The Jayhawks “Paging Mr Proust”

jayhawksThe harmonies are present and correct. The melodies are great, the musicianship as excellent as you would expect but there is some intangible thing missing that stops me giving this album the full five stars “I love it” accolade. Maybe it’s the absence of Mark Olson, I don’t know. I’m three listens in now and it certainly grows on you but I am just a bit dis-quieted by the fuzzy guitar work on tracks such as ‘Lost the summer’ – although the song is uplifted by the chorus. Also on tracks such as ‘Lovers of the sun’, there is a vital edge missing on what is still a beautiful song that almost but doesn’t quite edge into blandness. Rather like 2000’s ‘Smile’ there may be a hint of over-production, and those who prefer the stripped down Jayhawks sound may find this album suffers from that. I believe I am in a minority who actually loved ‘Smile’ so am willing to go with the production ideas for this album but on track’s like ‘Ace’, again with a fuzzy distorted sound a potentially great song is hidden from view by the electronica and discordant keyboards. Shame. That I still find enough here to award four stars shows that there must be some wheat amongst the chaff and in my opinion this is found on the last 5 tracks from ‘Devil is in her eyes’ onwards where indeed a lot of the production tricks are laid aside and the songs are allowed to flourish and excellent songs they are as well. All in all not up there with their very best but still better than most of the competition.

Mary Chapin Carpenter Talks Trump and Tomatoes

Rolling Stone Country reports: “Unwrapping a new Mary Chapin Carpenter album is not unlike the experience of cracking the spine on a highly anticipated memoir. While the Grammy winner’s 14 albums have been less linear autobiography and more a resolute collection of sharply observed sketches, each has offered glimpses into the artist’s life, brimming with literary detail and ringing with universal truth. With the recently released The Things That We’re Made Of, the five-time Grammy winner broaches the subject of middle age, embracing change in its myriad forms.  “Over the last few years, I moved to a new town and I ended a relationship. I started over,” Carpenter tells Rolling Stone Country. “It’s an enormous amount of change in my life and I think this is what these songs reflect. It’s just sort of a declaration: This is what it looks like from here.””

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Drive By Truckers Announce New Album

Billboard reports: “Drive-By Truckers have announced details of their new album, American Band. It will be released by ATO Records on September 30. It arrives during a busy year for the band, who are celebrating their 20th anniversary and heading out on the Darkened Flags 2016 Tour across America, beginning in August. The album was recorded at Nashville’s Sound Emporium with longtime producer/engineer David Barbe. Ahead of the album’s release, the band have previewed a new song “Surrender Under Protest” on NPR – you can hear it by clicking here.“We are beyond thrilled to announce the release date of our new album American Band,” says Patterson Hood. “We are launching the Preorder and our friends at NPR are posting a first taste so you can get a little sample of what we’ve been up to.

Ryan Adams “Heartbreaker”

ryanRyan Adams self-titled 14th album is further evidence that the South Carolina troubadour has not entirely managed to resolve the erratic quality issues which have plagued the more substance dependent phases of his career. It appears that Adams was on course to release what was “Ashes & Fire Part II” an album produced by Glyn Johns that he scrapped at the eleventh hour as “too sad to release”.  Instead Adams has now set forth this self-produced album, which is a mix of rockers, and acoustic songs some from the top drawer, others could see him paying royalties to Tom Petty. Songs like “Stay with Me”” are firmly in the latter category and almost a pastiche. It is the type of workmanlike heartland rock peddled on the lacklustre “Cardinology”. In a similar vein “Feels like fire” is Adams on cruise control with a very standard backdrop, whilst the jury is still out on the heavy reverb chords of “I Just Might”. The single “Gimme Something Good” does improve on repeated listens although by no means a classic. “Kim” alternatively is a belter. A medium paced rocker with a beautifully subtle song structure and excellent lyrics. Equally the two straightforward acoustic numbers remind you about why Ryan Adams is so special. “My Wrecking Ball” is the sort of heartbreaking lament with that is his trademark. Similarly the last song “Lets Go” is wondrous in its acoustic simplicity with a warm vocal by the master. Of the rockier tracks, it is slow burn of “Shadows” that impresses most. When all the elements come together in songs like the Fleetwood Mac sounding “Am I Safe” you sense that Adams might be seeking an audience well beyond the aficionado’s of alt-country.