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OWEN TEMPLE/Mountain Home: Did somebody say get me a young Guy Clark with his own point of view but is still Texas all the way? Too bad the music biz isn't what it used to be because Temple needs to be mentioned in the same breath as Kristofferson, Clark, Van Zandt and equally august sons of the great state but the damn machine isn't there to do it any more. Temple's sixth is a Texas all star date that kicks ass and is a singer/songwriter fans wet dream. Simply killer stuff that defines what Americana is all about circa now. Miss it at your own risk.

TOMMY GUERRERO/Lifeboats & Follies: When an urban skate punk turns to music and becomes a genre bender bringing his urban melting pot sensibilities with him, you get a wild collage of sound that might be the contemporary take on what Ellington would have done with "Take the A Train" today. Sounding like a highway with ramps in both the left and right lanes, this wild ride is a young adult after hours set that takes you everywhere you want to go before the ride is over. Crazy stuff that's powered by sonic iconography but has a real point of view at it's core.

RALPH BOWEN/Power Play: Bowen has learned his lessons well from all the august personages of the sax to come before him and he brings his own stamp to the proceedings so much so that he will rightfully take his place in line with them. A monster player that hits it out of the park yet again while still keeping it in the pocket, this is a killer blowing date that any true jazzbo will adopt as the real thing with out a second thought. Hot stuff throughout that never misfires.

HOYT AXTON/Snowblind Friend-Free Sailin': The Raven gang continues to work their way through the Axton A&M years, continuing to make this sound better than it did on lp and giving the material a long overdue welcome on cd. We didn't see it at the time but Axton was sowing the seeds of his own branch of Americana as he brought hippies and hipsters together with arena rockers and had them all playing happily behind his off beat lyrics of wry observations that the cognoscenti knew mattered more than him giving a damn about a green back dollar. Here we find him as a non-threatening David Allan Coe, happily hanging on the back porch with good friends and giving LA a guitar pull for all it's worth. If you're a real muso in your heart, these two dates are going to touch it. Well done.

RAIDER/Country Wine...plus: In which we are reminded that you can be a huge group but if you are at the end of your contract, the label loses interest and tastes are changing, you get the short shrift no matter how good your stuff is. Not in line with what was on the horizon for what passed as 1972 buzz bands, this is kick ass pop that shows the group was capable of growing and changing with the times and had plenty of material in the can the label decided to eke out rather than put out as another album. Living up to it's status as a lost classic, even with a lot of personnel changes, the brand kept it's traction in tact. If you are a true fan of 70s pop, this is a tonic. If not, you'll still dig the look back.

AL KOOPER/Easy Does It-New York City (You're a Woman)-A Possible Projection of the Future Childhood's End: 25 years old and imbued with the power of not being able to do anything wrong, Kooper came with three albums in two years, one originally a double album, of hard charging pop rock that ran true and hard right down the middle. Carrying on like one of the original genre benders, this stuff is so high octane that it sounds fresh and right on 40 years later, like most of the things he did during that period. Hey kids, if you want to know what it was all about back in the day, open your ears for a load of surprises. You might not think of Kooper as a superstar today but back then he was as close to a household name as you could get. This is what you get when you let unbridled creativity run wild and letting it merge mass sensibility with heart. It's almost like a text book for anyone wondering how to make it today.

HOWLIN' WOLF/Live and Cookin' at Alice's Revisited: 1972, kids you wouldn't believe it now but people saw big stars in crappy little clubs back then. If you were too much of a chicken to see Wolf in his natural habitat, every once in a while he brought it up to the north side at this hippie club in a fringy neighborhood and shook the walls. One night, the Chess gang was nice enough to bring some tape recorders along and the rest is history. Even with failing kidneys and a few years from the killing floor, he still had the power to deliver the smokestack lightening. The unmistakable growl more than compensates for the crappy recording and the crappy acoustics making this sole live recording by the Wolf a landmark date for more than the obvious reasons. A one of a kind set by a one of a kind player. Wolf and his posse with Ralph Bass at the wheel, it doesn't get any better than this.

ARTURO O'FARRILL &The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra/40 Acres & a Burro: It's so tempting to call O'Farrill the Hank Williams Jr of Latin jazz. With Grammys and his own sound under his belt, he takes it over the top this time around giving you a guided sonic tour of the south western hemisphere in non-stop muy caliente fashion. Defining what Latin jazz big band is all about, he sets a bar here that is hard to top and is just as easy for gringos to get into as natives. Hot, killer set that not only gets the party started but is the party as well. Check it out.

Volume 34/Number 99
February 8, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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