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CALEB STINE/I Wasn't Built for a Life Like This: This is one of the few cats that can honestly say he was influenced by Townes Van Zandt without the rest of us rolling our eyes and wondering ‘so what?'. He's got too much mid-Atlantic in him to even try to pass himself off as a Texas troubadour, but he doesn't try to. Life has plenty of room for wry observation from all parts of the country. This dude has found the way into the Americana pocket that so many others wish they could. Solidly well done back porch music that shows folk music is alive and well.

GRAND MARQUIS/Hold on to Me: Were you sorry when Lavay Smith got successful enough that she didn't have to work so much if she didn't feel like it and you knew you probably wouldn't be seeing her sassy stuff anymore? Get that chin off the floor, this crew might move the locus to Kansas City, but the sass and savvy are all there. They might make a bunch of moves to make you think they are working the retro tip but they are just kicking it out on a sound and fury that have a real affection for. Kansas City in all it's old time bbq glory, jump bluesing into the night with the party in the dance hall in your mind. This platter is a real gasser, daddio. Dig it.

MARTIRIO/25 Anos En Directo: This is pretty much the record a friend of ours wanted to make for CBS Masterworks with a Brazilian singer back in the 70s and he loves it so this set has to have it on the ball. Celebrating her 25th anniversary of being a new kind of flamenco/Spanish singer, Martirio picks songs she loves in a simple setting and really puts her stamp on them filling in a wide open canvas with unbelievable depth. Gringos can jump right in without missing a beat or having deep international pop interests. A heady, emotion packed set that really delivers something weightier than pleasing background music. Hot stuff.

STATLER BROTHERS/Icon 2: A double set of another run through of the Stats greatest hits. Talk about a bunch of unlikely superstars...they were on the same label forever, sold a ton of records and didn't seem to ever make any waves. Their sound remains timeless, while they seem all Charlie Church, they sing about being taken in and raised by hookers, mental breakdowns, stalking as well as nostalgia and mainstream stuff. The Stats were fucking cool! If you've yet to discover them, revel in the new generation of digital glory and give Jerry Kennedy his props for being more than just a commercial producer. Great stuff.

STEVE EULBERG/A Piece of It All: Long time instrumentalist goes for the vocals and sounds like a cross between early Leo Kottke on a Clancy Brothers binge. This cat can keep his balance tipping his chair back on two legs while letting the back porch music flow through him. Heartland music well grounded in heartland music festivals with a vibe to match.

NOAH PREMINGER/Before the Rain: An atmospheric, rising sax man doesn't try to ape Coltrane or Rollins or Getz or Sanborn, he just stands his own ground on this ballady flavored set. Working with some real contemporary pros, they turn out the kind of atmospheric set that won't set any charts on fire but will always be within easy reach whether in the car, the rec room, the gym etc. A tasty player, he knows his stuff and how to strut it well.

RETRO DELUXE/Watermelon Tea: Chuggling boogie like it used to be, blasting out into the night from roadhouses at the edge of town or border radio stations catching the ear of malcontent kids that wanted to break out of the 50s cocoon. This was the soundtrack playing when people really did get juked in juke joints. This is the stop to make if you like your roots music totally ragged but oddly compelling.

LOREENA McKENNITT/The Wind that Shakes the Barley: Man, why didn't I see this 15 years ago? McKennitt is a closet Pentangle fan. Now it makes sense. Now she should think about doing some duets with Jacqui McShee on her next album. They could do a killer "Willy O'Winsberry" and finish the album with an upbeat/victory lap arrangement of "Lady of Carlisle" and bring the house down in the process. Brian Hughes would make a fine Bert Jansch foil. Anyway, McKennitt seems to be joining a growing cadre of artists that are long in chops and using them to make records that aren't groundbreaking but are filled with the joy of playing in an off the clock manner. Her last album was a bunch of beautiful music that unfortunately just laid there, but this one has loads of swerve that adult listeners will be able to fall back comfortably in and just enjoy it without caring what the cool kids think. A return to form of the vibe and spirit that made us bring her home originally. Well done.

Volume 34/Number 40
December 10, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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