Friday, May 9, 2008

Casual Listening 5-9-08

Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino

Stump Pandora Contest Winners and New Style Pandora Contest at

May 9, 2008

! Neil Diamond – Home Before Dark (rock)

Diamond's expressive vocals touch heart and soul on this collection, with none of the bombast usually associated with his music. Producer Rick Rubin has worked his stripped-down, acoustic magic with the iconic songwriter, the same treatment responsible for Johnny Cash's late career resurgence. This record should gain Diamond a new generation of followers - I can testify it's earned at least one.

* Nine Inch Nails – The Slip (rock)

It's a happy coincidence that the vanguard artists of the digital download have been producing good music. Radiohead made a splash last year with a "pay-what-you-want" album, and now Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has released his third experiment with the format, and this one won't cost you a dime. His music has an aggressive rock sound that's distorted to the point of static. The Slip is one of NIN's more accessible records in a while, with a handful of anthems mixed in among the creepy atmospheric instrumental tracks. Go to and start downloading now, then come back and read the rest of this list. By the time you're done reading, you'll have a brand new album, artwork and all.

* Peter Walker, Echo of My Soul (world)

Virtuosic Spanish guitar work. A selection of solo pieces, written by the artist but evocative of the spirit of old Andalucia. Olé!

Sierra Hull – Secrets (bluegrass)

Impressive string picking on the debut album by this bluegrass prodigy. Her silky singing voice encourages comparisons to Allison Krauss, and she's got serious mandolin chops to boot. Hear her now, because you'll be hearing a lot more about her in years to come.

Supreme 7 – Another Yes (gospel)

This is my kind of Gospel, a small, talented ensemble behind the kind of voice that echoes the roots of Otis Redding and Ray Charles. A great selection of religious tunes in traditional style, ranging from slow and mournful to funky and joyous.

Jason Matthews – Hicotine (country)

Rock-edged contemporary country. James has all of the hallmarks of a Nashville star, but with a voice that's edgier and more compelling. Classic country lyrics: "It’s people like me that give people like me a bad name."

Firewater – The Golden Hour (world)

Paul Simon went to Graceland; Firewater ended up on the seedier side of town. Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink worldbeat band backs up a snarling singer-songwriter. Heavy Asian influences, including Hindi film music and Banghra.

Scott Hamilton – Across the Tracks (jazz)

Blues-based tenor sax riffs invoke a simpler jazz era. Tunes that are easy to love, improvisations that stay close enough to home, and a good grove propel this crowd-pleaser. Guitar, bass, drums, and Hammond organ on several tracks play strong supporting roles.

In the blog this week: Stump Pandora winners, New Style Pandora contest

* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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