A CD tour of who’s coming to town this summer | AspenTimes.com

A CD tour of who’s coming to town this summer

Stewart Oksenhorn

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Following are reviews of new CDs by acts coming to the valley.Brad Mehldau and Renée Fleming”Love Sublime,” produced by Steven Epstein (Nonesuch)Three titans of their artistic realm – jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, soprano Renée Fleming and poet Rainer Maria Rilke – team for this collection of spiritually leaning love songs. (There is also a nod to another legend; the title plays off saxophonist John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.”) Mehldau composed the piano-and-voice pieces expressly for Fleming for a concert the two performed together at New York’s Zankel Hall last year. The text comes mostly from Rilke’s “The Book of Hours: Love Poems to God,” and is sung in an English translation. (Two additional poets, Louise Bogan and Mehldau’s wife, Fleurine, make smaller contributions.)Renée Fleming performs an Aspen Music Festival special event July 27 at the Benedict Music Tent, with pianist Ricardo Bado.Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials”Rattlesnake,” produced by Bruce Iglauer and Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials (Alligator)My prejudice against most contemporary blues musicians has gotten to the point where I fully expect to hear nothing but Stevie Ray Vaughan knockoffs, white-kid guitar-slingers or some other tired approximation of the blues. So when I hear something refreshing, like the latest by Chicago’s Lil’ Ed Williams, it makes an impact. Williams is a tiny figure – but on “Rattlesnake,” he’s connected to a raw-boned, almost other worldly power, reminiscent of the best of Buddy Guy. Here Williams and his trio tour through blues feels: good-time romps, ballads, even the goody “Icicles in My Meatloaf.” But when he gets to the heart of the blues, as on “Leaving Here” and “Maybe Another Time,” it’s potent stuff.Lil’ Ed & the Blues Imperials play July 27 in the Snowmass Summer of Free Music series.The Radiators”Dreaming Out Loud,” produced by Mark Bingham and the Radiators (Radz Records)After 25 years of recording with little to show for it – commercially, artistically, you name it – it would be understandable for the Radiators to abandon the studio. But the long-running New Orleans quintet, which has made a good living from the road, gets good returns, at least musically, from “Dreaming Out Loud.” No one can say they’ve stopped trying. The Rads radically rearrange old material; “Ace in the Hole,” which used to be a slow number sung by Dave Malone, returns as a rocker with vocals by Ed Volker. “Lost Radio” is among the loveliest of the several thousand tunes Volker has cranked out, and it is done here with laid-back charm. The screaming “Rollercoaster” gets an old-time rock ‘n’ roll saxophone solo from guest Tim Green. Most every track reflects a high degree of thought; let’s hope somebody notices.The Radiators play Belly Up Aug. 31.Sam Bush”Laps in Seven,” produced by Bush (Sugar Hill)Sam Bush – mandolinist, fiddler and singer, bluegrasser and rocker, Bob Marley fanatic and Ozzie Smith lover – might have been too eclectic for his own good on his recent recordings. On “Laps in Seven,” he whittles his interests down a good bit, even as the guest list swells to include Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller and Jean-Luc Ponty. Not until six songs in, with “I Wanna Do Right,” an R&B-ish number featuring Little Feat singer Shaun Murphy, does Bush get away from the essence of acoustic picking. Ponty’s “New Country” is an Irish-rock fusion instrumental, but works (probably because Ponty himself supplies the electric violin parts). Bush also includes a decent cover of It’s a Beautiful Day’s “White Bird.” By the time you get there, you’ve already been through newgrass nirvana.Sam Bush plays Aug. 24 in the Snowmass Free Summer of Music series.Keller & the Keels”Grass,” produced by Jeff Covert (KW Enterprises)”Grass,” a collaborative effort between Keller Williams, who usually performs as a one-man band, and the duo of Jenny & Larry Keel, opens on an appropriate note, Williams’ “Goof Balls.” The threesome get about as goofy as they can in their song selections: “Loser” combines songs of that name by both Beck and the Grateful Dead; the repertoire staggers between anthem rock (Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall,” “Mary Jane’s Last Breakdown,” which pairs two Tom Petty songs) and old folk (“I’m Just Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail”). But the playing isn’t for laughs, and the singing, all-acoustic picking and inventive arrangements add up to more than goofy fun.Keller Williams plays Sept. 4 in Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ Labor Day Festival, in Snowmass Village.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is stewart@aspentimes.com

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