1. The Avett Brothers – True Sadness
The Avetts’ eighth studio album since 2003 starts out a bit funky with “Ain’t No Man,” the spare radio single featuring bass, voice, and a stomp-and-clamp rhythm. Nothing too out of the ordainairy for the band. They’ve covered a lot of territory in the studio, from their early scream-speak to their more polished recent releases. The next few songs are folksy and thoughtful, “Smithsonian” being the best of them. Then things stray for a bit. The Avetts don’t so much travel in a different direction as through some new things on top of it. “You Are Mine” adds an electronic treatment to a folky pop tune, with gurgling synth bass and drum machine sounds straight from a Postal Service album. “Satan Pulls the Strings” is… well… a disco bluegrass hoedown maybe? It’s a thick stew in any case, and it follows straight ahead into the title track with no pause. Things get a bit more ornate after that to keep the focus on voice, banjo, guitar, and upright bass, whether it’s a more delicate piece like “I Wish I Was” or the country-blue bent of “Divorce Separation Blue,” but they’ve got one more trick up their sleeve with the more heavily orchestrated final track, “May It Last.” It sounds like an overture from a new Avetts musical (Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Bright Star closes this weekend, how ‘bout it boys?). Sadness is a strange road of new sounds and tinkering, but then, that’s kind of traditional Avett Brothers.
2. Neil Young/Promise of the Real – Earth
This new live album gets to some fun corners of the Neil Young catalogue, including classics like “After the Gold Rush” and should-be classics like “My Country Home” and “Love and Only Love” (clocking in here at a cool 28 minutes) from 1990’s Ragged Glory. As he was on 2015’s The Monsanto Years, Young is backed by Promise of the Real, featuring Willie Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah. If you have Tidal, you got to stream this last week. The rest of us (probably pretty much all of us) will have to pick it up today on Pono or at your local record shop. If you want it the way Neil prefers it, on vinyl, that’s out August 12. There are no previews from the album online, se here’s Neil explaining how they put the ecology-minded set list together, and why there are animal noises on the tracks.
3. Cerise – Smoke Screen Dreams
Joseph Arthur produced this debut album from singer Cerise, whose music can be as dark and rich as Mazzy Star or as sinewy as Superhcunk in their more brooding moments. You can get the album directly from her on her BandCamp site.
4. Ted C Fox – A Gospel of Dirt
Want to get my attention? Re-write a classic song by The Band. I say re-write because Fox doesn’t just cover “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” he changes the melody and chord structure and arranges it for just acoustic guitar and voice. By the time he’s done, it sounds more like Elliott Smith’s style than The Band’s. But it works. Most of the rest of the album is not that spare. Fox manages to be both bouncy and melancholy singing over waves of distorted guitar on “Drpetomania.” “Maiden” opens like the theme to a gun fight, thick tremolo giving way to mandolins. “Durante Vita” starts out with an ethereal sound of a woman’s voice buried in reverb over electric guitar and mandolin, but turns into a bashing rock song a couple of minutes later. Need to give this one a couple of more listens.
Also New In Music:
1. The Felice Brothers – Life In the Dark
2. Steve Vai – Modern Primitive/Passion and Warfare: 25th Anniversary Edition
3. Bun E. Carlos (Former Cheap Trick Drummer) – Greetings from Bunezuela!
4. Lonesome Shack – The Switcher
5. The Dead Ships – CITYCIDE
6. Mick Harvey – Delirium Tremens