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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: George Strait, Janet Jackson, Avicii, Clutch and more...
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

George Strait

"Cold Beer Conversation"

MCA Nashville

Grade: B+


So what's George Strait been doing since retiring from touring (although he will be continuing to do shows in Las Vegas)? Apparently the country icon's been sampling the suds -- at least that's the message we get from his 29th studio album, which references beer-drinking in most of its 13 songs, from the title track through the Tecate name-check in the good-humored "Cheaper Than a Shrink." But after all these years the guy has probably earned a few cold ones, and the relaxation clearly pays off on "Cold Beer Conversation," an easygoing and wide-ranging treatment to Strait's ability to inhabit a song -- his own compositions and others' -- with his warm, deep tenor and make it sound like, well, a conversation over a couple of drinks in your favorite saloon. Strait doesn't break any new ground here -- though "Rock paper Scissors" hits as hard as anything else in his cannon -- but he's convincing whether he's sentimental ("It Was Love," "Take Me To Texas," "Everything I See") or winsome (the Cajun-flavored "Stop and Drink," the Texas swing track "It Takes All Kinds"). Strait's honky tonk roots power the likes of "Goin' Goin' Gone" and "Cheaper Than a Shrink," while the first single "Let It Go" and "Wish You Well" breath in some Caribbean sea air. And, thankfully, he eschews any contemporary Bro-Country trappings; straight Strait is still good enough, 34 years down the road.

New & Noteworthy:

Avicii, "Stories" (PRMD): The electronic dance impresario fills his second artist album with fun and surprising cameos, including Zac Brown, Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and others.

Clutch, "Psychic Warfare" (Weathermaker): The Maryland hard rockers' 11th studio set is notably punchier and more compact than its predecessors, with few forays into long-winded tonal explorations.

Collective Soul, "See What You Started By Continuing" (Vanguard): The Georgia quintet ends a six-year recording break with a new guitarist (Jesse Triplett) and a set of hard-hitting, direct and hooky songs.

Electric Six, "Bitch Don`t Let Me Die" (Metropolis): The bombastic Detroit dance-rock troupe stays strong on its 11th studio album, which is both topical ("Drone Strikes") and semi-nostalgic on the Elvis Presley tribute "Dime Dime Penny Dime."

Kinky Friedman, "The Loneliest Man I Ever Met" (Avenue A/Thirsty Tiger): The musical raconteur from Texas delivers his first new album in 39 years, with a guest appearance by Willie Nelson and covers of songs by Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Warren Zevon, Tom Waits and more.

Janet Jackson, "Unbreakable" (Rhythm Nation): On her first new album in seven years Jackson reunites with the hitmaking team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and gets help from guests such as Missy Elliott and J Cole.

Also Out: Lauren Alaina, "Lauren Alaina" (Mercury Nashville); The Bevis Frond, "Example 22" (Wronzow); The Black Lillies, "Hard To Please" (Attack Monkey/Thirty Tigers); Blitzen Trapper, "All Across This Land" (Vagrant); Joe Bonamassa, "Live at Radio City Music Hall" (J&R Adventures); The Bottle Rockets, "South Broadway Athletic Club" (Bloodshot); Tamar Braxton, "Calling All Lovers" (Epic); Children of Bodom, "I Worship Chaos" (Nuclear Blast America); Sarah Clanton, "Sara Clanton" (self-released); Jesse Cook, "One World" (eOne); Deafheaven, "New Bermuda" (Anti-); Dog Fashion Disco, "Ad Nauseam" (Rotten); Eagles of Death Metal, "Zipper Down" (T-Boy/UMe); Editors, "In Dream" (Play It Again Sam); Emilie & Ogden, "10,000" (Secret City); Joe Jackson, "Fast Forward" (Sharp Practice); Matisyahu, "Live at Stubb's Vol. III" (Razor & Tie); Seth MacFarlane, "No One Ever Tells You" (Republic); Mercury Rev, "The Light In Your" (PIAS America); Monica, "Code Red" (RCA); Moon Taxi, "Daybreakers" (BMG); Matt Nathanson, "Show Me Your Fangs" (Vanguard); Papadosio, "Extras in a Movie" (self-released); Queensryche, "Condition Human" (Century Media); Sevendust, "Kill The Flaw" (7Bros); Smash Palace, "Some Kind of Magic" (Zip); Tarmac Adam, "In Place" (Onesize); Trivium, "Silence in the Snow" (Roadrunner); Rufus Wainwright, "Prima Donna" (Deutsche Grammophon); Wild Child, "Fools" (Dualtone); Winery Dogs, "Hot Streak" (Loud & Proud); The Wood Brothers, "Paradise" (IK7)

From The Vaults: Bad Company, "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy: The Very Best of Bad Company" (Rhino); Garbage, "Garbage (20th Anniversary Edition)" (UMe); Barry Manilow, "The Very Best Of..." (Platinum Legends); Paul McCartney, "Tug of War (Deluxe Edition)" and "Pipes of Peace (Deluxe Edition)" (MPL/Hear Music)

Soundtracks: "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Original Soundtrack Album" (Hollywood); "House of Cards, Season 3" (Varese Sarabande); "The Walk: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (Sony Classics)

New Holiday Albums: Celtic Thunder, "The Classic Christmas Album"; Earth, Wind & Fire, "The Classic Christmas Album"; Sarah McLachlan, "The Classic Christmas Album" (all Sony Legacy).

New Music DVDs: "Rammstein in Amerika" (UMe)

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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