CD reviews: Mick Turner's fifth solo disc showcases improv skills
‘Don't Tell the Driver'
Mick Turner (Drag City)
Whether making music with his Aussie mates in Dirty Three or as a solo performer, Mick Turner has earned a reputation as one of the best improvisational guitarists around. He brings those skills to “Don't Tell the Driver,” his fifth solo full-length, and noodles his way through 11 tracks over the course of almost an hour. While there's no denying the 53-year-old's six-string wizardry, I found myself getting a little bored as the album unspooled. “All Gone,” “Long Way Home,” the sprawling title track and “Over Waves” are nice, and Caroline Kennedy-McCracken's vocals break up the instrumentals, but this is hard to absorb in one sitting.
‘You Don't Know Anything'
British indie outfit Stornoway served up a stellar full-length earlier this year in “Tales From Terra Firma,” but there were a handful of songs recorded during those sessions that ultimately failed to make the album. So frontman Brian Biggs and his mates have gathered six of those tunes for an equally excellent EP. “You Don't Know Anything” is the ideal companion piece to “Terra Firma,” and it's clear right away that “When You Touch Down From Outer Space,” “Waiting on the Clock,” “Tumbling Bay” and “Clockwatching” were no mere afterthoughts. It's time you got to know this band.
The Melodic (Anti-)
Considering it hails from Brixton, a cultural melting pot neighborhood in South London, it's no surprise that folk/pop outfit the Melodic has such an eclectic sound. The band released “On My Way,” an EP drawn from its home recordings, this year and makes a bold statement on this full-length debut. “Effra Parade” is an intriguing 15 tunes that showcase the skills of primary songwriters Huw Williams and Rudi Schmidt. Exotic instrumentation and bright melodies dominate the album, with “On My Way,” “Imperfect Time,” “Runaway” and “Piece Me Back Together” the cream of a very good crop.
Le Trouble (Lava)
If the dynamic and wildly entertaining “Reality Strikes” EP is any indication, Montreal garage rocker Le Trouble needs to be on your radar. This six-track gem grabs you from the opening notes and doesn't let go for the next 23 minutes. There's not a bad song to be found here, with Le Trouble especially effective on “Help You Out,” “Real Talk (Part 2),” “Fine Line” and “Red Shirt.” Highly recommended.
Luscious Jackson (City Song)
Hard to believe that it's been 20 years since the Big Apple band Luscious Jackson exploded onto the scene with its near-perfect “In Search of Manny” debut. Jill Cunniff, Gabby Glaser and Kate Schellenbach are still going strong with the release of “Magic Hour,” their first full-length since 1999's underwhelming “Electric Honey.” The 10-track release marks a welcome return to form for Luscious Jackson, highlighted by the one-two opening punch of “You and Me” and “#1 Bum,” along with “So Rock On,” “Love Is Alive” and “Frequency.” Fans won't be disappointed.
Leslie West (Provogue)
Veteran rocker Leslie West (Mountain) earned critical acclaim for his 2011 release “Unusual Suspects,” an enjoyable album that featured guest spots from the likes of Slash, Zakk Wylde, Joe Bonamassa and Billy Gibbons. West, 68, is back with “Still Climbing,” a record he views as a sequel to its predecessor. This time pals Jonny Lang, Johnny Winter and Dee Snider sit in on an 11-track release that's full of big guitars and packs quite a punch. Keepers “Dyin' Since the Day I was Born,” “Busted, Disgusted or Dead,” “Feeling Good” and “Hatfield or McCoy” are the songs you'll remember.
‘It Goes Like This'
Thomas Rhett (Valory Music)
The son of country crooner Rhett Atkins, Thomas Rhett steps out of his father's formidable shadow on debut full-length “It Goes Like This.” Having earned his stripes penning hit songs for Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line, the 23-year-old delivers a twangy collection of 12 honky-tonk tunes. His top-15 singles “Beer With Jesus” and “Something to Do With My Hands” are standouts, as are “Whatcha Got in That Cup,” “It Goes Like This,” “In a Minute” and “Sorry for Partyin'.” Enjoy, y'all.
‘Down in Washington Square'
Dave Van Ronk (Smithsonian Folkways)
Dave Van Ronk was one of the leading figures of the Greenwich Village folk scene in the 1960s and remained a relevant voice until his death in 2002. “Down in Washington Square” is essential listening for folk music fans, with 54 Van Ronk songs — including 16 previously unreleased — spread out over three CDs. Van Ronk served as the inspiration for the upcoming Coen Brothers film “Inside Llewyn Davis” and it's a treat to hear him perform “River Come Down,” “John Henry,” “Gambler's Blues,” “Dink's Song,” “Had More Money,” “Hootchie Kootchie Man,” “Trouble in Mind,” “God Bless the Child” and “St. James Infirmary.”
‘The Essential James Taylor'
James Taylor (Legacy)
While it's probably not cool for anyone under the age of 35 to admit they like James Taylor's music, his mellow tunes rightfully have endured for more than 40 years. The folks at Legacy have gathered 30 of them together for “The Essential James Taylor,” a dynamite two-CD set that spans his remarkable career. All the biggies are here, including “Sweet Baby James,” “Fire and Rain,” “Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight,” “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” “Shower the People,” “Carolina in My Mind” and “Smiling Face.” Additional standouts include the J.D. Souther collaboration “Her Town Too,” “Copperline,” “Country Road” and “Another Day.”
