Stone Temple Pilots


“Between the Lines” and “Take A Load Off” should reassure listeners that not much has changed since the glory days of the 90’s. Given that Wieland’s lyrics often reinforce his reputation as a bit of a jerk (to put it nicely), I love the story that the rest of the band won’t even stay in the same hotel with him: makes me feel less guilty about how gleefully I succumb to their big dumb guitars (and with Oasis out of the way, there’s plenty of room for more Big Dumb Guitar bands).



Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band


OK, full disclosure: I haven’t heard the whole album yet. But the online samples, plus the endlessly rewatchable video for “Clap Your Hands” sent me to check out the Rev’s back catalog, and this is some pretty great shit: Peyton’s a big, black-bearded Bluto with a down-home howl that you’d think came straight from the Delta (in fact, he’s a Hoosier) and who plays bluesy acoustic slide with the kind of intensity you associate with electric players like Buddy Guy. The “big damn band” includes a drummer who plays a plastic five-gallon tub, with rhythm duties handled on washboard by Peyton’s wife; they’re sort of the pre-electric version of Southern Culture on the Skids. Peyton’s also got a bit of Patterson Hood in him, which is good—his songwriting is sharp on topics like “Can’t Pay The Bill,” “Walmart Killed The Country Store” and “Your Cousin’s On Cops”—but also not so good, in that he hasn’t got a Cooley or Isbin or Tucker to vary things a bit, and like Hood, his melodies and voice can get a little wearying over the course of an entire album. But at the very least, youtube that video.



Bettye Lavette


It’s not that surprising that it took Lavette’s career so long to take off: she knows how to belt, shriek and groan, but great material for voices like hers doesn’t come readymade. That’s why it took the efforts of genius blues producer Dennis Walker to finally shape Lavette’s persona on the classic A Woman Like Me, but that hasn’t sustained– particularly on her last album, the heavy-handed Scene of the Crime, where Patterson Hood and Drive-By Truckers abandon all subtlety and join in the histrionics. Too many of the song selections on this album seem to have been chosen principally for the interpretive challenge they present to an American black woman in her sixties, so that she tends to nail the obvious ones (“Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad?”, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”), and leave you shaking your head at others (“It Don’t Come Easy,” “Nights in White Satin”). On balance, though, there are enough surprises on choices like “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Isn’t It A Pity,” and “Wish You Were Here” (!) to make the album worth at least forty minutes’ of your time; you’ll have to decide about the fifteen bucks.



Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden


Whether you regard “Jarrett the artiste” as a genius or an annoyance, Jarrett the pianist is a formidable talent who is at his best when paired with someone like bassist Haden, whose genius is unquestionable. He settles Jarrett down for one of the most ruminative sessions I’ve ever heard from him, and the duo produces one of those rare recordings that make it clear why “love songs” remain at the core of musical expression. It’s been over thirty years since they recorded together, but every note conveys a shared purpose that belies that separation: melodic without being predictable, intimate without being sleepy. It’s one thing to bring something fresh to an unfamiliar tune like Peggy Lee’s “Where Can I Go Without You?”, but at this late date, there’s no reasonable explanation for the appearance here of a definitive version of something as well-worn as “Body and Soul”… well, except for genius.


Other Notable 5/25 Music Releases


Hank Williams III, Rebel Within. Bloodlines are the only reason I can think of for this guy’s singing to be making inroads where Steve Earle never could; if anything, his phrasing is even less imaginative and more affected. That said, recommended to people who think that, in alt-country music, sincerity’s more important than smarts.

Smashing Pumpkins, Teargarden By Kaleidyscope 1: Songs for a Sailor. I read the press release for this… artifact… and couldn’t think of much to add. I quote: “The packaging is a silk-screened wooden box (7 ¼” tall x 8″ wide x 1.05″ thick). Each box will contain: a 4-song CD which will have 4 new SP songs and instrumental intros, a 7″ vinyl single containing one NEW song plus b-side, and a hand-carved leopard stone obelisk, about 2’ tall, similar to marble.” Whoa–“instrumental intros,” AND it’s similar to marble? Clearly a steal at thirty bucks.

Marina And The Diamonds, The Family Jewels. International hit “Hollywood” finally makes it Stateside (I’ve been hearing that “oh…my…god!” bit on ringtones for what feels like a year now), and it’s still bugging me that I can’t place the synth riff (Duran Duran? OMD?). Elsewhere, she’s passionate about not being a robot, obsessive about having obsessions, and does better Kate Bush than Tori Amos ever dreamed of. Spiffy pop for smart people.

Leela James, My Soul. The retro cover design, and move to Stax, would suggest that this is the latest in the “Ann Peebles Fan Club” series, but James’ singing has none of Sharon Jones’ modulation or restraint, and there’s no Dap-Kings in evidence: the tunes are bland, and the arrangements are pretty perfunctory, ranging from hip-hop lite to an anonymous Motown groove. Nothing even approaches the razor sharp rhythm or intricate horn charts that make Jones’ albums so much more than the sum of her voice.

Widespread Panic, Dirty Side Down. Most of the ideas in the songs here would have difficulty sustaining themselves for three minutes, much less the five and six minutes plus the band devotes to them. Which is where the expert playing comes in. Recommended groove: “Visiting Day.”

Darrell Scott, A Crooked Road. Considering that I first heard this guy covering Steely Dan, there’s clearly a more cosmopolitan view at work than is typical for a lot of rootsy folk guys. His original stuff has always felt hit-or-miss for me, and I’m wondering how well it’ll sustain over twenty tracks. But if only half of them really hit, that’s more than most albums released this week will deliver.

Smokin’ Joe Kubek and Bnois King, Have Blues Will Travel. Really, the title’s pretty much all you need to know: if you like your blues on the raw and rocking side, here’s this week’s dose.

Krokus, Hoodoo. These guys once released a Greatest Hits album where half the songs were cover versions, which suggests that even their fans don’t find their songwriting particularly interesting. But if it’s been too long since you heard someone cover “Born To Be Wild,” then here y’go.

First Aid Kit, Big Black & the Blue. “Gotcha!” album title of the week: nobody here is black, or particularly big, and none of the music is blues. First Aid Kit are a pair of blond sisters from Sweden who sing in tight folkie harmony and write lyrics like “love is tough / time is rough” and “I was hushed by my shame.” Recommended to Fleet Foxes fans who are getting impatient.

Modern English, Soundtrack. If this band meant anything to you in 1982, go for it. I was listening to Marshall Crenshaw, myself.