter puts her first recording on CD for the first time, adding a new interview and live acoustic versions of two tracks.
Wynton Marsalis, “Standards” (Sony Legacy) — A well-chosen collection culled from the trumpet great’s five “Standard Time” albums.
Jason Miles, “Soul Summit” (Shanachie) — New York keyboardistproducer Miles gets his funk on with an all-star group of R&B, jazz and rock players.
moe., “Sticks and Stones” (Fatboy) — The upstate New York jam band wrote eight of these 10 songs in the studio during recording sessions for the album.
Steve Poltz, “Traveling” (Thirty Tigers) — A batch of new and typically entertaining tunes from the onetime Jewel and Mojo Nixon collaborator.
The Whigs, “Mission Control” (ATO) — The Athens, Ga., trio’s selfreleased first album attracted the attention of Dave Matthews’ label for its sophomore set.
Zox, “Line in the Sand” (Side One Dummy) — The Ivy League (Brown University) rockers from Rhode Island recorded their third album in Seattle.
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