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Listening Room: Toby Keith, Rosanne Cash and more...
Show Dog Nashville
“American Ride” is Toby Keith’s seventh album in six years, including a Christmas set and a best-of. That’s a level of productivity that would dull most artists’ creativity but has, in fact, only seemed to sharpen Keith’s. Clearly reveling in the freedom to be prolific that’s afforded by having his own label, “American Ride” sports a dozen smart, occasionally witty and palpably heartfelt songs that even those who are programmed to hate Keith have to give their due. The ringing, Americana-flavored title track, the only one on the album Keith didn’t write or co-write, has become the Oklahoma native’s fastest-rising single since “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American);” its snappy observations of contemporary life aren’t nearly as polarizing, but you can bet some will question an environmental stance like “both ends of the Ozone burning/funny how the world keeps turning.” Elsewhere we find Keith and company having somrroom showdown of “Every Dog Has Its Day” and the “Gomer Pyle”-esque “Ballad of Balad,” and then mixing the brassy rock crunch of “Loaded” and the bluesy tinge of “If You’re Tryin’ You Ain’t” with the breezy Texas swing flavor of “You Can’t Read My Mind.” “Gypsy Driftin’ “ is a winsome, sentimental ode to the beginnings of his musical career, while “Are You Feelin’ Me” and “Tender As I Wanna Be” show his soft spot and “Cryin’ For Me” bids a sweet farewell to Keith’s friend and fellow Oklahoman Wayman Tisdale, a basketball star turned jazz bassist, with Dave Koz on saxophone and Marcus Miller on bass. It’s a smooth and consistently strong “Ride,” making a case that quantity is quality when it comes to Keith and his music.
Rosanne Cash, “The List” (Manhattan) ***1/2
On her last album, 2006’s “Black Cadillac,” Rosanne Cash mused on mortality as part of mourning for her father, Johnny Cash. He’s still on her mind this time, too; “The List” features 12 selections from a list of 100 ey songs Cash’s father gave her, and the exercise takes on a bit more poignancy in the wake of her own brush with mortality — a benign brain condition in 2007. Despite that, there’s a lightness and joy to “The List,” even on weightier tracks such as the Carter Family’s “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow,” Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings” — in a moving duet with Rufus Wainwright — and Johnny Cash’s “Long Black Veil, sung with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Bruce Springsteen (Don Gibson’s “Sea of Heartbreak”) and Elvis Costello (Harlan Howard’s “Heartaches By the Number”) also join Cash here, and commanding performances of Bob Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country,” Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” and the traditional “Motherless Children” have us anxiously awaiting the rest of “The List,” whenever Cash chooses to delve back into it.
New & Noteworthy
Air, “Love 2” (Astralwerks): The French electronic pop duo delivers its fifth studio album, and first since 2007’s ambitious “Pocket Symphony.”
Backstreet Boys, “This is Us” (Jive): The boys-become-men band worked with original producer Max Martin as well as current hitmakers such as T-Pain and RedOne on its seventh studio album.
Big Kenny, “The Quiet Times of a Rock and Roll Farmboy” (Everybody/Bigger Picture): The taller half of Big & Rich’s second solo album has already spawned the hit “Long After I’m Gone.”
Luke Bryan, “Doin’ My Thing” (Capitol Nashville): Bryan wrote eight of the 11 songs on his sophomore set.
Michael Buble, “Crazy Love” (143/Reprise): The Canadian crooner covers standards, contemporary songs by Van Morrison and Ron Sexsmith, and works out with Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings on his fourth studio album. (Out Friday, Oct. 9.)
Built to Spill, “There is No Enemy” (Warner Bros.): The Idaho indie rockers’ latest features several guests and some lengthy pieces spotlighting leader Doug Martsch’s guitar.
Brandi Carlile, “Give Up the Ghost” (Columbia): Produced by Rick Rubin, the singer-songwriter’s third album features guest appearances by Elton John, Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith.
