Monday, November 04, 2019

Groundbreaking artists return with indispensable albums

Fans of Americana, traditional country, as well as modern and classic rock all have something to celebrate thanks to a handful of welcome returns.

Artist: The Mavericks
Title: Play the Hits (Mono Mundo Recordings)
You might like if you enjoy: The Mavericks, Roy Orbison
Tell me more: Thirty years into their singular career blending neotraditional country, Americana, rockabilly and Tex-Mex styles, the Mavericks have come full circle offering up their signature sound on 11 reworked covers on Play the Hits. The track listing features specific classics that influenced and inspired the Miami-spawned troupe; it is a project that works masterfully in the talented hands of the Mavericks. The opening selection is "Swingin'," an uptempo and infectious take on John Anderson's 1983 hit. This version shines via the Mavericks' strong dance groove, Raul Malo's amazing lead vocals and super cool saxophone work from Max Abrams. The Mavericks are masters at honoring the spirit and power of the original versions while simultaneously making them decidedly their own. Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way" has all the assurance and power of the original even while this rendition has a sonic stamp that stands on its own. The beautiful retro-mining "Don't You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me)" showcases Malo's shining tenor, as well as the artful textures of his musical companions on a particularly affecting arrangement. This is truly a tribute that never falters; interpretations ranging from a New Orleans rhythm and blues take on Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart," the buoyant "Once Upon A Time" (featuring guest vocals from Martina McBride) and sumptuous version of the Elvis Presley hit "Don't Be Cruel" are among the other terrific takes on this winning set. Information:

Artist: Jason James
Title: Seems Like Tears Ago (Melodyville Records)
You might like if you enjoy: Gram Parsons, George Jones, Dwight Yoakam
Tell me more: Jason James' sophomore release Seems Like Tears Ago is a welcome celebration of traditional country music. The traditional-minded Texas-based singer-songwriter has a voice able to deliver the sweetest of ballads ("Seems Like Tears Ago," "Achin' Takin' Place," "Simply Divine") as well as more swinging tempo faves  notably "I Miss You After All," "Move a Little Closer" and Cajun waltz "Cry on the Bayou." All of the songs on the outstanding disc were penned by James, who is backed on the John Evans-produced effort by a top-tier band of players and backup singers. Lovers of pioneering artists ranging from George Jones and Gram Parsons to Mel Tillis will want to get "Seems Like Tears Ago." Information:

Artist: Keane
Title: Cause and Effect (Island)
You might like if you enjoy: Coldplay, Snow Patrol, Keane
Tell me more: Keane explores both familiar and new territory on the band's fifth full-length album Cause and Effect, the quartet's first new album since 2012's Strangeland. On Keane's eagerly-awaited return the beautiful "I'm Not Leaving," "Love Too Much," "Chase the Night Away" and "The Way I Feel" recall the signature anthemic modern rock that introduced the beloved British band to the world courtesy of 2004's Hopes and Fears. Elsewhere there are flourishes of contemporary pop and electronica via "Stupid Things" and "Put The Radio On." The intimate "Strange Room," enticing "Thread" and probing "Phases" are among the other standouts on the album. But to be sure, Cause and Effect is a wonderful return for singer-guitarist Tom Chaplin, keyboardist Tim Rice-Oxley, drummer Richard Hughes and bassist Jesse Quin. Note: the deluxe edition of this album (available at Barnes and Noble) includes five bonus tracks  a total of 16 new tracks. Information:

Artist: Jeff Lynne's ELO
Title: From Out of Nowhere (Columbia)
You might like if you enjoy: ELO, The Beatles, the Traveling Wilburys, Pugwash
Tell me more: Listening to The latest album from Jeff Lynne's ELO, From Out of Nowhere, is to be immersed in the rich and Beatlesque warmth of the summer sun. The intoxicating title track, Traveling Wilburys-flavored "Help Yourself" and driving "Down Came the Rain" are among my favorites on the dazzling LP. There are some genuine surprises including the radiant "All My Love" that is anchored by a hypnotic guitar line and graceful lead vocals, the wistful "Losing You," and the disc closing "Songbird" that features some of Lynne's most memorable and affecting vocals of his long career. From Out of Nowhere is an even stronger effort than Lynne's 2015 LP Alone in the UniverseInformation:

Robert Kinsler

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