Steve Thorngate's Music Reviews

Music

Bluesamericana, by Keb’ Mo’

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.

Music

Stay Gold, by First Aid Kit

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.

Music

Bach Sonata No. 1 in G Minor / Partita No. 1 in B Minor, by Chris Thile

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.

Music

Small Town Heroes, by Hurray for the Riff Raff

On Alynda Lee Segarra's fifth album as Hurray for the Riff Raff, the Puerto Rican Bronx native wraps social commentary around Americana references.

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.