Thursday, March 10, 2011

Play ball! Catching up with winning collections

In recent months, I've received a number of strong collections that celebrate the diversity of modern music, a specific genre or even a particular subject on a single disc. I want to highlight some of my favorite new collections with this post.

Artist: The Baseball Project
Title: Volume 2: High and Inside
Tell Me More: Rock 'n' roll and baseball might seem like strange bedfellows, but don't tell that to the four members of The Baseball Project. The band's 2008’s Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes & Dying Quails debut was such an out-of-the-park success, the sonic team is back with more real life-minded tales involving Mark "The Bird" Fidrych (the pop rocker "1976"), slugger Reggie Jackson (the melodic sing-a-long "The Straw That Stirs the Drink") and other greats.
Those under the illusion that a baseball-centered disc might not mine the deepest of emotions should step into the batter's box to hear the Steve Wynn-penned "Twilight Of My Career," a powerful song that explores mortality with the power of a Roger Clemens fastball.
The starting line-up of The Baseball Project features the aforementioned Wynn (The Miracle 3, The Dream Syndicate), Scott McCaughey (The Minus 5, Young Fresh Fellows, R.E.M.), Linda Pitmon (The Miracle 3, Golden Smog) and Peter Buck (R.E.M.); coming off the bench to pinch hit are guest players Craig Finn (The Hold Steady), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Steve Berlin (Los Lobos), Chris Funk and John Moen (The Decemberists) and Ira Kaplan (Yo La Tengo).
After discovering this wonderful collection honoring the world's greatest game, I hope the members of the Baseball Project team take the field for a third season soon.
For more information on the release, visit

Artist: The Thrill Building
Title: The Greatest Game in the World
Tell Me More: Just as there is more than enough room for several great teams in the Major Leagues (heck, even multiple squads in New York and Chicago), The Baseball Project isn't alone on the musical field of play. The Thrill Building is set to issue The Greatest Game in the World, an aptly-titled 22-track tribute to, well, the greatest game in the world. The album is set to be released on March 29, 2011, just in time for the 2011 Major League season!
From the power pop title track and celebratory "Baseball's Coming Back" to the more hard-rocking "The Longest Lineup" and soulful "Uniform," Nashville-based producer-singer and multi-instrumentalist Fran Kowalski has assembled his own team to craft songs around the countless legendary elements that make baseball so special to its followers.
Whether singing songs about the stadium vendor or the exec in the front office or a favorite public address announcer, The Greatest Game in the World really will help the listener connect their own memories of days spent at the ballpark with the melodic gems on this collection.
For more information, visit

Artist: Keane, Jónsi, Mumford & Sons, Rosanne Cash & more
Title: FUV Live 13
Tell Me More: Released as part of public radio station WFUV (90.7 FM, membership drive in September 2010, FUV Live 13 is a compilation that may be difficult to track down but is worth the energy adding to your music collection.
While the wide range of artists who stopped by Studio A of WFUV is almost enough by itself to get you to get the collection, it are the recordings that are the real prize. A raw acoustic version of Brandi Carlile belting out "Dreams," Josh Ritter's poignant "Change of Time," Keane's acoustic version of its U2-flavored "Is It Any Wonder?" and Jónsi's joyous "Boy Lilikoi" all reveal emotional and sonic shades via these intimate performances that contrast with the original studio recordings by the respective artists.
Other highlights include Ozomatli's "45," Rosanne Cash's "Long Black Veil" and Mumford & Sons' "White Blank Page."

Artist: The Grascals & Friends
Title: Country Classics With A Bluegrass Spin
Tell Me More: Because the majority of bluegrass fans have long since picked up The Grascals & Friends' Country Classics With A Bluegrass Spin since its release in January 2011, this review is to get the word out that lovers of traditional country music and Americana will also find plenty to enjoy across the 13-track disc.
Indeed, the Grascals (the reigning 2010 Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America Bluegrass Band of the year) joined forces with eight of their celebrated friends to blend their sound with the likes of Dolly Parton (notably on the inspired "I Am Strong"), Charlie Daniels (on a fiery "The Devil Went Down To Georgia")and the Oak Ridge Boys (on the wonderfully-arranged "Leavin' Louisiana In Broad Daylight"). Other guests include Dierks Bentley, Brad Paisley and Darryl Worley.
Although the CD was issued as part of the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store's exclusive music program, there are copies available on the
Tracks on The Grascals & Friends - Country Classics With A Bluegrass Spin:
1. Tiger By The Tail (with Brad Paisley)
2. Folsom Prison Blues (with Dierks Bentley)
3. Pain of Lovin’ You (with Dolly Parton)
4. I Am Strong (with Dolly Parton)
5. Louisiana Saturday Night
6. The Year That Clayton Delaney Died (with Tom T. Hall)
7. White Lightning (with Darryl Worley)
8. The Devil Went Down To Georgia (with Charlie Daniels)
9. Leavin’ Louisiana In Broad Daylight (with The Oak Ridge Boys)
10. Mr. Bojangles (with Joe Nichols)
11. Born To Boogie / All My Rowdy Friends Are Comin’ Over Tonight (Hank Williams Jr. Medley)
12. Cracker Barrel Swing (Instrumental)
13. I Am Strong (Bonus Track) Featuring guest appearances by Dolly Parton, The Oak Ridge Boys, Darryl Worley, Charlie Daniels, Terri Clark, Randy Owen, Steven Seagal, Tom T. Hall, Joe Nichols and Ansley McLaurin

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