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PATTON OSWALT/Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time: Here's the deal---Elvis Costello could learn a thing or two from Patton Oswalt. Oswalt used to be an angry, punk rock young man but now, right in the middle of his act, he acknowledges the difference between 25 year old Oswalt and 44 year old Oswalt. He still has plenty of edge, he still has plenty of punk rock energy but he's aged gracefully without making a cartoon of himself or turning in to a Vegas Joey Shecky lounge comic. Oswalt has become one of our leading light, mainstream comics and he's done it keeping his cred. An Oswalt laugh riot fans of all ages will roar over, it's so nice the label chose to release this in April, when we could use a good laugh after a tough winter, than shuffling it into the Christmas glut. Another one of Comedy Central's cd-dvd combo packs, if you didn't catch this debuting over the weekend on the channel, make up for lost time by grabbing a copy of this laugh riot. Well done.

LI'L RONNIE & THE BLUEBEATS featuring CLAUDIA CARAWAN/Unfinished Business: The roots band started recording their second album in 1991, life got in the way, yadda yadda yadda, they got around to finishing it 23 years later. With everyone from Lavay Smith to the thrift shop chic crooner at the corner bar stealing her/their thunder in the meanwhile, it's nice to see they got the bug again. Falling nicely into that roots bin where you can mix up soul, blues, funk and sass, they present themselves today as a dandy soul revue band that hits it out of the park nicely. They seamlessly mix covers b Louis Prima and Ray Charles into the mix with their originals and it's better late than never to get a taste of everything we missed over time. Fun stuff.

BAD BRAD & THE FAT CATS/Take a Walk With Me: Here comes a white boy with the blues and a guitar that shreds like a shredding machine. With a big, bold, brash sound that just keeps coming, it's roots are in post war migration blues but you know this guy never worked a day job at a punch press before heading off to light up the night. A must if you like it hard, hot and heavy with the kind of stuff that rocks the juke joint all night long.

BRENT JOHNSON/Set the World On Fire: Here's a Nawlins blues rock guitar slinger that has the admirable agenda of wanting to keep things in the tradition but wanting to make it modern because he ain't never picked cotton. One thing he's sure to keep in the tradition is working 200 nights a year because he's got that sound that goes so well with drinks served over a bar. Suburban blues for suburban young people, this might not be for moldy figs but it'll get the young un wondering what the hub bub is all about, bub.

CHAD HOOPES/Mendelssohn Adams Violin Concertos: Hoopes looks young enough that he could have been staring into the gaping maw of cable TV and gotten confused about why Mrs. Brady was on the love boat with Schneider. That kind of mash up mindset must have led him to pairing a cat from the 1800s with a cat who's work is on display here was premiered the year Hoopes was born. All kidding aside, we applaud this kid's inventiveness. A violin tyro that brings justice to the cross generational works on parade here, he's got the guts, he's got the grit and he certainly has the moxie. Still too young to be jaded, this kid has a brain like a sponge and fingers that just don't quit. This is a beautiful debut showcasing a rising violin star that is sure to just keep impressing us more each subsequent time out. It's high ranking in the annals of auspicious debuts.

ELLEN ROWE QUINTET/Courage Music: A delightfully vibrant set of originals, pianist Rowe and her jazzbo pals, including Ingrid Jensen, serve up something that feels like it could ride in a sidecar with Oregon or Paul Winter at the wheel. With the kind of far ranging impressionism those cats brings to their fores, Rowe and pals add improv elements that gives everyone the chance to add their two cents---but the nature of the additions are facts, not opinions, y'dig? This is a lineal descendant from that spot between ECM and Windham Hill where contemporary instrumental music didn't wear tags well and flourished because of it. It's sitting down jazz sure to have you jumping in your seat. Well done.

THE DICTATORS/Faster...Louder best 1975-2001: Proof that rock was coked out and had no sense of humor in the mid 70s, Dictators showed up with Handsome Dick Manitoba kicking ass in ways only insiders could get. With Black Oyster Cult's crew behind them, this was serious stuff that wasn't made to be taken as joke rock, but they were as subversive as Zappa and nobody got it, as killer as their first two albums were. Culling cuts from their three major label sets and rounding it out with a reunion session a quarter century later, if you have a sense of humor or appreciate the metal side of Zappa, this stuff colored so far outside the lines that it's timeless now. Even pre-dating the Ramones by a few years, this proto punk extravaganza will get the blood flowing in anyone who ever lived to rock with boomers scratching their heads wondering how they missed this the first time around. Go Dick. Go Adny. Killer stuff once and forever.

After hitting us with an auspicious debut last year and enjoying all the praise that came their way, the crew comes back not holding anything back and the music is hotter with the ensuing praise sure to be higher. Tearing it up like daddios without being hipsters, this is a swinging, bopping masterpiece that gets the blood boiling as opposed to just flowing. A real piece of mainstream paradise, this is smoking stuff that is a winner throughout. Check it out.

Volume 38/Number 159
April 8, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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