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The Listening Room: Lady Antebellum, Rod Stewart and more...
Lady Antebellum has certainly had a "Golden" -- and, for that matter, platinum -- touch to this point of its career. Three consecutive No. 1 country albums, all platinum or better, two of which also topped the Billboard 200. Ten Top 10 country hits, six of which hit No.1. Seven Grammy Awards and more than two dozen assorted country honors. With that kind of track record you'd expect the trio to stay with what brought it there, but "Golden" changes things up -- subtly, to be sure, but just enough to be perceptibly different than its predecessors and particularly 2011's soft 'n' cushy "Own the Night." The tone is a bit more uptempo, whether it's the out-and-out rock of Will Hoge's "Better Off Now," the plucky cheer of the first single "Downtown" or the twangy "Better Man." Lady A and co-producer Paul Worley also stripped down the overall sonic footprint on "Golden," with fewer orchestrations, a greater concentration on a basic band rhythm section approach and a premium on mood -- as evidenced by the airy flow of the sentimental "Goodbye Town" and the dark tinges of "It Ain't Pretty." And there's still enough softer fare -- "Long Teenage Goodbye," "All For Love" and "Golden's" title track -- to keep a solid foot on that end of the spectrum, while the album-closing "Generation Away" is a Caribbean-flavored gospel that ends with swelling, hand-clapping chorale. Lady A still holds close to the middle of the country road here, but it veers just enough to keep things interesting.
Rod Stewart, "Time" (Capitol) **1/2
Rod the Mod is rockin' again -- for the first time since 2001's "Human" (and not counting the 2006 covers set "Still the Same..."). After more than a decade mostly immersed in the Great American Songbook, Stewart's new set of original material favors the warm, organic and acoustic-flavored arrangements of his early 70s work, with only "Sexual Religion" referencing his disco infatuations of the late 70s. With vocals produced by Paul Warren, the Detroit-based guitarist in his touring band, Stewart sounds refreshingly age appropriate here, singing about loves both present ("She Makes Me Happy," "Beautiful Morning") and past ("It's Over," "Brighton Beach") and sending his children some messages in "Pure Love" and "Live the Life." He rocks it up on "Can't Stop Me Now" and "Finest Woman" and lends his raspy pipes to Tom Waits' "Picture in a Frame." This is "Time" well spent, indeed.
New & Noteworthy:
Cody Beebe & the Crooks, "Out Here" (self-released): The Americana-flavored Seattle quartet sings about gun control on "Hold the Line," the first single from its sophomore release.
Craig Campbell, "Never Regret" (Bigger Picture): The sophomore outing by the Georgia-born country singer who also plays in Tracy Byrd's road band.
James Cotton, "Cotton Mouth Man" (Alligator): At 77, Cotton still sings and blows his harmonica like a 20-something upstart and gets help here from Gregg Allman, Keb' Mo', Ruthie Foster and others.
Dailey and Vincent, "Brothers of the Highway" (Rounder): The bluegrass duo takes on songs by George Strait, the Louvin Brothers, Bill Monroe, Kathy Mattea and more on its sixth album.
Deerhunter, "Monomania" (4AD): The Atlanta indie rockers welcome two new members with their fifth studio album.
Fitz & the Tantrums, "More Than Just a Dream" (Elektra): The Los Angeles neo-soul outfit's second full-length album is heavy on synthesizers and 80s New Wave influences.
Patty Griffin, "American Kid" (New West): The singer-songwriter's first set of mostly new material since 2007 features three tracks with guest vocals by her reputed boyfriend (some say husband) Robert Plant.
Talib Kweli, "Prisoner of Conscious" (Javotti Media/Capitol): The Brooklyn rapper teams with Miguel, Kendrick Lamar, Nelly, Marsha Ambrosius and others on his fifth studio set.
Little Boots, "Nocturnes" (On Repeat): Members of Simian Mobile Disco and Love Affair helped the British synth-pop singer (real name Victoria Hesketh) make her second album.
Natalie Maines, "Mother" (Columbia): The Dixie Chick's first solo album was recorded with Ben Harper and is titled after her cover of the Pink Floyd song. (See story page XX)
Ruth Moody, "These Wilder Things" (Red House): the Juno Award-winning member of the Wailin' Jennys is joined by guests such as Mark Knopfler and Jerry Douglas on her latest solo set.
98 Degrees, "2.0" (eOne): The Nick Lachey-fronted boy band returns with its first album in more than a decade, with Bruno Mars playing guitar on one track.
The Piano Guys, "The Piano Guys 2" (Sony Masterworks): The Utah duo gets into theme songs this time out, including "Lord of the Rings," "Mission Impossible" and a medley of Charlie Brown-related favorites.
dUg [cq] Pinnick, "Naked" (Rockarmy): The King's X bassist steps out for his third solo album, not counting another pair with his band Poundhound.
Pistol Annies, "Annie Up" (RCA Nashville): Miranda Lambert's country female supertrio hasn't lost any of the spitfire spirit or sublime melodicism of its 2011 debut.
Joshua Redman, "Walking Shadows" (Nonesuch): The saxophonist focuses on ballads for his latest release, which was produced by pianist Brad Mehldau.
Joe Satriani, "Unstoppable Momentum" (Epic): The guitar virtuoso displays his six-string wizardry yet again with help from a stellar band that includes drummer Vinnie Colauita and former Jane's Addiction bassist Chris Chaney.
She & Him, "Volume 3" (Merge): The fourth album from Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward includes a covers of Blondie's "Sunday Girl" and Harry Noble's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me."
Straight No Chaser, "Under The Influence" (Atlantic): The a capella group teams with Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Phil Collins, Dolly Parton and others on its second non-holiday related album.
Various Artists, "The Great Gatsby Soundtrack" (Interscope): New songs from Beyonce and Andre 3000, Jay-Z, will.i.am and others bring a modern flavor to Baz Luhrman's telling of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.
Various Artists, "The Music of Nashville, Season 1, Vol. 2" (Big Machine): More tunes from the hit NBC series, mostly by stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere.
Various Artists, "Now 46: That's What I Call Music!" (UMG), "Now That's What I Call a Country Party" (UMG): Two more compilations from the powerhouse series that's tailor-made for the download generation.
Various Artists, "Varese Sarabande: 35th Anniversary Celebration" (Varese): The soundtrack specialist revisits past triumphs such as "Star Trek," "Mission Impossible," "Mildred Pierce," "Kung Fu Panda 2" and many more.
From The Vaults: Styx, "Grand Illusion & Pieces of Eight Live" (Eagle Rock)
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