Tuesday, August 31, 2010


For those of you who are new to No Expiration, every Wednesday morning at 9 am ET (-ish), I discuss music on The Morning Jolt With Larry Flick on SIRIUS XM's OutQ channel. I should also mention Larry's co-host, comedian Keith Price. Going on the show is always a fun time.  This week I have some great new music to talk about - there isn't a theme as such, but all of these records show a certain restraint and subtlety.

First off is Fistful of Mercy, a new "supergroup" featuring Ben Harper, Joseph Arthur and Dhani Harrison (son of The Quiet Beatle). I wrote about them last week - I hadn't heard of them at all (and I'm usually up on Ben Harper's doings) and then all of the sudden a video arrived in my email box! Well, you know that I'm a huge Ben Harper fan. I don't know much about Joseph Arthur, but I love his song "In The Sun" (which Michael Stipe covered a few years ago). I haven't heard Dhani's music with his band thenewno2, but I will check it out. Anyway, I have the band's title track to play.

I'm getting really into Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs' God Willin' and the Creek Don't Rise, which I wrote about last night. I have all of Ray's prior albums, and generally I like a couple of songs from each, but not the whole album. This one, I love the whole thing. It's really quiet (opener "Repo Man" is uncharacteristically funky) but I really dig it. It is actually inspiring me to go back and listen to his other albums and see if they've grown on me. He has lots of songs that I love: "Trouble," "Shelter," "Hold You In My Arms," "You Are The Best Thing," "Meg White" (yes he wrote a song about Meg White!) and "Three More Days." But I'm going back and revisiting his entire albums.

I've been a fan of John Mellencamp pretty much as long as I've been a fan of rock and roll. And as No Expiration readers know, I'm loyal to artists who have been around for a long time. I'll admit it, I haven't liked many of John's albums over the past decade or so (with the exception of 2003's Trouble No More, and I think his song 2004 song "Walk Tall" is maybe his finest moment). His new album, No Better Than This, like his last one (2008's Life, Death, Love and Freedom) was produced by T-Bone Burnett. They recorded it with a ribbon mic onto a reel-to-reel recorder at Sun Studios, a baptist church in Savannah, Georgia, and in the hotel room where Robert Johnson recorded some of his sides. You would figure that those places are a bit haunted, and so is this album (as Burnett points out in the liner notes). There aren't any arena anthems here, so it's too bad that he probably won't be able to play too many of these songs in concert: it's a really good album. I'm still getting used to it, but I like it a lot.

There are high expectations for Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses' Junky Star. With two albums behind him, Ryan seemed to come out of nowhere to win an Oscar for his song "The Hurting Kind" from last year's film Crazy Heart. Like that song (and like Mellencamp's new album), Junky Star was produced by T-Bone Burnett (him again!). He seems to not be taking advantage of his higher profile - he's just doin' what he does. Which I guess is the smartest response to his situation. It's hard to imagine how this album will get too popular, but he doesn't seem to be too worried about it. He sounds a bit like a (less political) Steve Earle - the people who are going to like him are going to like him, but he isn't trying to sell himself to people who aren't interested. The Oscar makes it a bit easier to find the people who are going to like him though.

Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell released their third album, Hawk. They are as good of a team as Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and they've actually been compared to Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra, which is probably a better comparassion (rougher, countrier guy and poppier gal). Lanegan got his start as the singer of Screaming Trees, was briefly in Queens Of The Stone Age, collaborated with Greg Dulli in The Gutter Twins, collaborated with a dance music group called Soulsavers and has done a bunch of great solo albums as well. Campbell is formerly of a indie-pop group (often described as "twee") called Belle & Sebastian. So, it is sort of an unlikely combo, but it really works (much like Plant/Krauss). They sing well together - you get the impression that they are listening to each other. On this album, Campbell seems to be the boss: she's the producer and she wrote almost all of the songs herself (Lanegan didn't write any). But it's not about who wrote what or who produced, the final results are really great. Like with the LaMontange album, this is making me want to revisit their past collaborations. And also Mark's past solo stuff (and maybe even look into Isobel's solo stuff, I know I don't like B&S too much).

David Gray has quietly released a new album, Foundling. That's appropriate, because it is a pretty quiet album, even by his standards. I've read interviews with him where he's pretty much say he has no expectation that this album will be a commercial success. I think a smart music supervisor for a TV show can use some of these songs effectively. But Gray is probably right. I have a lot of respect for him, so I'm giving the album a chance, but it hasn't stuck with me. But, like Ray LaMontange, most of his records just have a few songs that I really like (I love "The Other Side," "The One I Love," "The World To Me" and "Draw The Line" to name a couple)... but maybe I need to revisit them also. That's one of the great things about music, it can hit you in different ways at different times.

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