CD reviews: My Morning Jacket, Daniel Isaiah and more
June 9, 2011
produced by Yim Yames and Tucker Martine (ATO)My first reaction to My Morning Jacket’s “Circuital” was the same first reaction I had to their last album, 2008’s “Evil Urges”: Is this My Morning Jacket? By the time the answer became obvious – yes – I was even more impressed than I was with the Kentucky rockers than I had been by their great early albums. This was a band with multiple layers to it.With “Evil Urges,” I was thrown off by the groove, the touches of ’70s disco and funk. What hits me on “Circuital” is nearly the opposite. The album opens with the dire, noisy “Victory Dance,” which doesn’t groove; it drones, as singer Jim James and company show more restraint than exuberance. Even after the title track explodes into wonderful guitar rock, reminiscent of the early albums “It Still Moves” and “Z,” the sound gets reeled back in for the chamber-pop song “Wonderful (The Way I Feel).” But something happens halfway through “Outta My System.” The song starts out subdued, but even the lyrics – “They told me not to smoke drugs/ Said I’d wind up in prison/ Thought I knew it all, yeah, I wouldn’t listen” – suggest that a change is a-coming. Sure enough, the song explodes. My Morning Jacket has indeed gotten something out of its system, and seems to have said, Yeah, this raucous rock ‘n’ roll stuff is pretty fun. They swagger through “Holdin’ On to Black Metal” and pound out “First Light,” and by the time they get to “Slow Slow Tune,” even slowness has an energy bubbling underneath it.By the time “Circuital” closes, on the gentle, piano ballad/waltz “Movin’ Away,” we feel like we’ve been through a lot with My Morning Jacket. Lot of ins, lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous. Quite a ride.
produced by Isaiah (Secret City)There’s no Wikipedia entry on Montreal’s Daniel Isaiah, so I can’t say how old he is, only that I presume he’s young, as “High Twilight” is his debut album. But once the Wikipedia page does get created, I’m guessing it’s quickly going to be loaded with information. There’s a lot to say about Isaiah.For one thing, he seems to be as much filmmaker as musician; his short film “Three Mothers” won the A&E Short Filmmaker Award. (Not sure how short he is; even if he did have a Wikipedia page, it might not say.) Just on the music side, there are numerous facets displayed on “High Twilight.” On “Emma Grace,” Isaiah seems like he’d fit in well at a progressive bluegrass festival; “The Naked Night” sounds like a track uncovered from the ’80s rock archive. There’s a little bit of Leonard Cohen when he sings in French on “J’Habite un pays” (which translates to either “I Inhabit a Country” or “I’ll Be Paying for My Habits”); a little latter-day Bob Dylan on “The Hours”; and a whole lot of artists like Calexico, Fleet Foxes and Josh Ritter, who are rooted in folk but adamant about using the full range of instruments and production techniques available.Late-breaking news: Isaiah is 31.
produced by Ronnie McCoury and Ben Jaffe (McCoury Music)The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a loose congregation of players formed in the early ’60s in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The Del McCoury Band dates to the ’80s, and has since been crowned as bluegrass royalty, consistently nominated for Grammys. But while each qualifies as an institution, they show remarkable flexibility as they come together for “American Legacies.” The two sides find a middle ground in the sound of pre-World War II swing – no surprise when you consider that early swing prominently featured banjo and fiddle, two of the signature instruments of bluegrass.
produced by Saadiq (Columbia)A former member of the ’80s soul group Tony! Toni! Ton! Raphael Saadiq broke through as a solo act with 2008’s “The Way I See It.” “Stone Rollin'” solidifies his reputation. He embraces old-school soul, in the tradition of Motown and James Brown, but in the aggressive way he attacks the beats, and the fierce way he dives into the music, it comes out sounding almost as fresh as it does retro.
produced by Mathus and Justin Showah (Memphis International)”Confederate Buddha” suggests someone with a wide range of sensibilities, and Jimbo Mathus earns the title. Mathus’ most commercially successful venture was Squirrel Nut Zippers, who were at the center of the ’90s swing revival. Mathus has also been a sideman for blues great Buddy Guy, and a close collaborator with fellow Mississippians, the North Mississippi Allstars. He even wrote and performed a historical musical, “Mosquitoville.””Confederate Buddha” is eclectic to say the least, a mash-up of blues, raw rock ‘n’ roll, folk and country. But if one character trait wins out here, it is the album’s Southerness, with references to cotton and riverboats, and a language and accent and even characters like “Kine Joe” that all point South. firstname.lastname@example.org