Thursday, September 30, 2004
Can’t You Hear Me Callin’ Bluegrass | Columbia/Legacy
Four CDs and more than a hundred tracks of “white folks blues” may be overkill to those only marginally acquainted with this archaic genre, but it’s as close to a “greatest hits” as you’ll ever hear—out of the phenomenally successful O Brother soundtrack, which is represented here by the Stanley Brothers and others.
Old timey genius from Bill Monroe, ‘60s folkies gone rustic like the Byrds, and new schoolers Alison Krauss and the Dixie Chicks all weigh in. Most notable is that the better known tracks aren’t recognizable from the radio so much as they are as TV themes and movie score staples—this hasn’t been “popular” music in 50-plus years; in fact, it never has been.
Great liner notes and package as well. One doesn’t need to be the kind that hits rural summer fests or Appalachian pickin’ contests to appreciate this most folk of folk genres. Other than hard-core adepts, this is all you’ll need to have in your CD rack when it comes to the most genuine strain of Caucasian Americana. Invest! (JA)
Beast Women From the Center of the Earth | Thortoen Records
Unfortunately, Canadian body-building fantasy-metal progenitor and star of 1987’s Rock n’ Roll Nightmare is back with a brand new release, this time in complicity with guitarist/co-writer, Mick Hoffman.
Currently on a United States tour, Thor has promised that the stage show will feature the sword fights and steel-bending routine that have been a part of his act since the mid-‘70s—rusty tropes that even today’s most naive 11-year old boys should be jaded enough to reject.
Hoffman is better known for his comic book fantasy artwork and rightly so. As a guitarist, he’s a cipher. His artwork does grace the album cover though, which seems to prove that, except for learning power cords, artistic growth is out of the question.
For all the press it’s received, Beast Women is one of the most poorly constructed albums. Whether it’s the flat-sounding, sampled drums or the live instruments that fall embarrassingly out of sync—to say nothing of concepts, subject matter, and Thor’s voice—the only thing that could sweeten this deal is a spoonful of bromide. (MB)
Déjá Voodoo | ATO
After spending what seemed like an interminable but prolific period mourning its fallen co-founding bassist, Allen Woody, on the Deep End project (three double CDs and two DVDs), the Mule has finally released an album of original material.
Not only does it herald the arrival of new permanent bass player Andy Hess, but also the trio has expanded into a quartet with the addition of keyboardist Danny Louis. Both are talented and eclectic musicians who help diversify, but not dilute, Mule’s established, bluesy hard rock.
The keyboard textures fortify and sometimes temper the sound, pushing the band in a slightly more prog-tinged direction as on the 11-minute, Pink Floyd-styled “Silent Scream.” Yet guitarist/singer/primary songwriter Warren Haynes still rides this Mule into its by-now patented Blue Oyster Cult-meets-Drive-By Truckers territory.
Haynes, who’s a one-man cottage industry with guest stints for the Dead and his other full-time gig in the Allman Brothers Band, might be spreading himself too thin. These tunes don’t boast particularly memorable melodies, and some sound just like others in his catalog. But all isn’t lost. The band supports him with a tough, bluesy confidence, energizing even the most bloated material. Gov’t Mule isn’t terribly graceful, but through perseverance, it gets the job done. (HH)