a review of cool new music
by Jeff Pinzino
! Herbie Hancock – River: The Joni Letters (jazz)
Moving jazz portraits of Joni Mitchell songs, both hits and hidden treasures. Hancock peels away layer after layer, reminding us just how much music is packed into Mitchell’s tunes. Fantastic guest vocals by Nora Jones, Tina Turner, and Leonard Cohen.
! Chaka Khan – Funk This (R&B)
Wicked syncopation and slow jams from the original funk goddess. A cover of Jimi Hendix’s “Castles Made of Sand” is arguably better than the original. A duet with Mary J. Blige tears the roof off. The new generation of soul singers should take note – this is how it’s done.
* Steve Earle –
Everything you’ve come to expect from Steve Earle – gutsy vocals, catchy songwriting, pointed satire, and folksy tributes. The arrangements are unexpectedly urbane, with electronic samples scattered among the mandolins. Earle has always been an iconoclast, and seems equally at ease in a
* Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog (rock)
Impressionistic story-songs conveyed in muted psychedelic tones. Sitar and bass harmonica are among the acoustic instrumentation supporting a warm voice that’s both dynamic and restrained. A gem.
Jose Gonzalez (folk)
Shhhh. You’ll have to listen closely to catch Gonzalez’ quiet-style singing and guitar playing. Introspective songs help take the edge off late-night solitude.
Bettye LaVette – The Scene of the Crime (soul)
LaVette’s style is uptown blues, something you might find sandwiched between B.B. King and Bobby Blue Bland on the radio of an earlier era. Her voice is aged like fine wine, and she can still belt out heartbreaking soul.
Other great stuff this week: Joni Mitchell, El Gran Silencio. Check the blog for these reviews.
* highly recommended
! highest recommendation