Ruthie Foster has a powerhouse of a blues/gospel voice, which she never allows to overpower a song. If you’re not sold already, Foster made her newest album in New Orleans with the Blind Boys of Alabama and a cast of hotshot players. It wouldn’t have killed them to restrain the Hammond organ player once in a while, but that’s being picky: the project brings a truckload of soul and grit.
M. Ward’s solo albums reveal that he surpasses his more-famous collaborators (Conor Oberst, Zooey Deschanel) on all fronts. His sound has a sepia-toned timelessness; it’s both inventive and a whole bunch of kinds of old-fashioned.
On her third album, Shannon Stephens reins in her chamber-folk experimentalism in favor of a bluesy little band that takes her songs to unexpected places. Her sound remains relatively subdued, yet it grooves and pops and even swaggers.
The first question to ask about a Paul McCartney standards album is why it took him so long. The guy’s always been fascinated by the American Songbook, and unlike some pop singers who have taken detours to the land of jazzy old tunes and swinging little combos, Sir Paul has a powerful and chameleonic voice.
Pinning down this Chicago-based group’s sound is difficult. But it’s easy to name resemblances: the progressive song structure and guitar work of Yes; the spoken-word interludes of Frank Zappa and Ken Nordine; the slithery funk of 1970s David Bowie.
Some call us yesterday’s bees, working old honeycomb. Are we only circling, a phrizz of amber, un-hived? The call to be golden crescendos within, clothed in stone, a kind of falling, over and over. “Sink deeper,” is one whisper, all winter, earth like bronze and scores of husks—the exiled, shattered. Workers know this: honey splits the great hum, come spring. What is a life without lavender, rag-tag monarda, or the silky cosmos?— myriad shivers of wing, months of rehearsing hunger, bowing down in the warm dark, the pregnant dust, with its little sails.