Exene Cervenka, Somewhere Gone (Bloodshot): The X and Knitters singer’s first solo album since 1991 features guests such as cellist Amy Farris, Dex Romweber, Cindy Wasserman and Skeletons/Morells members Lou Whitney and Joe Terry.
Everclear, “In a Different Light” (429): The Art Alexakis-led trio reinterprets a selection of the group’s best-known material and adds two brand new tracks to the mix.
Gogol Bordello, “Live From Axis Mundy” (Sideonedummy): A CD/DVD set that captures the righteous cacophony of the gypsy rock outfit’s exhausting concert performances.
Robert Earl Keen, “The Rose Hotel” (Lost Highway): The Americana veteran covers songs by Townes Van Zandt and Greg Brown on his first studio album in four years.
Kiss, “Sonic Boom” (Loud & Proud): Frontman Paul Stanley took the production wheel to help the latest incarnation of his band “Rock and Roll All Nite” -- and then some.
Lucero, “1372 Overton Park” (Universal Republic): The Memphis quartet taps into the soul roots of its home town on its sixth studio album -- and first for a major label.
Massive Attack, “EP” (Virgin): The British trip-hop duo’s first new material in three years is a four-song EP that precedes a new studio album slated for 2010.
Mayday Parade, “Anywhere But Here” (Fearless/Atlantic): The Florida modern rockers move to a major label to follow up its breakthrough 2007 debut “A Lesson in Romantics.”
Daniel Merriweather, “Love & War” (J/Allido): The British singer brings his debut album to the U.S. after a No. 2 debut on his homeland album charts.
Maria Muldaur, “Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy” (Stony Plain): Muldaur returns to her jug band roots with help from John Sebastian, David Grisman, Dan Hicks and others.
Meshell Ndegeocello, “Devil’s Halo” (Mercer Street/Downtown): The individualistic singer-songwriter-bassist leads her quartet through a typically eclectic dozen songs on her eighth album.
Joe Perry, “Have Guitar, Will Travel” (Roman): The Aerosmith guitarist makes up for his band’s absence with a follow-up to his Grammy Award-nominated 2005 self-titled solo album.
Powerman 5000, “Somewhere On the Other Side of Nowhere” (Mighty Loud/Fontana): Spider One and company return to the electro-flavored sci-fi/comic book rock its fans favor on tracks such as “Super Villain,” “V is For Vampire” and “Horror Show.”
The Raveonettes, “In and Out of Control” (Fierce Panda/Vice): The Danish duo’s fourth full-length follows a series of four EPs released in 2008.
Steel Panther, “Feel the Steel” (Universal Republic): Shades of Anvil -- and Spinal Tap -- this Los Angeles metal troupe has been angling 20 years to release this debut album.
Tiesto, “Kaleidoscope” (Ultra/Musical Freedom): The Dutch DJ and electronic artist works with Nelly Furtado, Tegan & Sara and members of Metric, Sigur Ros and Bloc Party on his fourth studio set.
Tokio Hotel, “Humanoid” (Universal/Interscope): The German glam rockers worked with a variety of U.S. and British writers and producers while making it second English language album.
From the Vaults: James Brown, “Live at the Garden: Expanded Edition” (Hip-O Select); Vince Guaraldi, “The Definitive Vince Guaraldi” (Concord); Morphine, “At Your Service” (Rhino/Ryko); Vonda Shepard, “The Best of Ally McBeal: The Songs of Vonda Shepard” (20th Century Fox/Legacy)
Holiday Albums: Ray Charles, "The Spirit of Christmas" (Concord); Frank Sinatra, "Christmas With Sinatra and Friends" (Concord)
New Music DVDs: Joe Bonamassa, “Live From the Royal Albert Hall” (J&R Adventures); Kenny G, “An Evening of Rhythm & Romance” (Eagle Rock DVD and Blu-Ray)
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