Jimmy Buffett keeps it comfy on new album

| Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

‘Songs From St. Somewhere'

Jimmy Buffett (Mailboat)

In his first studio recording of new material in years, Jimmy Buffett doesn't stray far from his comfort zone. But when you blend bar shout-alongs, story songs and ballads with southern and tropical influences and the occasional side trip into silliness as well as he and his Coral Reefer Band cohorts do, why should that be a problem? Some of the songs are real or imagined personal history: “Too Drunk to Karaoke (with Toby Keith),” Buffett said in concert, did come about from an incident in his life, while “Rue de la Guitare” — with pedal steel guitar and steel drums subbing for accordion — is about a stroll through Paris. Some of the songs you could even dance to. But the song that sounds like it should be Buffett's autobiography, the wistful “Oldest Surfer on the Beach,” was written by Mark Knopfler, who also plays guitar. Perhaps the song that best fits the Parrothead mission statement is “Somethin' ‘Bout a Boat,” with its reminder that the simple things — a boat, a guitar or a dog — can give comfort and hope. It is a song that sticks in your head. The album was produced by longtime Coral Reefers Mac McAnally and Michael Utley, and they know that the fans want to hear Buffett sing, and they keep the vocals clean and upfront, but not to the detriment of the instruments. It's nice to hear an album with nothing muddy but maybe a reference to the beach.

— Vaunda Bonnett

‘Guided Tour'

The New Gary Burton Quartet (Mack Avenue)

Gary Burton is celebrating his 70th birthday with an album that shows age simply is a way of advancing wisdom. Burton is one of the best vibraphonists in music, and his work would be accepted purely for those skills. But he knows music has to grow. The music on this album thrives because it makes use of the talent of his current band. He does not try to make it sound like when he had Pat Metheny or Larry Coryell with him. No, the lighter playing of guitarist Julian Lage matched with the powerful but controlled drumming of Antonio Sanchez creates a new sound. The group moves from a lovely “Once Upon a Summertime” to a driving “The Look Out” with a gentle “Remembering Tano” in between. One of the most amusing numbers is “Monk Fish,” which has a melodic hint of the music of Thelonious Monk but a newer rhythm churned out by Sanchez and bassist Scott Colley. Burton and the band will be at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Oct. 5.

— Bob Karlovits

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