Steve Thorngate's Music Reviews

Music

My True Story, by Aaron Neville

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.

Music

The Invisible Girl, by Parov Stelar Trio

The best hyphenated genres don’t combine disparate worlds; they em­brace commonality.

Music

The Ash & Clay, by the Milk Carton Kids

Most Americana duos don’t sound as much like Gillian Welch and David Rawlings as people say they do. But the Milk Carton Kids’ resemblance is uncanny.

Music

This Side of Jordan, by Mandolin Orange

Another day, another talented Americana songwriter immersed in the language of a faith he doesn’t profess.

Music

Beautiful Africa, by Rokia Traoré

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.

Music

Fade, by Yo La Tengo

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.

Music

Up Like the Clouds by Dubl Handi

Banjo player Hilary Hawke has displayed her fine chops and deep folk foundations in several ensembles. Here she pares things down to a duo, but the sound isn’t all that spare.

Music

Mercyland, by various artists

Growing up, my listening habits progressed from the evangelical subculture’s schlockiest pop to its Americana fringe to secular alt-country. One common thread: prolific sideman Phil Madeira.

Music

Simone Felice, by Simone Felice

I once wrote that the Felice Brothers have one capable lead singer at best: while Ian Felice sings more expressively than his brother James, it’s not a pretty sound. But I was overlooking the Catskills folk-rockers’ third brother, Simone.

Music

Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions, by Billy Bragg and Wilco

On Mermaid Avenue (1998), Billy Bragg and Wilco wrote and recorded music for some of the 3,000 tuneless lyrics Woody Guthrie left behind. The stunning result was so much more than a reverent, Pete-Seeger-and-friends tribute album could ever be: the great Guthrie expanded in our cultural imagination and introduced to a new generation.