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The Listening Room: The Cranberries, Lyle Lovett and more...
Announcing that "I can see that we should not be together" hardly seems like a fitting way to introduce a reunion album. But a tortured soul has always been at the center of the Cranberries' music, so perhaps it is appropriate that the Irish quartet's first new album in more than 12 years begins with seeds of doubt -- and also sweet-and-tart ambivalence, because in the same song ("Conduct") Dolores O'Riordan strikes the optimistic note that "I know we can hold us together." The 11 tracks on "Roses" indicate that O'Riordan and her mates -- along with frequent producer Stephen Street -- had little trouble pulling the Cranberries sound back together; like its four predecessors, the set is filled with a shimmering mix of spirited anthemry and ethereal ambience driving a poetic cascade of soul-searching lyrics. At one point ("So Good") O'Riordan is celebrating a healthy, fulfilling relationship; a song later ("Roses") she laments that "Life is a garden of roses/Roses just wither and die." And the music follows suit, from uptempo gallops such as the first single, "Tomorrow," and "Schizophrenic Playboy" to airy lullabye of "Losing My Mind" and the subdued melodicism of "Waiting in Walthamstow." The group explores its familiar midtempo sweet spot in songs such as "Raining in My Heart," "Astral Projections" and "Conduct, while "Tomorrow" and the aforementioned "Schizophrenic Playboy" add subtle touches of electronica. Those are VERY subtle, however; "Roses" picks up where the Cranberries left off in 1999, and after selling more than 30 million copies of its other four albums, who can really blame them for that?
Lyle Lovett, "Release Me" (Curb/UMG) ***
There's a concrete meaning behind the title of the Texas music-maker's latest album; this is Lovett's final album for Curb Records after a career-spanning 26 years, and he's saying a graceful and gracious farewell. The mostly covers set touches on a corps of favorite songwriters and songs, including a rocking, brassy take on Jesse Winchester's "Isn't That So," a fiery version of Townes Van Zandt's "White Freightliner Blues," a cheeky vamp through Michael Franks' "White Boy Lost in the Blues" and a Western ballad revamp of Chuck Berry's "Brown Eyed Handsome Man." Lovett's pair of originals are bluesy ("The Girl With the Holiday Smile") and gentle ("Night's Lullaby"), while pals such as k.d. lang, Kat Edmonson and Nickel Creek siblings Sara and Sean Watkins help Lovett close this phase of his career on a warm, winning note.
New & Noteworthy:
Black Country Communion, "Live Over Europe" (J&R Adventures): The all-star rock group kicks out the jams in concert following two studio sets.
Carolina Chocolate Drops, "Leaving Eden" (Nonesuch): The celebrated roots trio's third album was produced by Buddy Miller (Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant).
Celtic Thunder, "Voyage" (Celtic Thunder): The group returns to its traditional roots after the more conceptually intricate 2011 set "Storm."
Chiddy Bang, "Breakfast" (Capitol/EMI): The Philadelphia hip-hop duo's debut album has been preceded by the singles "Mind Your Manners" and "Ray Charles."
Corrosion of Conformity, "Corrosion of Conformity" (Candlelight): The North Carolina heavy metal band's first new album in 10 years brings back drummer Reed Mullin, though longtime frontman Pepper Keenan has moved on.
Dukes of Dixieland and the Oak Ridge Boys, "When Country Meets Dixie" (Leisure Music Group): The title says everything you need to know about this musical summit meeting, produced by Nashville majordomo James Stroud.
Estelle, "All of Me" (Homeschool/Atlantic): The John Legend protege's second album features guests such as Janelle Monae, Chris Brown, Trey Songz, Rick Ross and Akon, plus producer-writers Wyclef Jean, Ne-Yo and others.
Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker and Yim Yames, "New Multitudes" (Rounder): Four of Americana's best take on tunes from the Woody Guthrie vaults, with the blessings of his family.
Heritage Blues Orchestra, "And Still I Rise" (Raisin' Music): The Chicago blues troupe covers songs by Son House, Muddy Waters, Leadbelly and other legends on its debut outing.
The Hobart Brothers & Lil' Sis Hobart, "At Least We Have Each Other" (Freedom): The debut outing by the all-star trio of maverick singer-songwriters Jon Dee Graham, Freedy Johnston and Susan Cowsill.
Il Volo, "Il Volo Takes Flight -- Live From the Detroit Opera House" (Geffen): The youthful Italian trio recorded its first concert set in the Motor City, which we know has always been a hotbed for this kind of stuff.
Imagination Movers, "Rock-O-Matic" (Razor & Tie): An 18-song set from the kidcentric Playhouse Disney quartet from New Orleans. We're particularly partial to "Watermelon Meow Meow."
Ja Rule, "Pil 2" (Mpire/Fontana): Away from recording for eight years, the New York rapper reaches back a bit on this sequel 2001's "Paris in Love."
Kutless, "Believer" (BEC): The first new studio set in three years from the Portland Christian rock quintet.
Little Barrie, "King of the Waves" (Tummy Touch): The third album, and first in five years, by the British trio led by Primal Scream's Barrie Cadogan.
Chuck Mead, "Back at the Quonset Hut" (Ramseur): The BR5-49 member gets help from Jamey Johnson, Bobby Bare, Old Crow Medicine Show and others on his first solo album.
Loreena McKennitt, "Troubadours on the Rhine" (Quinlan Road): The Canadian, well, troubadour recorded the latest of her several live sets at a small radio studio in Mainz, Germany.
Anais Mitchell, "Young Man in America" (Wilderland/Thirty Tigers): The Vermont singer-songwriter -- who's actually a young woman -- assembled an all-star group of roots, jazz and experimental players for her latest release.
Olivia Newton-John, "Gaia: One Woman's Journey" (Green Hill): This set of songs dates back to 1992, when Newton-John was in the midst of breast cancer treatments on her farm in Australia.
Amy Ray, "Lung of Love" (Daemon): The Indigo Girl delivers her most upbeat and direct solo set so far, with help from Brandi Carlile, My Morning Jacket's Jim James, members of the Butchies and others.
School of Seven Bells, "Ghostory" (Ghostly International): The New York group's third album is its first as a duo following the departure of Claudia Deheza.
John Williams, "A Tribute to John Williams: An 80th Birthday Celebration" (Sony Masterworks): The Academy Award-winning composer ("Jaws," "E.T.") is feted by the Boston Pops Orchestra, Itzhak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma on this 15-songs salute.
From The Vaults: Johnny Cash, "Live From Austin TX" (New West); Waylon Jennings, "Live at the US Festival 1983" (Shout! Factory); Carole King reissues; The Lijadu Sisters, "Mother Africa" (Knitting Factory); Willie Nelson, "Live at the US Festival 1983" (Shout! Factory); Pink Floyd, "The Wall -- Immersion Box Set," "The Wall -- Experience Version" (Capitol/EMI)
New Music DVDs: Johnny Cash, "Live From Austin TX" (New West); Todd Rundgren, "Todd" (Smore Entertainment) -- Gary Graff
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