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spinning discs CD Reviews by James Cassara

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Spirit in the Room Island Records

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While not the “where the heck did this record come from?” revelation that was Praise and Blame (Jones’ stunning 2010 comeback) Spirit in the Room is no less a marvel, a testimony to any artist whose dedication to reinvention has marked his extraordinary career from the get go. It’s another solid set of stripped-down interpretations (again produced once again by Ethan Johns) done as only Jones can. The difference this time is a reliance on more contemporary songwriters, including such amigos as Paul McCartney, Richard Thompson, Leonard Cohen, and Paul Simon. Toss in a song by newcomers The Low Anthem and what’s not to love? Jones is one of the few vocalists who seem to “get” Cohen – his take on “Tower of Song” gets right to the core of that dark masterpiece – and he’s just as comfortable tackling Tom Waits’ pensive “Bad as Me” or Joe Henry’s off-kilter “All Blues Hail Mary.” Taken as a whole, Spirit in the Room easily matches its predecessor track for track. It may be a bit less unified than Praise and Blame but it’s no less an exhilarating an experience. What else might one ask of a 72 year old icon? Not a darn thing. ****

Los Lobos Kiko/Kiko Live CD/DVD Shout! Factory Shout! Factory records have again pulled out all the stops and gifted us with the lavish re-release of a record deemed worthy. Los Lobos’ 1992 Kiko might seem an unlikely candidate (its’ too recent for some tastes) but much of the thrill of this collection – available in three different versions depending on how large a loan you can secure – is an opportunity to go back and revisit the past. The original album was an anomaly at the time of its release, not just because it showed that the already well-respected Los Lobos were more than just a really good roots rock band, but because it so successfully broadened their artistic vision, lyrically and musically, with production (courtesy of Mitchell Froom) that expanded on their es16 September 2012 — RAPID RIVER ARTS & CULTURE MAGAZINE — Vol. 16, No. 1

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As summer winds down I am going to tackle a few discs that have, due largely to the flood of music sent my way, been skipped over. With so many interesting artists out there it is increasingly difficult to keep up; it’s a happy problem! I again remind you to be sure to legally purchase these albums from your local record store of choice. Without them Asheville would be a little less cool of a town.

Tom Jones

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tablished Chicano/American/folk/soul/ rock elements with experimental textures only previously hinted at. Two decades later it remains the highlight in Los Lobos’ remarkably consistent catalog and a terrific, even revelatory listen. This newly remastered studio edition includes 5 additional tracks – 3 of them live from 1992 – terrific liner notes with lyrics, full credits, and rare photos. It’s the place to start, even if you already own it. But the concert recording and DVD that recreates the album in order, captured at a February 2006 gig (and unreleased until now) demonstrates how smoothly the band translates the studio creations to the stage. A series of short yet captivating interview segments provides detail on the songs and the project’s sonic construction: Needless to say the deluxe edition is the one to go for but any version of this contemporary rock classic is worth having. Yet again Shout! Factory has set the standard for deluxe releases. *****

Bonnie “Prince” Billy Now Here’s My Plan Drag City Records At the risk of incurring the wrath of the multitudes of his followers – whose devotion to the man often borders on the compulsive (meant in a good way!) – I’ll admit to never quite understanding the allure of the artist known alternately as Bonnie “Prince” Billy and Will Oldham. I admire to no end his work ethic – the man is a music making machine – and devotion to creative expansion, but at the heart of things the product simply doesn’t touch that resonant chord necessary for an artist/listener link. As such this six song EP, offering reinterpretations of hand picked previously released material, seems intended for those of us still not in the fold. Revisiting older material is not a new direction for Oldham. In 2004 the prolific songwriter released a collection of decidedly country & western reconstructions of earlier material. Now Here’s My Plan is similar, but not quite to what has gone before. It gathers the same band that backed Oldham on his 2011 live dates into the studio to see what sparks might fly. Some songs lean into even more gentle spaces than their original incarnations, as on the droning “Three Questions,” but more appealing are the rowdy, drunken

honky-tonk versions of songs like “I Don’t Belong to Anyone” and the once-heartbreaking “I See a Darkness.” The jubilant feel, discordant piano, and almost breathtaking pace of the versions here completely recast them. When compared to the original, “I See a Darkness” is light years away from the 1999 version. Taken solely as a collection of songs, the EP is as enjoyable and confusing as much of Oldham’s work, and will annoy as many listeners as it delights with its confounding takes on fan favorites. I still wish Oldham would imbue his arrangements with greater swings in tempo, as the steady rhythm of his songs can tend to drag, so while I am far from being a convert, Now Here’s My Plan has at least forced me to reconsider my initial impressions. Independent of its musical merits, in that regards it’s a smashing success. ****

The Silver Jews Early Times Drag City Records A collection of the original “Dime Map of the Reef” single and The Arizona Record EP, Early Times collects a handful of nascent indie-strum tracks dating from two decades ago by Steve Malkmus and Bob Nastonovitch (along with college chum David Berman) in the days just following the demise of Pavement. As such it is an historical and at times fascinating peek at how a band transforms itself, and a teaser of what might have been. This collection of leftovers and oddities is as glorious a low-fidelity mishmash as one might hope (or dread) to hear, and while it is nice to unearth these songs in their most rudimentary form it is also a case of buyer beware, an understanding that these tracks were never meant for commercial release. Think early Ramones (in terms of sonic quality, not style) and you’ll better appreciate the charms found herein. It’s junky garage rock at its finest. Coming through the incessant static hiss like a phantom, Berman’s voice sounds even more detached than usual. His Lou Reed-like bored, cool-kid drone cuts through slipshod guitar and drums that suddenly veer off into all sorts of awkward directions. ‘CD’s’ continued on page 15

September 2012 issue  

Magnetic Theatre-MILF..p3; NC Stage-R. Buckminster Fuller..p6; Asheville Lyric Opera-La Traviata..p4; Asheville Area Piano Forum..p6; Ashevi...

September 2012 issue  

Magnetic Theatre-MILF..p3; NC Stage-R. Buckminster Fuller..p6; Asheville Lyric Opera-La Traviata..p4; Asheville Area Piano Forum..p6; Ashevi...

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