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ALIAS MEANS/Light Matter: Coming from the left side of the Americana ledger, where mix mastering and pushing the limits are the norm, this singer/songwriter has just the kind of skewed vision and quirky lyrics that people who like outsider music that isn't too outside will love. With a pomo take on traditional country flavored lyrics, he could almost double as a comedian if he really wanted to. Alt.Americana for college radio? Could be.

LORI LIEBERMAN/Bricks Against the Glass: Didn't we just write a thing about Marshall Chapman being at it for almost 40 years, being better than ever, bla bla bla? Let's see, search the hard drive, do some cut and paste, search and replace....and, oh, stop that. Lieberman has been at it for 40 years, and having established her cred launching the original version of "Killing Me Softly With His Song", she's free to pursue art, truth, deeper meaning and all that. She does a great job of that here. With faint echoes of John Stewart's later period state of the world observations and high tech folk settings, Lieberman cuts to the chase here, mindful of having observations that apply right in the moment whether about the world or people. While it's not "Kumbiya" stuff, it's sitting around the fireplace with white wine updated divorcee pop like an update on the stuff Dory Previn and Carole Sager were doing in the 70s. Hey, at the end of the day, Lieberman is a 70s gal. A very likeable and personal album that reaches out and touches quite nicely.

DARRYL HARPER/Edenfred Files: A modern jazz clarinet player that just tootles on that thing making it look so easy brings his own clarinet voice to the fore after so many others using it for seasoning so well. He sounds like a walk on a back road in summer, easily loping along until occasionally running out of breath and regrouping for some more since summer never lasts. Crisp, tasty playing with a lot of heart, this set delivers that something different that jaded ears are always on the prowl for. Well done.

JOHN ELLISON/Up From Funk: Just the kind of guy and story that Northern Soul adherents love. With enough hit action to sustain himself while still being somewhat obscure, this cat that drove the early days of funk gets a two record retrospective that pushes the limits of what retrospective means. Disc one is all about the old days, even if some of the tracks are newly recorded and freshly remixed. Disc two is about today, even though it has updates of stuff from back in the day. All of it's excusable since he's been at this for 50 years and is still here to tell the tale. Recorded well before producers took to just throwing a vocalist over the track, this is raw grooving energy from the era of James Brown, Otis Redding and other soul stirrers that took the church to the night club. Heady stuff that let's you look back at stuff you probably never knew about in the first place, all keepers of the funk have a double party on a platter here that keeps going strong. Hot stuff throughout.

BRANDON BERNSTEIN TRIO/But Beautiful: Here's an intriguing jazz guitarist it pays to keep an ear out for. While obviously and tastefully influenced by Wes Montgomery, you can also hear echoes of influences by the recently reissued Ed Bickert, Joe Pass and even contemporary ear openers like Julian Lage. You can tell he puts the love of playing first and has been putting in his 10,000 hours since first falling in love with his ax as a tyro, this cat is on the money and in the pocket throughout. This set sounds simple but it's really anything but. This is a great showcase of young master at work. Check it out.

CLINTON GREGORY BLUEGRASS BAND/Roots of My Raising: The veteran cat with bluegrass fiddle in his blood gets some of the finest Nashville has to offer to rally around and make one of the sweetest back porch albums you've heard in quite a while. The set list is heavy on oldies and the songs are often reflective as they are high octane. A killer set that's so smoking, it will find and audience no matter how indie it has to be to escape into today's music world. Hell, it's so hot, the audience will find it. Hot stuff throughout.

LOU CAIMANO-ERIC OLSEN/Dyad Plays Puccini: No, it's not two guys trying to do a look at me thing. It's two guys with some good ideas, variations of which have worked well in the past when executed properly. Here we find this piano/sax duo taking famous passages from Puccini works like "La Boheme", "Madame Butterfly", "Tosca" and more, and treating them all like contemporary jazz works. You could almost hear this as a splinter album from members of Yellowjackets or Spyro Gyra. Removed from PBS and the opera hall, you wouldn't know this is opera. These guys do a wonderful job of bringing the source material into the present and the jazz club. It's a wonderful piece of adult listening when the only pyrotechnics you need are the sparks this duo sets off. Well done.

ROB HART TRIO/3000 Realms of 10 Worlds: Forget the hippie dippy title, this is some nice fusion oriented stuff that takes it to the tropics, the clubs and more while serving up an expert set from a drummer that knows how to give the others some. This is a cat who loves his work and would probably play some dump on Tuesday nights just to keep his chops up and let other groovers sit in and see what happens. Whether improvising or playing it straight, Hart knows where he's going and this set is the delightful proof. Right in the pocket throughout, this is must listening for people that think hearing jazz shouldn't be a challenge. Check it out.

Volume 37/Number 233
June 22, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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