Thursday, September 16, 2021

New Music: Elvis Costello and the Attractions, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe

A trio of eagerly-awaited releases are reviewed this week.

 Elvis Costello
Title: Spanish Model (UMe)
You might like if you enjoy: Elvis Costello, Juanes, Nina Diaz
Tell me more: Elvis Costello and the Attractions' 1978 masterwork This Year's Model has been revisited via the newly-released Spanish Model, an ambitious project where 19 artists representing 10 different nations and territories were recruited to add their lead vocals to the original instrumental tracks recorded by Costello, keyboardist Steve Nieve, bassist Bruce Thomas and drummer Pete ThomasCostello worked with longtime collaborator producer Sebastian Krys to assemble the cast of Latin rock and pop artists who complete the new album. Things kick off with the hard-charging power pop-styled "No Action" featuring singer Nina Diaz; the version includes an extended ending where Thomas is really working his drum kit. The reggae-flavored "(Yo No Quiero Ir A) Chelsea ((I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea)" featuring Raquel Sofia & Fuego, the soulful piano-anchored "Detonantes (Little Triggers)" and animated "Tu Eres Para Mi (You Belong To Me)" featuring Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi are other early standouts on the collection. American-born Chilean singer Francisca Valenzuela and Enjambre lead singer Luis Humberto Navejas joining forces for a duet on the tuneful "Hand In Hand," the playful "Viviendo en el Paraiso (Living In Paradise)" featuring Mexican pop duo Jesse & Joy and driving "Lipstick Vogue" with Columbian band Morat are welcome standouts on the last part of Spanish Model. My favorite cut on the disc is "Pump It Up," featuring celebrated Colombian hero Juanes; the remastering on the original instrumental tracks is incredible with the power of the song palpable with every measure of its hard-stomping groove. Information:

 Kacey Musgraves
Title: Star-Crossed (MCA Nashville/Interscope)
You might like if you enjoy: Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, Alison Krauss
Tell me more: Acclaimed singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves is back with Star-Crossed, her first studio album since 2018's "Golden Hour." The highly-anticipated 15-track return displays continued growth for the Texas songstress, who explores the world around her with literate precision and musical depth. The confessional "Good Wife," shimmering electronica-tinged uptempo forays "Cherry Blossom," "Star-Crossed" and "What Doesn't Kill Me," probing "Hookup Scene" and infectious "Justified" are among the poignant original tracks on the disc. Even when visiting oft-covered themes  the breezy "Simple Times" and inviting "Keep Lookin' Up" come to mind — Musgraves infuses enough authenticity, spirit and originality to make Star-Crossed a strong listen across its entire run. Although Musgraves' country roots are often hard to hear on Star-Crossed, her well-aimed musical instincts and messages of empowerment will likely appeal to listeners who have enjoyed all of her acclaimed past efforts. Information:

 Ashley Monroe
Title: The Covers (Ashley Monroe)
You might like if you enjoy: Kacey Musgraves, Pistol Annies, Miranda Lambert
Tell me more: Earlier this summer country music songstress Ashley Monroe revealed she had been diagnosed with a rare cancer (Waldenstrom Macroglobulinemia); the 34-year-old artist started chemotherapy on July 14. Now the celebrated singer-songwriter has released The Covers, a five-song EP where nuanced takes on five classic songs that are obvious favorites of the singer. The performances are uniformly tender and moving. Sparse readings of Extreme's "More Than Words" and The Police's "Every Breath I Take" are especially stirring, focusing on the lyrics of the songs. Even Bryan Adams' "[Everything I Do] I Do it For You" that was overwrought on the original 1991 version is deeply affecting via Monroe's reworking on The Covers. The beautiful take on Boudleaux Bryant's "Love Hurts" masterfully melds the vocals of Monroe with those of Ruston Kelly; it is a performance that echoes the romantic pathos of the 1973 recording featuring Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris (included on Parsons' 1974 posthumously-released classic Grievous Angel). Information:

Robert Kinsler

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