On disc and on tap
August 24, 2006
Following are reviews of new CDs by artists who have appeared recently or will appear soon in the valley.Govt MuleHigh & Mightyproduced by Warren Haynes and Gordie Johnson (ATO)For most hard rock bands, a title like High & Mighty would be a cocksure boast about the band itself. But Govt Mule is the thinking mans hard rock, and Mr. High & Mighty, the opening track to the quartets latest CD looks out at the world with a definite point of view.Mr. High & Mighty is critiques modern-day, chest-beating, war-making America. Singer-guitarist Warren Haynes points out the shame of a country taking leave from its ideals. America once reached down to the most needful (remember when you were low/on the sunny streets of Georgia, he sings, referencing the Civil Rights movement). Now, the down-and-out can expect America to act as the neighborhood bully: buildings crumble and peasants cower/at the sound of your name. The song ends on a note of optimism; a line like we can dance and join hands has probably never been sung to such a heavy sound.High & Mighty leaves the politics to that one song, but the theme of opposing forces rings throughout the album. In both the sound, a combination of jam-band looseness and rock intensity, and lyrics, Haynes and company spin their customary blend of pain and promise, the dark and light. Its no surprise the phrase so weak, so strong appears in Child of the Earth, and reappears as the title of another tune.Govt Mule performs a sold-out show at the Belly Up on Sept. 3.Chris ThileHow to Grow a Woman from the Groundproduced by Thile (Sugar Hill)Mandolinist-singer Chris Thile has taken acoustic sounds a long way from traditional bluegrass in his band, Nickel Creek; duet albums with fellow wandering mandolinist, Mike Marshall; and solo projects that range from pop to sophisticated instrumentals. It may be too late for Thile to return to true bluegrass. How to Grow a Woman From the Ground is the 25-year-olds stab at a bluegrass album; its an all-acoustic quintet recording with standard instrumentation and production. But Thiles voice, playing and songwriting remain miles away from Bill Monroe, or even modern-day traditionalists like Del McCoury.Which is a great thing. Band making the traditional sounds are a dime a dozen. Few could put a Celtic spin on the Spanish instrumental O Santo de Polvora with such ease, or weave a modern, melancholy ballad like Stay Away with such spare instrumentation. Thile proves himself a great interpreter on versions of songs by Gillian Welch, Jimmie Rodgers and even Jack White. The range of moods he explores makes this a super update of bluegrass.Chris Thile performed with Nickel Creek last week in Snowmass Village. How to Grow a Woman From the Ground is set for release Sept. 12.VinylFogshack Music Volume 1produced by Tony Mindel and the Rondo Brothers (In the Pocket Records)San Francisco sextet Vinyl gets the remix treatment here, courtesy of the Rondo Brothers. The Brothers, a production duo also from the Bay Area, took recordings from Vinyls sessions for their 2001 album, Flea Market, and had their way with it. Those recordings prominently featured Bernie Worrell, the keyboard wizard from P-Funk, giving the source material an extra dose of the funky stuff.Remixing other peoples music has generally struck me as a curious way to make a living, but on Fogshack Music, I see the point. Vinyls typical organic sound, poured through the juicer, comes out as something else beat heavy, echoing and jittery, with the groove extracted and amplified. It makes Vinyl sound more than a little like Medeski, Martin & Wood, which is rarely a bad thing.Vinyl performs Monday, Aug. 28 at the Belly Up.Rose Hill DriveRose Hill Drive(Megaforce/SCI Fidelity)Boulders Rose Hill Drive has been around long enough to have made an impression, as a hard rock throwback that did little to differentiate it from the 70s groups that inspired them. So its a bit shocking that Rose Hill Drive is the trios first full-length album, which gives the band a chance to prove it has something fresh to add. And they do. Rose Hill Drive, led by singer-guitarist Daniel Sproul, will certainly remind listeners of Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy and maybe a little ZZ Top. But Declaration of Independence comes out of nowhere with its Beatles tinge, and makes a convincing statement that, even in their early 20s, the members of Rose Hill Drive are ready to reach beyond their heroes. Even when the band falls back on hard rock, on Raise Your Hands, they can do it with distinction.Rose Hill Drive plays a CD Release Party Sunday, Aug. 27 at the Belly Up.