Why don't more people listen to Ron Sexsmith? The critically acclaimed singer-songwriter crafts masterful pop songs, records them with topflight producers and sings them in an understated croon. Unless you hate music that makes you smile, what's not to like?
Wanda Jackson may be the queen of rockabilly, but Jack White is king of this collaboration. The roots-obsessed producer takes charge, offering a high-octane reimagination of various '50s styles. But where White's work on Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose (2004) came off as reverent and almost subtle, here 73-year-old Jackson's presence seems like an afterthought.
Vic Chesnutt, who died of an overdose in 2009, was one of the best and most unusual songwriters of his generation. Country-rock veterans Cowboy Junkies are far more conventional. So Chesnutt diehards might not find much to like in this collection of his songs, but the album may provide newcomers a bridge to his work.
At year’s end, when all is sad and done in, we gasp as clouds of smoke appear. But it’s only the yews spewing pollen, outdoing chimneys as if it were spring. That and speech about Mideast peace as juncos reseed themselves, the Christmas rose flops open to cold, and Barney the cat perfects his new trick—he unbars our door.
He stares. (He prefers indoors.) But right there’s the morning star, just like the chorale’s. And up close, trouble— a pup hunting kibble and warmth. And there’s more. Mt. Rainier shows up in pink and blue bunting. So clear. Such fresh-powder glory. The sleepy volcano seems suddenly haloed, huge, and near. So much for our little stable.