Thursday, March 27, 2008


I always say that I am a big fan of the album format: a bunch of songs recorded together, released in a specific order. But I also love the freedom that singles offer. Back in the day, I used to love 45"s, then "cassingles," then CD singles. These days, I love iTunes, and being able to just buy a few songs here and there. Here are some singles that I recently purchased that I've been enjoying.

The first two are from Randy Jackson's Music Club album. Yes, that Randy Jackson. Back off, son, he played with Bob Dylan. OK, it was on Under The Red Sky. And with Bruce Springsteen. On Human Touch. Both underrated albums, stop hating. Anyway, his album features him producing (and probably playing bass on) tracks for other artists. One is with Joss Stone: "Just Walk On By" (not to be confused with "Walk On By"). People also hate on Joss, I like her, and this is a nice pop song. The second track is a cover of "Wang Dang Doodle," written by blues god Willie Dixon. It features keb'mo, whose voice I always love hearing, Angie Stone, who I'd love to hear more blues from, and Sam Moore of Sam & Dave (Randy produced his comeback album two years ago). Not the grittiest version, but still fun.

Next: Duffy. I first read about her in Mojo, which is the most credible music publication in the world, in my opinion. She is a soulful, white British girl from Wales, whose record has a very modern-slash-retro feel. Like a certain Ms. Winehouse. But Duffy is better looking and less angst ridden: better for the record label, but it automatically puts her at a big disadvantage when it comes to music critics. People are definitely gonna pile on. I just heard this one song, "Mercy," offered as the free single of the week on iTunes. I like it.

Jim White's "Crash Into The Sun": this one makes me want to hear more of this guy. He reminds me a bit of James McMurtry.

Kaki King's "Pull Me Out Alive": I know of her because NPR Radio stations play her a lot. And she played guitar on on the new Foo Fighters album's "The Ballad Of The Bakersfield Miners." This one also makes me want to hear more.

Ashton Shepherd's "Taking Off The Pain": Very mainstream country. She has her wedding ring in one hand and a beer in the other. You can figure out the rest. I don't love modern country's conservativism - politically and musically - but on the plus side, most of the artists are just about songs. Even the most mainstream country singer can land a great song, and this is a good example.

Kathleen Edwards reminds me (and probably other people) of Lucinda Williams. That's as much of a double edged sword as being called "The New Dylan." Big compliment, impossible to live up to. She has written some great songs, though. I love "In State" from her last album. She just released a new album, Asking For Flowers, and I like the new song "Buffalo."

I bought two tracks from an album by a guy named Jeffrey Lewis, 12 Crass Songs. In this case, "Crass" is a noun, not an adjective. Actually it's both. The album is 12 covers of songs by anarchist punk band Crass. "Do They Owe Us A Living?" and "I Ain't Thick, It's A Trick" are worth hearing. I don't know much about Crass, but the album's folky sound delivers the lyrics in a much different way than the originals (I've heard a few of the original versions). It's at least thought provoking.

The Black Keys' "Strange Times": They're a dirty sounding gritty blues/rock duo, but they sound nothing like The White Stripes. Apparently, Danger Mouse used them on some Ike Turner recordings that he was producing, and then they decided to have them produce thier new album. Pretty cool song. Speaking of Danger Mouse...

Gnarls Barkley has a new album, The Odd Couple, and I got "Run" and "Going On." I tend to think that Danger Mouse is a bit overrated. That said, that "Crazy" song was pretty great, as was their cover of The Violent Femmes' "Gone Daddy Gone." I like both of the new songs that I picked up, but I don't know if I'd buy the album based on them.

The Kills' "Cheap And Cheerful" makes me want to hear more from this duo.

Justin Townes Earle's "Far Away In Another Town": Yes he is you-know-who's son. Sounds a bit like him. As if that wasn't enough pressure, he's also named after Townes Van Zandt. That's like being named "Jakob Marley Dylan" or something. Anyway, this song is pretty cool, and I'll be checking out more of his music for sure.

That's it for now. I'm looking foward now to hearing the new R.E.M. which comes out next week, along with the latest live album from The Rolling Stones. But if you trust my musical taste and want to check out some lesser known artists, you should try some of the above (not that Randy Jackson is lesser known, but you know what I mean).

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