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The Slide Brothers, Big Wreck and more...
The Slide Brothers
"Robert Randolph Presents: The Slide Brothers"
Sacred Steel was a genre largely unheard of outside of the Pentecostal church until mainstream attention for Robert Randolph and the Family Band brought it to the rock 'n' roll masses around 2001 Despite opposition from some sectors within the church, Randolph has been thumping the drum for his forebears and contemporaries ever since, so it's fitting that he provides this genuinely praiseworthy exposition of some other leading proponents of the form -- including Detroit's Calvin Cooke. Randolph serves as curator rather than player her, though he does appear on two tracks -- an ebullient cover of Fatboy Slim's "Praise You" sung with Sunday morning gusto by Shemekia Copeland and an all-star version of Elmore James' "The Sky is Crying" that's sung by Cooke and backed by Jimi Hendrix cohort Billy Cox on bass and Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton. The rest of the album is given over to the ad hoc Slide Brothers, who righteously render the other nine tracks with fleet-fingered skill and a spiritual buoyancy that transcends denominations and could even make non-believers move their feet. Highlights? How about everything -- but certainly don't miss an instrumental treatment of "Wade in the Water" by Chuck and Derrick Campbell, a sweet take on George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord" spotlighting the Campbells and sung by Jimmy Carter of the Blind Boys of Alabama, a romp through Tampa Red's bluesy "It Hurts Me Too" that's sung by Cooke, a vocal and slide duel between Cooke and Aubrey Ghent on "Catch That Train" and the Campbell's hand-clapping rendition of "Motherless Children." A treat for those in the know, and an ear-opener for anyone who's avoided the call up 'til now.
Big Wreck, "Albatross" (Zoe/Rounder) HHH
It's not exactly the Big Wreck of a decade ago that's reconvened for the first album under that group name since 2002; it's more a case of guitarist Brian Doherty reuniting with frontman Ian Thornley and the band Thornley launched after Big Wreck's breakup. But consider it a rose by any other name..."Albatross," which debuted in the Top 5 in Thornley's home base of Canada last year, lives up to Big Wreck's solid reputation, taking a somewhat kinder and gentler path but still showing it can crank on tracks such as "Do What You Will," "Rest of the World" and the stretched-out "Control" (a real showcase for the group's new three-guitar lineup) as well as the bluesy "You Caught My Eye" and the album-closing power ballad "Time." Hopefully this is the first of many more Wrecks to come.
New & Noteworthy:
Aleister X, "Half-Speed Mastered" (Steev Mike): The genre-blending New York noisemeister delivers his debut album courtesy of good buddy Andrew W.K.'s label.
Atlas Genius, "When It Was Now" (Warner Bros.): The Australian modern rock group rolls out its debut album in the wake of 2012's buzz-generating single "Trojan."
Beach Fossils, "Clash the Truth" (Captured Tracks): What started as a one-man project by Dustin Payseur has expanded to a full group for this sophomore release.
Buckcherry, "Confessions" (Century Media): The hard-rocking Los Angeles quintet takes on the Seven Deadly Sins -- which we hear the members do know something about -- for its sixth studio album.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, "Push the Sky Away" (Bad Seed Ltd.): The British group's 15th studio album is its first not to include founding guitarist Mick Harvey, who went his own way in 2009.
Celtic Thunder, "Mythology" (Verve): The vocal group's latest CD/DVD project offers the usual mix of rock, classical and, of course, themes from the Emerald Isle.
Dark New Day, "Hail Mary" (Pavement): The third album from the hard rock "supergroup" comprised of members from Sevendust, Virgos Merlot, DoubleDrive and more.
Delhi 2 Dublin, "Turn Up the Stereo" (self-released): Another travelogue through worldwide musical cultures by the Vancouver-based fusion group.
Kevin Eubanks, "Messenger" (Mack Avenue): The guitarist and former "Tonight Show" bandleader gets help from Joey De Leon, Jr., Alvin Chea and brothers Robin and Duane Eubanks as he covers Jeff Beck and John Coltrane among his own compositions.
Everlife, "At the End of Everything" (self-released): The first album in five years from the Nashville sister trio and regular contributor to projects in the Disney realm.
Fatboy Slim, "Big Beach Bootique 5" (The End): A CD/DVD set highlighted by a show in the EDM icon's home town of Brighton, England.
Robben Ford, "Bringing It Back Home" (Provogue): The guitar hero returns to his blues roots, covering songs by Charley Patton, Allen Toussaint, Bob Dylan and others.
Sallie Ford & Sound Outside, "Untamed Beast" (Partisan): A third album of gritty, soulful rock from the groove-happy Portland, Ore., quartet.
Paul Hardcastle, "Paul Hardcastle VII" (Trippin & Rhythm): The multi-faceted British performer, writer and producer turns to the smooth jazz side of his eclectic makeup.
Mark Kozelek, "Like Rats" (Caldo Verde): The Red House Painters frontman delivers acoustic versions of songs by Ted Nugent, Sonny & Cher, Bad Brains, the Misfits and more.
Jamie Lidell, "Jamie Lidell" (Warp): The fifth solo album by the British-born, Nashville-based singer and Super Collider member.
Bobby Long, "Wishbone" (ATO): The sophomore (depending on how you count) album from the British singer-songwriter of "The Twilight Saga" notoriety.
James Montgomery, "From Detroit to the Delta" (VizzTone): The Detroit-born blues singer and harmonica player gets help from Johnny Winter, James Cotton, rapper DMC and members of Aerosmith on his latest release.
Puscifer, "Donkey Punch the Night" (Puscifer Entertainment): Led by Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, the group's latest EP includes reworkings of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Accept's "Balls to the Wall."
Bobby Rush, "Down in Louisiana" (Deep Rush): At 77, the soulful bluesman shows he's still got it on a set that invokes the best qualities of the long musical tradition he's part of.
Swingin Utters, "Poorly Formed" (Fat Wreck Chords): The Southern California punk band returns to action, with new bassist Miles Peck replacing Spike Slawson.
Robin Trower, "Roots and Branches" (V-12): The British guitar master pays tribute to his rock and blues influences, covering songs made famous by Elvis Presley, B.B. King, the Yardbirds and others.
Various Artists, "Son of Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs & Chanteys" (Anti-): On this sequel to 2006's "Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Songs," producer/conceptualist Hal Wilner sets the likes of Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Michael Stipe, Keith Richards, Tom Waits and Johnny Depp on the musical high seas for a spirited adventure.
Wednesday 13, "The Dixie Dead" (self-released): The Murderdolls frontman returns to the solo ranks to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of his own shock rock outfit.
From The Vaults: Herb Alpert, "Fandango" (Shout! Factory); Jerry Garcia Band, "GarciaLive Vol. 1: Capitol Theatre" (ATO)
Soundtracks: Marco Beltrami, "A Good Day to Die Hard" (Sony Classics); Jamie Christopherson, "Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance" (Sumthing Else/Konami)
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