With the recent resurgence in the Four Seasons' popularity thanks to Jersey Boys, it's an apt time to rediscover Cannon (born Frederick Picariello), another East Coast Italian-American who worked with Four Seasons producer Bob Crewe.
When he's not backing up Wilco members on their solo projects, singer-songwriter Morgan Taylor makes sparkling kids' music, drawing comparisons to adult artists from Bread to the Beatles. Taylor sings about characters like a frisky eel that dresses in a wardrobe of single socks ("Slim Gets in 'Em").
With roots stretching back seven decades, the Blind Boys of Alabama still chug along, aided here by a host of country luminaries, including Vince Gill ("Can You Give Me a Drink?") and the Oak Ridge Boys ("Take the High Road," which pairs majestic vocals with laid-back twang).
fashionable for 21st-century blues guitarists to blow you away with
fretboard pyrotechnics. But Dave Specter harkens to the previous
century, when players like Steve Cropper and B. B. King moved listeners
with a handful of heartfelt notes. The horns, smoky organ and sublime
guitar on "Stick to the Hip" suggest Booker T.
Himmelman's gifts for melody, lyrical poignancy and spiritual depth are
rare among singer-songwriters. He can also rock: "Motel Room in
Davenport" chugs like a freight train, while "Good Luck Charm" mixes
white-boy rapping and an anvil-heavy beat into a solid groove.
many modern gospel records, this double disc was recorded live. But it
begins nontraditionally: "Reclaim Your Mountain" builds tension by
repeating a two-note phrase for almost four minutes before spiraling
into a Holy Spirit call. "Prophecy" kicks off with a tom-tom solo and
then unfurls a Latin-tinged rhythm that frames fervent, improvised
takes guts to kick off an album with a seven-minute track, but Canasta
rewards the listener who hangs in there. "Becoming You" unfolds with
patient pop majesty, recalling Belle & Sebastian or the Decemberists
as it evokes a warm spring morning shaking off the frost.
Deas Vail's youthful pop-rock is in the vein of Christian hit-radio bands. But the vocals soar to giddy heights on "Growing Pains," which makes compelling use of distorted guitar, riffing piano and swishing cymbals.
Chicago mints blues artists like a factory spits out widgets. Not all of them pass inspection, but Nick Moss has passed the tests of time and substance, and here he delivers a potent working-man's blues-rock blend. His version of Chester Burnett's "Louise" is a bare-fisted boogie with just a touch of southern-rock swagger.
Thousand Foot Krutch shows admirable ambition on Welcome to the Masquerade, deftly juggling metal, pop, rap and post-grunge. The trio mostly succeeds in making it all appealing, and the album’s sound is ultimately more inventive than derivative—this is not just another mainstream-aping Christian rock band.
It’s been some time since I donned my best professional earbuds to focus on a question of audio fidelity. But the band in question is the Beatles and the discs part of an ambitious remastering of the band’s catalog.
Back before pop diva Lisa Loeb became a household name, she and Elizabeth Mitchell performed together at Brown University. While Mitchell didn’t achieve Loeb’s fame, she possesses no less talent—and on her album for children, You Are My Little Bird (Smithsonian Folk ways), she demonstrates how the simplest music-making can be the most moving.