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The Listening Room: Darius Rucker, Dave Koz and more...
“Charleston, SC 1966”
Few genre transitions have been as smooth as Hootie & the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker’s from pop to country with 2008’s platinum “Learn to Live.” It was easy enough to understand, though; hailing from South Carolina, Rucker had plenty of country in him to begin with, and even Hootie songs were one fiddle or pedal steel away from the Grand Ole Opry. And when he sings that “I’m a lucky man, and I love this roll I’m on,” he’s talking about three straight No. 1 country singles and a Top New Artist honor from the Country Music Association. So Rucker not surprisingly strides confidently into “Charleston, SC 1966,” his second country foray and a titular nod to both his birthplace and date and to personal hero Radney Foster’s “Del Rio, TX 1959.” Heck, Rucker even name-checks and stylistically apes George Strait on the track “Might Get Lucky,” one of several here that deftly find excitement in domesticity rather than the honky tonkin’ some of his relatively new peers sing about. One of those, Brad Paisley, does get a little rowdy and randy with Rucker on “I Don’t Care,” but “In a Big Way,” “It’s Beautiful” and the album-opening “This” are testaments from a guy who’s settled in his ways and happy with his lot. On “Southern State of Mind” Rucker channels The Band’s brand of Appalachian soul while singing about ordering sweet tea in New York City and being criticized for his good manners in California, while “We All Fall Down” is a detailed bit of big-picture philosophy and “I Got Nothing” is a richly imaged breakup song that’s more representative than much more dramatic fare. Hootie fans may want him back, but “Charleston...” tells us that Rucker is planning to stay in the comfortable confines of country.
Dave Koz, “Hello Tomorrow” (Concord Jazz) ★★ 1/2
Saxophonist Dave Koz is the kind of performer who often gets overlooked — always around but working in a realm of instrumental music that’s not quite jazz and therefore doesn’t get much respect. His latest pushes the proverbial envelope, however, and merits some attention for tracks such as “Put the Top Down,” which sports a searing guitar solo by Lee Ritenour,” the New Orleans-flavored “Think Big” with Keb’ Mo’ on guitar and the brassy funk of “When Will I Know For Sure.” “This Guy’s in Love With You,” meanwhile, is a summit meeting of Koz and Herb Alpert, with the former taking lead vocals on the Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition just as Alpert did on the original.
New & Noteworthy:
All That Remains, “For We Are Many” (Prosthetic): The Massachusetts metalcore quintet delivers its fifth album overall and its third produced by Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz.
Devon Allman’s Honeytribe, “Space Age Blues” (Provogue): The son of Gregg (Allman) gets a bit conceptual on his second album with help from Huey Lewis, saxophonist Ron Holloway and others.
Antony and the Johnsons, “Swanlight” (Secretly Canadian): Antony Hegarty has accompanied his fourth full-length album with a 144-page art book of paintings, photography and drawings.
Badly Drawn Boy, “It’s What I’m Thinking Pt. 1: Photographing Snowflakes” (The End): Springsteen-loving British artists Damon Gough celebrates a decade of releases with his fifth studio set.
The Band Perry, “The Band Perry” (Republic Nashville): The first full album by the country sibling trio that already has a gold single in “If I Die Young.”
Belle & Sebastian, “Write About Love” (Rough Trade): Norah Jones and actress Carey Mulligan make guest appearances on the Scottish group’s eighth studio album.
Jim Brickman, “Home” (Somerset Entertainment): The pianist delivers 18 country-flavored original compositions on this Target exclusive.
Die Antwoord, “$O$” (Cherrytree/Interscope): The first full-length listen to the South African hip-hop crew and purveyors of an electro-based music style called Zef.
Hill Country Revue, “Zebra Ranch” (Razor & Tie): The second album from the North Mississippi Allstars spinoff surfaces before the “mothership” reactivates next year.
Alain Johannes, “Spark” (Ipecac/Rekords): The solo debut by the Eleven co-founder who also works with Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures, among others.
Lil Wayne, “I Am Not a Human Being” (Young Money/Cash Money/Universal Motown): Drake, Nicki Minaj, Lil Twist and others guest on a batch of songs the rapper recorded before going to jail for weapons possession earlier this year.
Meat Beat Manifesto, “Answers Come in Dreams” (Metropolis): Jack Dangers and company continue to explore electronic rock terrain on a full-length following the September EP “Totally Together.”
Whitey Morgan & the 78’s, “Whitey Morgan & the 78’s” (Bloodshot): The Flint country-rocker and his band go national on an album recorded at the Woodstock, N.Y. studio of The Band’s Levon Helm.
Shawn Mullins, “Light You Up” (Vanguard): Fresh off co-writing the Zac Brown Band hit “Toes,” the “Lullaby” singer-songwriter delivers his 11th album.
Old 97s, “The Grand Theatre Volume One” (New West): Despite the title this is actually a studio album, the first edition of a batch of songs and recorded live, as if performing a concert.
The Orb and David Gilmour, “Metallic Spheres” (Columbia): The Pink Floyd guitarist and British electronic artist Alex Paterson collaborate on a pair of spacey 25-minute suites.
Joshua Radin, “Rock & the Tide” (Mom + Pop): The Cleveland-born singer-songwriter has previewed several of the songs on his third studio album in concert.
The Secret Sisters, “The Secret Sisters” (Beladroit): The debut full-length from the Alabama sibling duo discovered by T-Bone Burnett showcases rich country harmonies on both covers and originals.
Sufjan Stevens, “The Age of Adz” (Asthmatic Kitty): An 11-song set that represents the Detroit-born indie folk singer-songwriter’s first full-length collection of new songs in five years.
Trapt, “No Apologies” (Eleven Seven Music): The California hard rockers turned to Johnny K (Disturbed, Sevendust, Staind) to produce its fourth studio album.
Suzanne Vega, “Close-Up 2: People & Places” (Amanuensis/Razor & Tie): The second of Vega’s career “revisits” includes acoustic reworkings of “Tom’s Diner” and “Queen and the Soldier,” plus collaboration with the late Mark Linkous and Dangermouse.
Dar Williams, “Many Great Companions” (Razor & Tie): A two-disc set that revisits some of Williams’ best-known songs with friends such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Larkin, Sean and Sara Watkins and others.
From The Vaults: Trace Adkins, “The Definitive Greatest Hits: Til the Last Shot`s Fired” (Capitol Nashville); Bob Dylan, “Playlist: The Very Best of Bob Dylan 1980’s” (Columbia/Legacy); Barry Manilow, “The Essential 3.0” (Arista/Legacy); Robbie Willams, “In & Out of Consciousness: Greatest Hits” (Astralwerks)
New Holiday Albums: Canadian Tenors, “The Perfect Gift” (Decca); Celtic Thunder, “Celtic Thunder Christmas” (Celtic Thunder Ltd.); Indigo Girls, “Happy Holly Days"; Shelby Lynne, “Merry Christmas” (Everso); Katharine McPhee, “Christmas Is the Time...(To Say I Love You)” (Verve Forecast); Newsboys, “Christmas! A Newsboys Holiday” (Inpop); Brian Seater Orchestra, “Christmas Comes Alive!" (Surfdog); Various Artists, “Now That’s What I Call Christmas! 4” (Capitol); Wilson Phillips, “Christmas in Harmony” (Sony Masterworks)
New Music DVDs: Dio, “Holy Diver — Live” (Eagle Rock); The Rolling Stones, “Ladies & Gentlemen the Rolling Stones” (Eagle Rock)
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