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The Listening Room: Toby Keith, Robert Glasper Experiment and more...
"Drinks After Work"
Apparently nobody ever told Toby Keith he can't have it both ways. Over his 20 years of recording, the country titan has deftly hopped from high-spirited rabble-rousing to poignant heart-wringing and has made both sound like an easy fit. And along the way his writing has only taken on greater depth and resonance, with more sharply drawn characters and deeply expressed emotions. "Drinks After Work," Keith's 17th studio album overall -- with songwriting help from regular collaborators Bobby Pinson, Rivers Rutherford and Scotty Emerick -- continues the trend, starting off on a grinning note with the twang and crunch of the weekend party song "Shut Up and Hold On" and the quittin' time celebration of the title track. Keith's in sentimental territory with the urgent "Before They Knew They Were Good," however, while "The Other Side of Him" ruminated loss and lessons learned. This album leans towards the upbeat, however, whether it's the jibes of "Little Miss Tear Stain," the heartfelt salute of the Western swing-flavored "Last Living Cowboy," the gritty honky tonk of "Show Me What You're Workin' With" or the loose, Caribbean flavor of "I'll Probably Be Fishin'." As per usual the bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition are worth hearing, too -- particularly "Chuckie's Gone," a warm, three-hanky tribute to Keith's late bandleader and bass player Chuck Goff, which will leave more than a few tears in your beer even if his duet with Sammy Hagar on Jimmy Buffett's "Margaritaville" brings back a little bit of a smile.
Robert Glasper Experiment, "Black Radio 2" (Blue Note) **1/2
Jazz pianist Robert Glasper's Grammy Award-winning 2012 "Black Radio" set was such a revelatory, groundbreaking mash-up of jazz, soul and hip-hop conventions that a sequel seems like a seriously daunting ambition. But Glasper and his group of musical compadres largely pull it off on this largely static-free celebration of high-minded musicality and lyricism, turning in a 12-song set that doesn't quite hit its predecessors heights but comes pretty darn close. The shortcoming is that his own playing seems to take an unnecessary back seat to the vocalics provided by Jill Scott, Norah Jones, Detroit's Dwele, Common, Marsha Ambrosius, Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump and others; it isn't until late, on "Persevere" (with Snoop Dogg, Lupe Fiasco and Luke James) that Glasper lets himself cut loose a bit. But "Black Radio 2" is still worth tuning into.
New & Noteworthy:
American Authors, "American Authors" (10 Spot/Mercury): The debut EP from the Brooklyn-based indie rock troupe whose "Best Day of My LIfe" has enjoyed plenty of TV and movie time.
Arcade Fire, "Reflektor" (Merge): The Canadian group's follow-up to 2010's Grammy Award-winning "The Suburbs" was co-produced by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and features David Bowie as a guest on the title track.
Autechre, "L-Event" (Warp): The British electronic duo follows its album "Exai," with this 26-minute EP.
Dead Letter Circus, "The Catalys Fire" (The End): The Australian alt rockers take their story worldwide after the homeland success of its debut, "This is the Warning."
Sky Ferreira, "Night Time, My Time" (Capitol): The singer/actress follows two EPs with her first full-length set of synthpop -- as well as a provocative, topless cover.
Steve Hackett, "Genesis Revisited: Live at Hammersmith" (Inside Out): The former Genesis guitarist offers up plenty of the group's favorites on this CD/DVD combo set. Mick Hucknall, "American Soul" (Razor & Tie): The Simply Red frontman's first proper solo album features covers of classics by Otis Redding, Ray Charles, Etta James and even Perry Como.
Kill Devil Hill, "Revolution Rise" (Century Media): Sophomore album from the heavy rock supergroup featuring alumni of Pantera, Black Sabbath, Dio, Down and more.
Ed Kowalczyk, "The Flood and the Mercy" (Soul Whisper/Harbour/Caroline): The former Live frontman gets help from R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Rachael Yamagata on his second solo album.
Lily & Madeleine, "Lily & Madeleine" (Asthmatic Kitty): The debut full-length from this Americana sister duo follows their attention-getting "The Weight of the Globe" EP.
Linkin Park, "Recharged" (Machine Shop/Warner Bros.): A remix album that features the group's collaboration with Steve Aoki, "A Light That Never Comes," as well as new versions of tracks from its "Living Things" album.
Los Lobos, "Disconnected in New York City" (429): The long-lived Mexican-American group celebrates its 40th anniversary with this live set from 11 months ago.
Protest the Hero, "Volition" (Razor & Tie): The Canadian metal group's Indiegogo-financed fourth album features a guest appearance by Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler.
Thomas Rhett, "It Goes Like This" (Valory Music Group): The son of Rhett Atkins and hitmaking country songwriter makes his debut with this spirited 12-song set.
Sepultura, "Mediator Betwen Head & Hands Must Be the Heart" (Nuclear Blast): The Brazilian metal group's 13th album returns to producer Ross Robinson, who helmed 1996's landmark "Roots."
Skeletonwitch, "Serpents Unleashed" (Prosthetic): The fifth full-length effort by the thrash metal group from Athens, Ohio.
Southern Culture on the Skids, "Dig This" (Kudzu): The North Carolina psychedelic rock group celebrates its 30th anniversary by re-recording its 1993 album with its same lineup.
Testament, "Dark Roots of Thrash" (Nuclear Blast): A two CD/DVD set capturing the headbangers' February concert in Huntington, N.Y.
Up The Chain, "Seeds & Thorns" (self-released): A sophomore set of acoustic soul from Philadelphia-based singer-songwriter Reed Kendall.
Leslie West, "Still Climbing" (Provogue): The Mountain man returns with a heavy-hitting set that features guest appearances by Johnny Winter, Jonny Lang, Mark Tremonti of Creed and Alter Bridge, and Twisted Sister's Dee Snider.
From The Vaults: The Eagles, "The Studio Albums 1972-1979" (Elektra/Asylum); Humble Pie, "Performance: Rockin' the Fillmore -- The Complete Recordings" (Omnivore); Jethro Tull, "Benefit (Deluxe Edition)" (WEA); Boz Scaggs, "The Essential..." (Columbia/Legacy); Seether, "Seether: 2002-2013" (Wind-Up); Lindsey Stirling, "Lindsey Stirling" (self-released)
New Holiday Albums: Trace Adkins, "King's Gift" (Caliburn); Bad Religion, "Christmas Songs" (Epitaph); Susan Boyle, "Home For Christmas" (Columbia); Celtic Woman, "Home For Christmas" (Manhattan); Kelly Clarkson, "Wrapped in Red" (RCA); Nick Lowe, "Quality Street: A Seasonal Selection" (Yep Roc); Johnny Mathis, "Sending You a Little Christmas" (Columbia); New Christy Minstrels, "Merry Christmas! The Complete Columbia Christmas Recordings 1963-1966" (Real Gone); The Robertsons, "Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas" (Capitol Nashville); Mindy Smith, "Snowed In" (Giant Leap/TVX); Straight No Chaser, "Under the Influence: Holiday Edition" (Atlantic); Andy Williams, "The Complete Christmas Recordings" (Real Gone)
New Music DVDs: Joe Bonamassa, "Tour De Force: Live in London -- The Borderline" (J&R Adventures); Celtic Woman, "Home For Christmas: Live From Dublin" (Manhattan); "Springsteen & I" (Eagle Rock); Various Artists, "Move Me Brightly: Celebrating Jerry Garcia's 70th Birthday" (Eagle Rock)
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