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Scott H. Biram

Something's Wrong/Lost Forever

Bloodshot Records

Sounds like: The crazy guy next door, if he was talented

Short take: Bent Austin troubador on a roll

One minute, Scott H. Biram sounds like a lusty young Elvis; the next, a grizzled old bluesman. In between, you wonder just how well he knows Satan. Austin's one-man wrecking crew lets the echo of a lonesome, twangy guitar permeate the space between forlorn Hammond chords in "Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue," then grinds those blues with the gospel of a chuggin'-train harp (in "Ain't it a Shame") and the stomp of a heavy heel. In the swaggering "Judgement Day" [sic], he takes on "the boogieman and the Ku Klux Klan." This untame-able soul is on a mission to git 'er done — to get those motorvatin' blues out before another semi comes along to run him off the road for good. God and/or the devil would be proud. — Lynne Margolis

Purchase the CD: Scott H. Biram - Something's Wrong/Lost Forever
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Green Day

21st Century Breakdown

Reprise

Sounds like: Billie Joe Armstrong bearing the weight of the world

Short take: Can't get enough rock operas

Green Day follows up American Idiot with another concept album, more ambitious and cohesive than its 6-million-selling predecessor. The rock opera in three parts tells the story of Christian and Gloria, two young lovers kissing on the album cover. Betrayed by baby boomers, the church and world at large, Christian is snotty and self-destructive; Gloria manages to be more hopeful. Billie Joe Armstrong uses his characters to express a range of socio-political viewpoints, mostly from the left, but manages to do so without preaching. Green Day's music incorporates elements of classic/arena rock, à la Queen and the Beatles, adds some touching balladry and still cranks out the punchy punk anthems that have made it one of the only bands that still matters. — L. Kent Wolgamott

Purchase the Deluxe Version: Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown (Deluxe Version)
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Willie Nile

House of a Thousand Guitars

River House

Sounds like: The next Springsteen, a few decades later

Short take: Phase two is no less compelling

In the early '80s, Willie Nile was touted as a next big thing, his street-smart brand of rock compared to that of Bruce Springsteen. The success he deserved didn't happen, so he went away for nearly two decades, with only a 1991 release until 2004. Since then, he's returned to the studio for three CDs, the latest being House of a Thousand Guitars. Like his early work, this is filled with verve, passion and first-rate songs, such as the title track (an inspired tribute to great rock and blues artists past and present), the pumping rocker "Doomsday Dance," and "Her Love Falls Like Rain," a graceful ballad showcasing a softer side. Nile's reedy voice remains a bit of an acquired taste, but everything else here grabs hold immediately. It's good to have him back. — Alan Sculley

Purchase the CD: Willie Nile - House of a Thousand Guitars
  • Scott H. Biram, Green Day, Willie Nile

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