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The Listening Room: The Lone Ranger, the Henningsens and more...
"The Lone Ranger: Wanted -- Music Inspired by the Film"
There's no overture from "William Tell" to be found on this companion piece to the new Johnny Depp/Arnie Hammer film about the adventures of the mysterious masked man and his sidekick Tonto. Instead producer Gore Verbinski has assembled an eclectic but kindred group of musical spirits to craft complementary pieces to the tale, some of which connect directly, such as the fierce "Butch's Ballad" from Gomez, but most of which capture the spirit and ambience of the Wild West with mixed but generally solid results. Singer-songwriter Ben Kweller sounds like a saloon piano player as he gets things going with the bouncy gospel-blues of "Holy Water," while Grace Potter & the Nocturnals strike a rootsy shuffle with the decidedly un-holy "Devil's Train." Shane MacGowan is characteristically craggy and rowdy in portraying "Poor Paddy on the Railway," with Iggy Pop striking a similar Celtic flavor on his version of the folk ballad "Sweet Betsy From the Pike," and Dave Alvin's gentle restraint opens plenty of sonic space for his "Lonesome Whistle" to breathe. Sara Watkins lets her fiddle lead the bluegrass attack of "Central and Union," but Lucinda Williams steers the set into a more contemporary country-rock flavor with "Everything But the Truth" and the Aggrolites manage to make reggae sound appropriate to the setting on "The Truth Lives On." There are a few discovery moments here (the Rubens, the White Buffalo, John Grant), and by and large the mood stays consistent enough to make for an engaging adventure.
The Henningsens, "American Beautiful" (Arista Nashville) **1/2
Consider the Henningsens a new twist on the country family band concept -- a sister-brother and their father, entering the game with the cred of a) living on a working farm in their native Atwood, Ill. and b) having written songs already for the Band Perry, Sara Evans and Wynonna. It is, in fact, the strength of the songwriting as well as the familial harmonies that shine on this 10-track debut; the buoyant, rocking spirit of the title tune is commercial gold (or platinum), but its the detail and emotional weight of songs such as the wistful "Arkansas," the near-murder ballad "The Color Red" and the sweet "Blushing Bride" that give the album its heart. And Cara Henningsen shows she can live up to the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines on male diss (and more) tracks like "Darrell" and "No."
New & Noteworthy:
About a Group, "Between the Walls" (Domino): The third outing by the all-star band whose members have logged time in Spiritualized, Hot Chip, Spring Heel Jack and other groups.
A Great Big Pile of Leaves, "You're Always on My Mind" (Topshelf): The Brooklyn indie rockers enter the label world and work with a "real" producer (Ed Ackerson) for their sophomore album.
Laura Ainsworth, "Necessary Evil" (Eclectus): The jazz singer's second album combines standards, original material and inspired obscurities from the depths of the Great American Songbook.
Autopsy, "The Headless Ritual" (Peaceville): Given the group name and album title, do we really have to say anything else?
Big Hoodoo, "Crystal Skull" (Psychopathic): Insane Clown Posse's Violent J and producer Mike E. Clark show up to help this latest horrorcore MC from the Pyschopathic camp on his debut.
Hillsong, "Glorious Ruins" (Hillsong Music): The church group recorded this live set, combining Hillsong teams from around the world, in Sydney and in London, England.
Huntress, "Starbound Beast" (Napalm): The second full-length release from the CAlifornia-based, female-fronted heavy metal group.
Tucker Jameson, "Son of Suburbia" (self-released): An introductory EP from the rock 'n' roll singer-songwriter transplanted form Connecticut to Austin, Texas.
Joe, "Doubleback Evolution of R&B" (Massenberg Media): Fantasia and Too $hort guest on the 10th studio album by the George R&B stalwart.
Oliva, "Raise the Curtain" (AFM): The first-ever solo album by the former Savatage frontman and Trans Siberian Orchestra regular.
Poor Young Thing, "The Heart, The Head, The End" (Bumstead): The first full-length release by the Ontario rockers who were dubbed SiriusXM's Emerging Artist of the Year for 2013.
Pretty LIghts, "Color Map of the Sun" (8 Minutes and 20 Seconds): Colorado's Derek Vincent Smith keeps the party going on his fourth full-length set of trend-setting EDM.
John Scofield, et al, "Uberjam Deux" (Decca): The modern jazz guitarist returns to the all-star crew with whom he made the inaugural, Grammy Award-nominated "Uberjam" in 2002.
Zomby, "With Love" (4AD): The British electronic artist spread his experiments of his fourth album over two CDs and 33 tracks
From The Vaults: Blood, Sweat & Tears, "Rare, Rarer & Rarest" (Wounded Bird); It's A Beautiful Day, "Live at the Fillmore '68" (Classic Music Vault)
Soundtracks: Cast Recording, "Passion (2013 New York Cast)" (P.S. Classics)
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