‘The Essential Boz Scaggs'
Boz Scaggs (Columbia Legacy)
After an early stint in the Steve Miller Band, singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs struck out on his own in the late 1960s and spent more than a decade as a fixture on the pop charts. “The Essential Boz Scaggs” brings together 32 of his best songs over two CDs and is a must for fans of that era. In addition to soft-rock staples “You Make It So Hard (To Say No),” “What Can I Say,” “Lido Shuffle,” “Lowdown,” “JoJo” and “Breakdown Dead Ahead,” check out grittier early tunes “I'll Be Long Gone,” “Loan Me a Dime” and “Runnin' Blue.”
‘Lovin' Her Was Easier/After All These Years'
Tompall & the Glaser Brothers (Real Gone)
The efforts of Tompall Glaser, who died in August at age 79, were every bit as important to the Outlaw Country movement of the 1970s as those of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, David Allan Coe and Billy Joe Shaver. Yet he rarely gets his due. Happily, the folks at Real Gone pay homage to Glaser with the reissue of two albums on one CD. Tompall & the Glaser Brothers had mellowed slightly by 1981's “Lovin' Her Was Easier” and 1982's “After All These Years,” but the songs have aged nicely. Among the keepers here are “Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again),” “Busted,” “The Last Thing on My Mind,” “A Mansion on the Hill,” “Can't Live With ‘Em (Can't Live Without ‘Em),” “Happy Hour Blues,” “Stay Young” and “Maria Consuela.” A fitting tribute to one of the all-time greats.
‘Six Arms to Hold You'
Animal Parts (self-released)
There's no disputing the fact that Toronto-based Animal Parts is one of the most prolific bands around. “Six Arms to Hold You” gives us two EPs and a self-titled full-length in little more than a year, and the creative wellspring shows no sign of waning for the Joshua Cockerill-fronted band. This six-track gem might be its best yet, with Animal Parts grooving its way through standouts “Where the Heart Is,” “Austin Pop Song,” “God Help Us All” and “Big Bird.”
‘Song & Dance'
Duologue (Killing Moon)
British four-piece Duologue is one of the few rock bands to feature a violinist, and that alone is reason to give debut album “Song & Dance” a spin. The band founded by Tim Digby-Bell and Toby Leeming is much more than a novelty, however, as it blends guitar rock and electronica on the 12-track release. It takes a little while for Duologue to hit its stride, but by the time “Cut and Run” and “Gift Horse” come around, it's clicking on all cylinders. Additional highlights include “Push It,” “Sinner” and “Escape Artist.” Keep an eye on these guys.
CFCF (Paper Bag/Dummy)
Canadian indie electronic artist Mike Silver, aka CFCF, made quite a splash with his 2009 “Continent” debut, but “Outside” doesn't have the same impact. The 10 tracks feel dated in an era where electronic music is constantly pushing the envelope. Opener “Beyond Light” is a stumble, but CFCF rebounds with stronger entries “Jump Out of the Train,” “Find,” “This Breath” and “The Crossing.” Over the course of 52 minutes, however, the songs start sounding the same.
With a sound that's been described as a cross between Peter Gabriel and Ellie Goulding, indie pop duo Manicanparty (Jessica Corazza and Patrick Morrissey) impresses on its self-titled debut EP. Corazza's vocals anchor a seven-track release highlighted by “It's in Her Eyes,” “Rebels in the Light,” “Lonely Will Find Me” and “Farewell.” Can't wait to hear more from this talented twosome.
‘Make a Move'
Gavin DeGraw (RCA)
Gavin DeGraw made a flawless debut a decade ago with “Chariot” and has spent the ensuing years chasing both stardom and an album that rivals that still-great first effort. The 36-year-old came close with 2011's “Sweeter” and inches ever nearer with latest slab “Make a Move.” Tweaking his sound ever so slightly this time around, DeGraw scores with Lumineers/Train-esque opener “Best I Ever Had,” the title track, “Finest Hour,” “Who's Gonna Save Us,” “Need” and “Leading Man.” I'm betting there's another fantastic album in him yet.
Mirror Travel (Modern Outsider)
Austin indie Follow That Bird made a name for itself over the past four years and seemed poised to break through into the mainstream. But its label folded before the band could record a debut album and it had to regroup. Now known as Mirror Travel, the trio serves up a solid debut in “Mexico.” It's a fuzzy gathering of 10 tunes that are held in place by Lauren Green's vocals. Opening cut “Sands” sets the tone, and Mirror Travel impresses with the title track, “Parties,” “Pinholes” and “Wooden Bones.” Hard work and perseverance has paid off.
The New Sound of Numbers (Cloud)
A post-punk collective based in Athens, Ga., the New Sound of Numbers has cobbled together an intriguing sophomore album in “Invisible Magnetic.” Spearheaded by Hannah Jones and featuring members of Pylon and Olivia Tremor Control, the New Sound of Numbers is relentlessly upbeat on the 14-track release. The opening salvo of the title track and “Complete” are fantastic, as are “Energy Plan” and “Feel,” which offsets some of the more out-there experimentation that crops up from time to time. This one's worthy of a few spins.
Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media.