Monday, November 27, 2006

Robin Bullock - A Guitar For Christmas (2004)

John Fahey may be gone but folk music still needs an acoustic guitarist to carry on his legacy. Fortunately we have Robin Bullock who does his best to keep Fahey alive. Bullock's A Guitar For Christmas is a sixteen track, all instrumental, solo, acoustic guitar CD. Only three of the sixteen tracks have any accompaniment. The bottom line is if you like Fahey chances are you'll like this CD too.

Bullock mixes traditional carols such as, "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing," "What Child Is This," "Carol Of The Bells," "O Little Town Of Bethlehem," and more with several obscure, mostly traditional Celtic works. Among them are the Scottish carol "Rorate," "Angelus ad Virginem" from the Oxford Book Of Carols, and "Wexford Carol" from County Wexford in Ireland.

The medley of "Jesus Won't You Come By Here/Go Tell It On The Mountain" is dedicated to Fahey, who according to Bullock's liner notes, is one of his musical heroes. He uses Fahey's arrangement of this medley as a fitting tribute.

Bullock is an award winning guitarist who has recorded eleven CDs since 1993. He is a native of Washington D.C. who currently lives in France. Read more about Bullock and his career on his website where you can find most of his other works.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Los Lonely Boys - Sacred (2006)

The three Garza brothers who are Los Lonely Boys are back with Sacred, their second studio album that is, in many ways, a rewrite of their self-titled debut. You could already hear the formula settling in while listening to their first CD and there is nothing on this sophomore release to convince the listener otherwise. Still, there are some excellent songs on Sacred. "My Way" (which has the same name as the Sinatra song for a good reason) is a great dance tune with a very tasty horn section added for flavor. "Oye Mamacita," "Texican Style," and "Outlaws," the last sung with guests Willie Nelson and the brother's father, are standouts. On the other hand the radio ready "Diamonds," while pleasant, never colors outside the lines.

There is one more criticism. It's time the brothers prove they paid attention in grammar class. There are enough lyrics containing phrases such as "I ain't got no," or something similar, to last a lifetime. Working with an outside lyricist may be a good idea.

There is a lot to like here, especially Henry Garza's uptempo and melodic, rock 'n roll, blues guitar work. There are times he would make fellow Texan Stevie Ray Vaughan proud. Sacred is good for now but Los Lonely Boys must strive to be a bit more eclectic and cerebral their next time out or their fans may tire of the formula quickly.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Madeleine Peyroux - Half The Perfect World (2006)

Both Of Madeleine Peyroux’s first two CDs, Dreamland (1996) and Careless Love (2004), benefited from great song selection as well as inspired performances. Unfortunately, while the singer still possesses great taste in chosing songs for Half The Perfect World her lackluster performance makes her third album not even half perfect.

Maybe I’m too familiar with Frank Sinatra’s classic, swinging arrangement of "Summer Wind" to fully appreciate Peyroux’s version that just sounds tired. Even less successful is her interpretation of Harry Nilsson’s "Everybody’s Talking." While her Sinatra cover is just lethargic Nilsson's song sounds like Peyroux is singing in bed under heavy sedation. Joni Mitchell’s "River" is a duet featuring K. D. Lang on a very slow paced dirge in which Lang totally dominates her hostess. This track would fit better on Lang's Hymns of the 49th Parallel, especially when you consider that the composer is Canadian. Only on Leonard Cohen’s "Blue Alert," and "I’m All Right," a tune she co-wrote with Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, does Peyroux show any spunk or offer the slightest hint she may be having a good time.

I like Madeleine Peyroux. Her first two CDs are top drawer, and I’ve always defended her against charges that she is nothing more than a Billie Holiday clone, but next time out she needs to add a little spice to her work or I'll fall asleep right along with her.