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Charlie Louvin

Sings Murder Ballads and Disaster Songs

Tompkins Square Records / Release date: Dec. 9

Sounds like: Sorrow and redemption

Short take: Country's grand old man lives on

Southerners understand murder and disaster, often finding solace in pain too unspeakable for words. Charlie Louvin sure does. With older brother Ira in the '50s, he recorded Tragic Songs of Life, one of the all-time great albums of despair. Louvin's 81-year-old voice shows signs of frailty, but emotions pour out of every note. There are moments on "Mary of the Wild Moor" and "My Brother's Will" when the weight of the world ferociously pulls on his words, and the heavenly sounds of fiddles, guitars, pipe organ and Louvin's voice arrive as gifts of grace. It's in those moments that we know hardship doesn't define us; instead, it's endless hope that shows what it means to be alive. Bill Bentley


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The Killers

Day & Age

Island

Sounds like: New Wave look fails to yield timeless rock

Short take: The Killers trip over themselves

Here we go again. The Killers' 2006 Sam's Town, drowned in self-importance, and they seem just as hell-bent on over-arching anthems here. The dark-tinged "Losing Touch" does have a Hot Fuss sensibility, and the same vibe is evident on "Human" and "Spaceman," both tight pop songs. But the more expansive songs go severely awry, as on the faux-island sounding "I Can't Stay" and the Africa-tinged "This is Your Life." Maybe inconsistency is the best we can hope for at this point. John Benson


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Kathleen Grace Band

Mirror

Monsoon

Sounds like: Kate Bush meets Nancy Wilson

Short take: Eclectic L.A. chanteuse gets it right

Mix jazz with pop and you're likely to end up with Diana Krall or worse. L.A. vocalist Kathleen Grace, whose influences run from Wayne Shorter to Nick Drake, is considerably more inspired on this, her third album. Without really trying, her sublime soprano can evoke Kate Bush ("Penny") or Laura Nyro ("Elijah"), while the arrangements, which prominently feature pianist Matt Politano, offer fresh and innovative approaches to more traditional jazz tropes. The collection ends with a beautifully rendered version of "Let Me Go," which melodically improves on the Randy Newman original. In providing a missing link between the cocktail lounge and the concert hall, Mirror does them both proud. Bill Forman

  • Charlie Louvin, The Killers, Kathleen Grace Band

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