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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Reba McEntire, Brendan Benson and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

COUNTRY

Reba McEntire

“Keep on Loving You”

Starstruck/Valory Music Co.

***

It’s OK if you don't realize it’s been six years since Reba McEntire’s last solo album; between her popular TV series and runs on Broadway and the big screen, the country diva hasn’t exactly gone away. But with “Keep on Loving You” she returns to recording in a manner that will make long-time fans smile and quite possibly win a few new followers, too. Her 31st album marks McEntire’s record company switch and brings her back to a more straightforward kind of sound, shearing away some of the orchestrations and vocal histrionics that had started to populate her releases. The result is a more hard-hitting and dynamic 13-song collection, starting with the spirited lead-off track and first single “Strange,” a post break-up anthem powered by fiddle and steel guitar. McEntire is all about empowerment on a song like “She’s Turning 50 Today” (her only co-writing credit on the album), and tracks such as “I Want a Cowboy,” “Pink Guitar” and the jazzat She’s Having” show that there’s no age limit on sass. “Maggie Creek Road” offers up a smartly delivered ballad about a vengeful mother, while McEntire’s reach on “Keep On Loving You” stretches from the richly swelling title track (co-written by Brooks & Dunn’s Ronnie Dunn) to the rock grooves of “Just When I Thought I’d Stopped Loving You,” the soulful flavor of “But Why” and the Western swing underpinnings of “Nothing to Loose.” After six years away, it seems, McEntire hasn’t lost a step and has actually re-gained some of the moxie that’s helped her sell more than 55 million albums before this.



ROCK

Brendan Benson

“My Old, Familiar Friend”

ATO

***

If Jack White can be considered the Raconteurs’ John Lennon then Brendan Benson is certainly its Paul McCartney — fastidiously melodic with a deceptively light touch and the subtle sophistication of a master craftsman. Produced by Gil Norton (the Pixies, Foo Fighters), the Michigander’s fourth solo album is buoyed by expectations from his raiseRaconteur, and Benson delivers with 11 retro-fitted and tightly arranged tracks rich in both texture and dynamics. “My Old, Familiar Friend” lives up to its title with references to Motown (“Garbage Day”), the Zombies (“Eyes on the Horizon”), Todd Rundgren (“Gonowhere”) and, throughout, The Beatles and British Invasion pop, with liberal touches of psychedelia. It misses some of the rawness of 1996’s “One Mississippi” and the punchiness of 2002’s “Lapalco,” but this “Friend” is well worth having.



New & Noteworthy

Terence Blanchard, “Choices” (Concord Jazz): New Orleans trumpeter Blanchard incorporates guest contributions by vocalist Bilal, guitarist Lionel Louke and scholar Dr. Cornel West on his new release.

Cascada, “Evacuate the Danceloor” (Robbins Entertainment): The full-length set from the German group that’s already turned the title track into a club sensation.

Kate Earl, “Kate Earl” (Universal Republic/Casablanca): The Alaskan singer-songwriter, who’s been compared favorably to Feist and Rikki Lee Jones, releases her debut album via online platforms only.

Judith Edelman, “Clear Glass Jar” (31 Tigers): The New York-born singer-songwriter ends a nine-year recording hiatus after divorce and the dissolution of her band.

Robben Ford, “Soul on Ten” (Concord): Eight of these 10 tracks were recorded live during a two-night stand in April at The Independent club in San Francisco.

Arlo Guthrie, “Guthrie Family Rides Again” (Rising Son): Three generations of the Guthrie clan — Arlo, his children and their children, reprise some of the patriarchs classic as well as co-writes with Billy Bragg, Wilco, Janis Ian and others.

Joe Henry, “Blood From Stars” (Anti-): The artist, producer and Rochester Adams grad veers left to explore more dark and raw material on his 11th album.

Hot Club of Cowtown, “Wishful Thinking” (Thirty Tigers): The Western swing/gypsy jazz alchemists regroup for their first album in five years, since singer-fiddler Elana James’ flirtation with a solo career and membership in Bob Dylan’s band.

Jones Street Station, “In Verses” (Smith Street): The Americana quartet from Brooklyn continues to blend four-part harmonies and flashy instrumental chops on its sophomore album.

Ledisi, “Turn Me Loose” (Verve Forecast): The Grammy-nominated R&B singer ups the wattage on her fourth album, working with producers such as Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Raphael Saadiq and others.

The Lovely Feathers, “Fantasy of the Lot” (Sparks Music/Tommy Boy): The Canadian pop quintet made fans wait a full three years for this sophomore outing.

Madness, “The Liberty of Norton Folgate” (Yep Roc): The British ska-pop troupe’s first original album in a decade already hit the Top 5 in its homeland.

Delbert McClinton, “Acquired Taste” (New West): Detroiter Don Was produced Texas blues-rocker McClinton’s first new album in four years.

Chuck Mosley, “Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food” (Reversed Image Unlimited): The title says it all for this solo album from the former Faith No More vocalist.

Billie Myers, “Tea & Sympathy” (Fruit Loop): Marcella Detroit (aka former Bob Seger/Eric Clapton backup singer Marcy Levy) is among the songwriters who worked with the British-born Myers on her third album.

Jay Reatard, “Watch Me Fall” (Matador): The Memphis garage rocker delivers his second solo album after last year’s exercise of putting out six 7-inch singles in as many months.

Sister Hazel, “Release” (Rock Ridge): The five members of this Florida rock group spread the songwriting credits around on their seventh studio album.

Jonah Smith, “Lights Out” (Voluptuary): The Brooklyn singer-songwriter joins the ranks of artists tapping fans for recording capital on this Malcolm Burn-produced set.

Soundtrack, “Bandslam” (Hollywood): David Bowie, Wilco, the Velvet Underground and Honor Society are featured alongside the film’s star Aly Michalka covering Cheap Trick’s “I Want You To Want Me.”

Soundtrack, “Inglourious Basterds” (Warner Bros.): Director Quentin Tarantino curated this collection of obscure film score music, including some cuts from Nazi-era German comedies.

Soundtrack, “Post Grad” (ABKCO): Newcomers such as The Bird and the Bee, Jack Savoretti, Lucy Schwartz and Kevin Drew place new songs alongside established fare by Gym Class Heroes, Lily Allen and others.



From The Vaults

The Rolling Stones, “Jump Back: The Best of the Rolling Stones 1971-1993” (UMG); Various Artists, “Boy Meets Girl: Classic Soul Duets” (Stax); Various Artists, “Woodstock — 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur’s Farm” (Rhino).



New Music DVDS

Old Crow Medicine Show, “Live at the Orange Peel and Tennessee Theatre” (Nettwerk)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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