CD reviews: Campbell & Harding, Dave Alvin and more
July 7, 2011
Reviews of recent CDs of local interest.
produced by Cole Campbell and David HardingNew Castle singer-songwriter Cole Campbell and Basalt guitarist David Harding team up for an album of original rock songs. The sound is generally reminiscent of ’70s soft rock – gentle, well-crafted – but with the additional element of lyrical depth. Campbell gets thoughtful on the hopeful “If Jesus Met Allah,” and “Legalize It” isn’t a cover of the Peter Tosh classic, but a more playful, country-swing take that encompasses not just marijuana, but freedom and hope: “It’s a green, green world we’re living in/ … Legalize it, it’s the right thing to do.”
produced by Alvin (Yep Roc)A lot of music has been associated with California: San Francisco psychedelic rock of the ’60s; Los Angeles ska-punk; the Beach Boys’ idyllic portrait of beaches and girls; the Bakersfield country sound. To me (who, granted, has never lived in California), no one is more California than Dave Alvin, a fourth-generation Californian who was raised in Downey, a small city southeast of L.A. Alvin has been part of the punk scene (with X), a roots rock pioneer (with the Blasters), an acoustic picker, a folkie, and, on 2006’s “West of the West,” a chronicler of California’s best songwriters, as he covered Jackson Browne, the Grateful Dead, Los Lobos and Merle Haggard.On “Eleven Eleven,” Alvin digs into mythological characters, telling stories of outlaws, early music stars, gunslingers, and Joaquin Murietta, a notorious 19th century Californian with a Robin Hood-like stature. And though some of his stories don’t come from the Golden State – there’s “Black Rose of Texas” and “Gary, Indiana 1959” – the album still rings with L.A. punk, border-town tejano, Bakersfield country, the inland desert and more.Dave Alvin was born Nov. 11 – 11/11 – and the album, released in 2011, has 11 songs. Several accounts have it that this is Alvin’s 11th album, but by my count, it isn’t.Dave Alvin performs July 22 at PAC3 in Carbondale.
produced by Jonathan Haas (Orange Mountain Music)Here is something different in concept: NYU Steel, a New York University percussion ensemble led by Josh Quillen, and under the auspices of Jonathan Haas, director of the school’s percussion program (and of the Aspen Percussion Ensemble as well), arranges Philip Glass’ unpublished piano etudes for an 18-person steel drum group. And the result is likewise different, sounding nothing like piano, nothing like the Caribbean rhythms typically associated with steel drums. In fact, it doesn’t even necessarily sound like percussion music. Here, the etudes sound low and deep, with an ancient feel to them. Interesting and unusual.
produced by Friedlander (Skipstone)Cellist Erik Friedlander, a former student at the Aspen Music Festival, parted ways with the standard classical world years ago, to introduce his cello to Manhattan’s downtown scene, and lead his jazz-fusion quartet, Topaz. But here, Friedlander finds a place in what might best be termed Bill Frisell country, after the guitarist who has brilliantly blended jazz, string-band and classical styles. “Bonebridge” features Friedlander in a quartet with guitarist Doug Wamble, bassist Trevor Dunn and drummer Mike Sarin, and the music could be called chamber newgrass (Edgar Meyer, a bassist and composer at the Aspen Music Festival would probably be interested in giving a listen), though with Wamble on slide guitar, there is also a tinge of the Allman Brothers, a favorite of Friedlander’s when he was a firstname.lastname@example.org