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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
18 April 2006
The Gibson Brothers, Red Letter Day (Sugar Hill) Rating: 7
Nashville isn't far from Appalachia geographically, but its slick production values stand a world apart from the hillbilly ethos that gave rise to bluegrass. The Gibson Brothers straddle both realms, and one could easily raise ideological objections to a band that laments the passing of trusty railroad lines and the "big old barn" in the "middle of the tiny town" to a listening demographic presumably consisting of precisely the SUV-driving suburbanites who displaced that nostalgicized landscape. One could, but one won't want to after a listen to Red Letter Day, which charmed the dogma right out of this critic. On a well-balanced platter of self-penned songs and nicely chosen covers, brothers Eric and Leigh lead a tight but spontaneous set of studio vets through 15 tracks (and a cute bonus) laced with fiddles, mandolins, upright bass, and banjo. Surprising and spirited renditions of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" and Bobby Womack's (by way of the Rolling Stones) "It's All Over Now" are highlights, but the Brothers often strike gold on their originals, especially the moving deathbed elegy "We Won't Dance Again." A bit of schmaltz mars the album at times (the execrable "As Long As There's You" being the nadir, sounding like song lost Lonestar b-side), and the album could use some of the grit on display in recent albums by, say, Shelby Lynne or the Drive-By Truckers. Nonetheless, this is a fine addition to the Gibson Brothers' impressive discography.
"Walking with Joanna": [MP3]
"The Barn Song": [MP3]
Shimmer, Shimmer (Cake) Rating: 5
Maybe it's something that could be fixed in post-production with a bigger budget, but the biggest problem with Shimmer's debut LP is lead vocalist Skip Peri. The guy writes some pretty decent, sometimes catchy rock 'n roll tunes with that sort of Rolling Stones-ish blues edge, but his voice just isn't enough to carry them. His embarrassing R&B-inspired falsetto on "Here I Am (Antidote)" is enough to inspire the old reliable cringe reflex, and his thin tones just aren't enough to carry a down 'n dirty tune like "Shoulda Known". That his vocals are so often pushed right to the front of the mix doesn't help matters, as most of the interesting things that are happening in these tunes are happening in his own guitars -- the chromatic, descending staccato riff of "Don't Trip on Your Way Out" is the base of a hit waiting to happen, and "Needle to the Vinyl" is like the fantastic lost tune that Robert Palmer never quite got around to recording. Interestingly enough, the band saves its best tunes for last, as "The Violence of Love" is a fairly convincing ballad, while closer "Who Loves Ya" is the one tune where Peri musters enough swagger to keep up with his rhythm section. I can only imagine that Peri's voice is an acquired taste; a little bit of aging and a little bit of seasoning might be all it takes to make Shimmer shine. For now, though, Shimmer isn't worth a second look.
"Don't Trip on Your Way Out": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
multiple songs: [PureVolume]
Winter North Atlantic, Mercator EP (Giovanni Chrome) Rating: 4
The second release by Sheffield, UK's Ed Carter is named after a controversial 16th century mapmaker. That should give you an idea of the intellectual, precise post-rock instrumentals within. The five tracks move along on programmed beats and cyclic guitar patterns without troubling or engaging your ears. "Transport" is nicely reminiscent of Ry Cooder's Paris, Texas work, but the rest is a soundtrack in search of a suitably intellectual indie film.
50 Cent, "Best Friend (Remix)" f/ Olivia (Interscope) Rating: 5
Ooh, Curtis can be a sweet, sweet soul brother... Well, he can at least try to act like one on occasion. Such was the presumable premise behind 50 Cent's feature film bonanza Get Rich or Die Tryin', but was anyone really keeping tabs on Mushmouth's acting potential? At least the soundtrack arrived chockfull of familiar club faves and new jawns for new jacks to slump to. Thank Hi-Tek for blessing the film's loverboy moment with the up-and-down bells and curt vocal stabs. The bounce is especially welcome, considering the otherwise unexceptional bump'n grind from lead G-Unut and mannequin dressing of Olivia. Clean and Dirty edits along with an acappella, but -- what? -- no instrumental?
multiple songs: [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 7:28 AM