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The Listening Room: Sheryl Crow, Ry Cuming and more...
“100 Miles From Memphis”
There’s truth in advertising here; Sheryl Crow really did grow up 100 miles from Michigan, in small-town Kennett, Mo. So she comes by the pronounced soul flavor of her latest album honestly and delivers it in a convincing fashion, working with co-producers Doyle Bramhall II and Justin Stanley for a 12-song hybrid of Stax, Motown and Hi Records styles. The reach is wide, from the brassy funk tinge of the opening “Our Love is Fading” to the reggae flavor of “Eye to Eye,” with the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards providing extra wagger on the latter. Justin Timberlake lends backing vocals on the smooth “Sign Your Name,” which openly references Al Green, while “Long Road Home” delivers a rootsy gospel testimony and “Say What You Want” blends political commentary with an acoustic guitar groove that drives into another big, brassy chorus. Citizen Cope joins Crow on the aching emotional dynamics of “Sideways,” and “Roses & Moonlight’s” funk slink both counters and complements the buoyant joy of “Summer Day,” “Peaceful Feeling” and a spot-on cover of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” — a nice nod to the late Michael Jackson, who hired her as a backup singer on his 1988 tour. Crow does have a tendency to let some of the songs rattle on a bit too long here, but for the most part this is “100 Miles ...” that she was wise to tread.
Ry Cuming, “Ry Cuming” (Bellasonic/Jive) **1/2
If sounding like a lot of successful acts is a reasonable predictor for success, then Ry Cuming is headed for some big things. On his debut album, the Australian surfer-turned-musician offers up 11 slick, well-crafted and lyrically lovelorn tunes that come from the same earnestly sincere school as John Mayer, the Goo Goo Dolls, David Gray and Maroon 5 — whose keyboardist, Jesse Carmichael, plays piano throughout. Cuming works hard to cover all the bases here, from the upbeat soul-pop of “Meaning of It All” to the sexy funk of “Tearing Me Apart,” the pop anthemry of “City of Lights,” the rock crunch of “Chemistry” and the brooding sighs of “Is This Love” and “Harder to Say.” It’s polished in a pleasant way, and Cuming’s predecessors have certainly paved a platinum path for this kind of stuff.
New & Noteworthy
Big Head Todd & the Monsters, “Rocksteady” (ILG/Warner Bros.): The Colorado jam band mines soul and Caribbean influences on its eighth studio album.
Black Veil Brides, “We Stitch These Wounds” (Standby): The debut album from the theatrical Hollywood modern rockers.
Marc Cohn, “Listening Booth: 1970” (Saguaro Road): The singer-songwriter of “Walking in Memphis” fame surveys a ‘70s playlist of classics by Smokey Robinson, Simon & Garfunkel, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Bread, among others.
Brian Culbertson, “XII” (GRP): The jazz/R&B multi-instrumentalist recruited an all-star lineup for his 12th album, including Brian McKnight, Ray Parker Jr., Kenny Lattimore, Earl Klugh and Floetry’s Natalie Stewart.
Micki Free, “American Horse” (Native American Rocks): The Florida-based guitarist of Cherokee and Comanche descent pays tribute to Jimi Hendrix on a couple tracks from his latest album.
Frontier Ruckus, “Deadmalls and Nightfalls” (Ramseur): The Orion, Mich., quartet’s second album brings a bit more twang narrative sweep to what’s usually considered Detroit rock ‘n’ roll.
David Garrett, “Rock Symphonies” (Decca): The violinist teams with the City of Prague Orchestra for classicized versions of songs by U2, Aerosmith, Metallica, Nirvana, Led Zeppelin and others.
Ruth Gerson, “This Can’t Be My Life” (Wrong): The New York singer-songwriter had this ready to go three years ago but held back due to a divorce and single parenting duties.
Jimmy Gnecco, “The Heart” (Bright Antenna): The solo debut from the frontman of the Australian modern rock group Ours.
Charlie Louvin, “Hickory Wind: Live at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull” (Tompkins Square): The revered country artist pays tribute to one of his proteges on this concert recording.
Mahjongg, “The Long Shadow of the Paper Tiger” (K): The dance music quartet forwards its distinctive brand of Midwest groovery that it’s dubbed Chicagotronics.
Manowar and Friends, “Magic — A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio” (Megaforce): The first tribute to the late heavy metal icon features covers of his material by Manowar, Crosswind, Metalforce and others on hard rock’s cutting edge.
John McVey, “Unpredictable” (self-released): The singer-songwriter from Boulder, Colo., is donating a portion of this album’s proceeds to Kids Food Basket, which provides bag lunches to underfunded children and schools in Grand Rapids.
Rick Ross, “Teflon Don” (Maybach/Def Jam): An all-star guest list — Jay-Z, John Legend, T.I., Kanye West, Erykah Badu, Cee-Lo, Ne-Yo, Diddy, Drake and more — turn out for the Florida rapper’s fourth album.
Brian Setzer Orchestra, “Don’t Mess With a Big Band: Live” (Surfdog): The title pretty much says it all as the Stray Cat founder and crew blitz through a 2009 set from Japan.
Rachelle Spector, “Out of My Chelle” (Genius 4ever): This 10-song outing by Phil Spector’s wife was the legendary producer’s final work before being incarcerated for second-degree murder.
Tokio Hotel, “Humanoid City Live” (Cherrytree/Interscope): The German alt-rockers deliver their 2009 album live on this CD/DVD set.
These United States, “What Lasts” (United Interests): Frontman Jesse Elliott penned some of the songs on this Washington, D.C./Kentucky quintet’s fourth album after nearly drowning in Lake Michigan last summer.
12 Stones, “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday” (Wind-Up): It’s been three years since the Louisiana rockers’ last release; hopefully a five-song EP is enough to tide fans over until another full album comes along.
Various Artists, “Jonas L.A.” (Walt Disney): The companion album to the Jonas Brothers’ new TV series features 13 new songs from the trio, with all three contributing to just one while youngest bro Nick has his hand in eight.
Various Artists, “Sweet Home Alabama: The Country Music Tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd” (UMe): Uncle Kracker joins Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser and others on this Wal-Mart exclusive set of covers.
From The Vaults
a-ha — “The Singles: 1984-2004,” “Hunting High and Low (Deluxe Edition)” and “Scoundrel Days (Deluxe Edition)” (all Rhino); Jimmy Lafave, “Favorites 1992-2001” (Music Road); Night Ranger, “Authorized Bootleg — Live in Marquette, Michigan 8/8/84” (UMe); Stratovarius, “Infinite (Deluxe Edition)” (Armoury)
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