Run to Live, Live to Run

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Nice old timey sounds from not so old voices...

It seems like yesterday I was putting together a top 10 list of best cds for 2005 and already I believe I have one for '06 and we are only in March. As I'm still enjoying stellar releases from veterans such as Rosanne Cash, Beth Orton, Jenny Lewis and Willie Nile, a few new discs this week keep up the quality of great new sounds so far this year...

When someone says blue eyed soul, who comes to mind? Van Morrison maybe, for the more classic minded...or remember the Commitments, for the more obscure...Rick Astley if you're just cheesy and pathetic (come on, you know you belt out "Never Gonna Give You Up" with the windows up in the car by yourself)...but how about James Hunter? Who?
Maybe when you first hear his voice, you swear it's some lost Sam Cooke or Otis Redding song. But no, this fortysomething English born singer and guitarist has been cutting his musical chops almost two decades, first backing up Van Morrison in his band in the early 90's and then cutting a few albums himself. But his new disc People Gonna Talk is a breakthrough, chock full of a timeless sound that harkens back to classic 50's and 60's R&B soul. It's funny that it's not that the "retro" thing is coming back, to him it's never gone away. Each track sounds so fresh and live, it sounds as if he's brought a party right into the room. He says, "It's simple really--it's music you can groove to." Trust me, I had it on at a party last weekend and it really takes a lot for people to dance, but this sure did it.

Onto more mellow sounds, Neko Case is a voice you will also remember when you first hear it.
She gets compared to 60's crooners like Patsy Cline and Dusty Springfield, but I definitely think she has a unique quality all her own. Like her indie rock contemporary Jenny Lewis, Neko likes to spread herself over many different projects and sounds at once. But in this case, it's the songs themselves, for she writes and sings like she means it. On her new solo album Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, she's been through the ringer, and makes you know it. The songs are sad in words, as has been many of hers over four solo albums, but she also seems to benefit from her alter ego as a member of the indie rock band New Pornographers. She's kind of their Stevie Nicks in that when she stands to the side, she seems happier, just to be along for the ride. But when she is front and center, you can feel your heart break with hers. But the songs' timeless qualities make them go down so much easier. She also plays with a virtual all star assembly of talent, including Garth Hudson of the Band, Calexico and the Sadies, creating so many layers and textures of atmosphere, you can see the pictures her songs paint for us. Tracks like "Star Witness", "That Teenage Feeling" and "Hold On, Hold On" are just a few of the gems on this near masterpiece of Americana. Definitely worth the attention...aren't those redheads always?

So here is a so far best of list of '06...

Rosanne Cash-Black Cadillac
Beth Orton-Comfort of Strangers
Cat Power-The Greatest
Willie Nile-Streets of New York
James Hunter-People Gonna Talk
Neko Case-Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
Jenny Lewis-Rabbit Fur Coat
Rhett Miller-The Believer (we'll talk about next time)
The Little Willies-self-titled (also next time around)

Also, still can't get enough of the Clap Your Hands Say Yeah record and also Wilmington's own Spinto Band...check 'em out if you can.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

If only SNL did all Digital Shorts with white raps...

If you didn't stay up late enough to watch SNL last weekend with Natalie Portman, you missed a good one...well the first half of the show was as normally uneven as usual, but alas, another digital short film (I think Andy Samberg and his writing pals have single handedly saved SNL) to the we all know what Natalie wants...but take small children out of the room first...check it out at