You can call Keb’ Mo’ a lot of things, but “unpredictable” isn’t one of them. His blues tradition is more down-home than hard-charging, more Delta than Chicago. His 11th album is basically more of this, and as usual it sounds great. Keb’ Mo’ doesn’t reinvent himself. Keb’ Mo’ plays the blues.
On the Söderberg sisters’ third album and their second with producer Mike Mogis, the sound is bigger and lusher, even utilizing strings and winds at times. But it remains rooted in ’70s folk rock, straight-ahead and fingerpicky and richly effective.
Chris Thile is equally committed to the mandolin—that oh-so-traditional instrument he plays so uncommonly well—and to progressive stylistic exploration. Often this makes his projects come off a bit cute, the Harlem Globetrotters of acoustic music. On paper, this audacious new crossover project—Thile playing J. S.
Now in his seventies, Aaron Neville can still locate the incredibly sweet spot between full voice and falsetto. The R&B legend’s singing remains mellow but quietly forceful—as if he could let loose at any moment but chooses not to.
Malian singer, songwriter, and guitarist Rokia Traoré has long blended West African music with occidental influences. Her fifth album, produced by P. J. Harvey collaborator John Parish, features the strongest rock element yet.
Many bands have combined minimalist composition with maximalist guitar noise. Yo La Tengo does this best, carrying on without so much as a chord change while guitarist Ira Kaplan screeches and wails away. But the trio also stands out because this is far from its only trick. YLT brings an encyclopedia of influences and a knack for moody, tasteful arranging.