Long before the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack reintroduced traditional roots-music to the masses, Patty Loveless was incorporating mountain and bluegrass into her live shows on a regular basis. On Mountain Soul, the Kentucky native offers listeners a provocative portrait of the world in which she was raised. Backed by nothing more than the instruments of her heritage: guitar, bass, fiddle, banjo, dobro and mandolin, Loveless? aching alto soars with unrelenting power.
On “I Know You?re Married” and “Out of Control Raging Fire” she teams with Travis Tritt to render heartbreak in the grand style of Gorge Jones and Melba Montgomery. “Pretty Little Miss” is a reworking of “Shady Grove,” an ancient tale of betrayal wherein the younger sister is forced to spend her days as “a sad lonely maiden” after a suitor bypasses her in favor of the older sibling.
Although Loveless, the daughter of a coal miner, didn?t write “You?ll Never Get Out of Harlan Alive” when she intones, “In the deep hills of Eastern Kentucky / That?s the place where I traced my blood line” it resonates as if being drawn straight from her mountain soul.
The cornerstone of the album is “Sounds of Loneliness” wherein Loveless moans “Hear the sound of my heartbeat / It beats so loud, oh, I can?t stand it / Oh, that sound, that lonely sound.” Loveless wrote the song at the tender age of 14, but sings it with the deep wrought emotion that only comes with decades of life experiences. (Epic/Tribute to Tradition/Jahaza 2001)
A Life of Saturdays
Drum loops, strings and a DJ ? the perfect enhancement for any rock band with their sights set on mainstream radio. Dexter Freebish ? band name, not a person ? blends serviceable hooks with pedestrian lyrics delivered with oh, such burning conviction. Taking his cue from every other posturing crooner getting Top 40 airplay, lead vocalist Kyle (he?s a one-name wonder a la Beck and Cher), keeps a straight face from start to finish. Even while repeating platitudes such as “She could take me higher than I?ve ever gone / She could take me higher than I?ve ever flown.” If you?re into other rock-lite outfits such as Matchbox 20 and Creed, Dexter Freebish might just what you?re looking for at the Frat House, dude. (Capitol records, dexterfreebish.com)
Rockin? the Suburbs
Fans received a scare when news broke that Ben Folds had dropped the Five and gone solo. Rockin? the Suburbs is Folds at his finest ? proof that he?s perfectly capable of playing the piano, drums and yes, guitar sans the help of his old band mates. Folds? distinctive piano style is Vince (“Linus and Lucy Theme”) Guaraldi with a rock ?n? roll twist. His warm melodies and passionate vocals deliver a message that?s decisively more democratic than the bitter discourses of albums past.
At 35, Folds may be maturing, or softening, depending on your politics. However, he has not lost his flair for satire. On the album?s title song Folds entertains by poking fun at whiny rap/rockers, as well as himself, and the rest of his fellow white, middle-class suburbanites. (Sony 2001)
My Aim Is True
By the mid-1970s rock music was slipping into complacency. It was too polished, too slick, too indulgent and too lacking in imagination and intensity. Bands such as the Sex Pistols and New York Dolls swarmed the scene like a sea of locusts and revolted with bleeding guitars, primal screams, spiked hairdos, inarticulate anarchist antics and rhetoric. They brought the intensity, but weren?t exactly the creative force rock was in dire need of.
New Wave pioneer Elvis Costello rebelled with genuine talent and had no need for shock appeal. Born in England, yet steeped in Americana music tradition, Costello played stripped-down rhythm and blues-based rock with energy and attitude.
From the film noir snippet “Watching the Detectives” to the (anti) love song “Alison,” Costello?s 1977 debut album holds up as well as any record released in the last fifty years.
Leave it to Rhino, the reigning kings of reissues, to compile a bonus disc that rivals that which it was intended to enhance.
The extra CD of outtakes and live cuts offers an intriguing insight to the country and lounge act directions that Costello would take in years to come ? replete with luscious pedal-steel guitar numbers and a killer Burt Bacharach cover. (Rhino 1977/2001).