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The Listening Room: Toby Keith, Chiodos and more...
“Bullets in the Gun”
Show Dog Nashville/Universal
Toby Keith is indeed a big gun in country music — more than 25 million albums sold, 19 No. 1 hits and the leverage to not only leave the label world and start his own record company but also to make it successful enough to be asked back as an equal partner. And his 16th studio album demonstrates that there are, indeed, more “Bullets” left in his gun. What often gets lost in the brawny bluster of Keith’s persona is his craft and cleverness as a songwriter, a seasoned vet who’s mastered country’s conventions and both knows how to and relishes twisting them around. So here we get fare like “Somewhere Else,” whose deceptively lively melody masks the melancholy of a lonely and lovelorn guy, a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan, no less, who’s made a sad routine of happy hour and TV dinners. The hillbilly-wild “Trailerhood” seats us in a bona fide American institution, sitting on lawn chairs with the residents as they watch a tornado blow by in the distance, and the title track on “Bullets in the Gun” is a ready-for-the-big-screen gunslinger story. Keith has no trouble getting rowdy, of course, on songs such as “Think About You All the Time,” “Ain’t Breakin’ Nothin’” and “Drive It on Home,” while a tender — yes, tender — side emerges on “Kissin’ in the Rain,” “In a Couple of Days” and “Is That All You Got” without relying on cloying or over-used motifs. Seventeen years ago Keith sang that he “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” but we’re happy he’s singing and writing songs instead.
Chiodos, “Illuminaudio”(Equal Vision) ***
The arty hard rockers from Davison have a tall order on their third full-length album. After 2007’s “Bone Palace Ballet” debuted at an impressive No. 5 on the Billboard 200, the group parted ways with original frontman Craig Owens (as well as drummer Derrick Frost), the kind of move that’s stalled the momentum of many a band before it. But with Brandon Bolmer of Yesterday’s Rising now fronting it, the sextet holds its own on “Illuminaudio,” bringing an even wider dynamic sweep Chiodos’ gymnastic musicality — and cutting more than a few syllables out of the once comically long song titles. “Love is a Cat From Hell,” “Scaremonger” and “His Story Repeats Itself” burn with frenetic intensity, while “Modern Wolf Hair” strides with anthemic urgency and “Caves” and “Let Us Burn One” ride muscular grooves. Chiodos is still not for the faint of heart, but that danger is part of the thrill.
New & Noteworthy
David Archuleta, “The Other Side of Town” (Jive): “American Idol’” seventh season runner-up co-wrote the vast majority of the songs on his third album.
Katie Armiger, “Confessions of a Nice Girl” (Cold River): The youthful Texas singer-songwriter collaborates with Charlie Sexton and Jason Aldean’s backing band on her third album.
Avett Brothers, “Live, Volume 3” (American/Columbia): The rootsy rock quartet’s latest live set was taped near home during a 2009 show in Charlotte, N.C.
Clinic, “Bubblegum” (Domino): The Liverpool quintet integrates a variety of organic instruments, including dulcimers and strings, into its high-octane sound.
Faith Evans, “Something About Faith” (Entertainment One/Prolific): Snoop Dogg, Raekwon, Keyshia Cole and Redman are among the guests on the hip-hop/soul veteran’s first new album in five years.
Finger Eleven, “Life Turns Electric” (Wind-up): Group members James Black and Rick Jackett produced the Burlington, Ont., quintet’s first new album in three years.
Donavon Frankenreiter, “Glow” (Liquid Tamborine): The fourth album, and first for his own label, from the surfer-turned-singer and Jack Johnson protege.
Guster, “Easy Wonderful” (Aware/Universal/Republic): The quartet recorded its first album in four years at multi-instrumentalist Joe Pisapia’s new studio facility in Nashville.
Fran Healy, “Wreckorder” (Ryko): The Travis frontman’s first solo album includes guest appearances by Paul McCartney and Neko Case.
Tim Kasher, “The Game of Monogamy” (Saddle Creek): The first solo album from the frontman of both Cursive and the Good life.
Raul Malo, “Sinners & Saints” (Fantasy/Concord): The lauded Nashville singer and former Mavericks frontman journeyed to Austin for a Tex-Mex feel provided by the likes of Augie Meyers and the late Sir Dough Sahm’s son Shawn.
Bruno Mars, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” (Elektra): The producer who lent his voice to hits by B.o.B. and Travie McCoy makes his full-length debut with Damian Marley, Cee-Lo Green and B.o.B. alongside.
Emily Osment, “Fight or Flight” (Wind-up): The first full-length album from the “Hannah Montana” co-star includes the already-hits “Lovesick” and “Let’s Be Friends.”
Lucky Peterson, “You Can Always Turn Around” (Dreyfus): The blues legend’s first album in seven years includes songs by Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, Ray LaMontagne, Robert Johnson and others.
Joe Satriani, “Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards” (Epic): The guitar hero takes a break from Chickenfoot to return and welcomes a couple of new players on his latest instrumental foray.
St. Lola In The Fields, “High Atop the Houses and the Towns” (Nettwerk): The songwriter duo debuts after contributing songs to TV shows such as “One Tree Hill” and “Pretty Little Liars.”
Tricky, “Mixed Race” (Domino): The British trip-hop pioneer recorded his latest album in France, where he currently resides.
KT Tunstall, “Tiger Suit” (Virgin): The guitar-wielding British singer and songwriter incorporates dance textures on her third album.
Dwight Twilley, “Green Blimp” (Big Oak): The power pop veteran brought in Susan Cowsill and Rocky Burnette to guest on his latest outing.
Tom Ze, “Estudando de Bossa” (Luaka Bop): The Brazilian auteur delivers 13 fresh compositions that study bossa nova’s importance to his homeland.
From The Vaults: John Mayer, “Battle Studies: Expanded Edition” (Columbia); George Michael, “Faith: Deluxe Edition,” “Faith: Special Edition,” “Faith: 2 CD Remastered Edition” (all Epic/Legacy); Ministry, “Every Day is Halloween: Greatest Tricks” (Cleopatra); Soundgarden, “Telephantams — A Retrospective” (A&M); Tom Ze, “Studies of Tom Ze: Explaining Things So I Can Confuse You” (Luaka Bop vinyl only)
New Holiday Albums:Take 6, “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (Heads Up International)
New Music DVDs: Rise Against, “Another Station: Another Mile” (Geffen)
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