CD reviews: New CDs, many styles
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
produced by Broemel and Teddy Morgan (ATO)
My Morning Jacket is basically singer Jim James and some other guys, right? Before adopting that view, consider “All Birds Say,” by “other guy” Carl Broemel, who has played guitar, pedal steel and other instruments in MMJ since 2004. Broemel takes a sharp turn from MMJ’s aggressive rock ‘n’ roll on his second solo album, which makes him all the more worthy of attention. “All Birds Say” is internally focused, singer-songwriter fare that moves along at a dreamy pace. But echoing slightly MMJ’s approach, Broemel embellishes the acoustic guitar with strings, clarinet and vibraphone. The songwriting, with hints of George Harrison, is stellar; “Different People” sticks to your ears.
produced by Gastelum and Mocean Worker
Saxophonist Cochemea Gastelum has been busy, playing, it seems, with any groove band that can get its hands on him: Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Anitbalas, the Roots, Amy Winehouse. Too busy to make his own album, till now. Apparently, he’s been storing up ideas, which he executes with depth and complexity on “The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow.” Gastelum starts with Afrobeat, but adds electronica, old soul and strong melodicism to make an infectious, even romantic take on groove.
produced by Nick Loss-Eaton and Quinn McCarthy (L’echiquier Records)
The first song on the first recording by Leland Sundries is titled “Elegy,” and the Brooklyn-based project couldn’t find a better way to announce its presence, at least not in one word. Nick Loss-Eaton, the vocalist, writer and multi-instrumentalist behind Leland Sundries, tells literate stories of regret and lowered expectations in a dry, Lou Reed-like baritone. On “Oh My Sweet Cantankerous Baby,” Loss-Eaton mourns the downhill trajectory of American culture: “There’s no novels any more, and no great plays/ There’s just cocktail party lines.” But underneath those world-weary words is a vivid American landscape of harmonica, resonator guitar and female harmony vocals that is sometimes beautiful, sometimes jarring, and the juxtaposition can be enlightening.
produced by Dave Wilson and Chatham County Line (Yep Roc)
Chatham County Line does rootsy string music without being tied to conventions. A tradition-bound group, for instance, probably wouldn’t write something like “Alone in New York,” or dress up songs with piano, or back “Saturdays Sundays” with insistent drumbeats. But the North Carolina quintet echoes modern music-makers Ryan Adams and David Rawlings more than they do the staid and overly respectful acoustic groups, and the four-part harmonies are raggedy-but-right, rather than pitch-perfect. They are the better and fresher for it.
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The third weekend of play begins Thursday and runs through Sunday with the Bantam B, Squirt A and Squirt B divisions. Because of safety protocols, spectators aren’t allowed.