Now Hear This! Music Reviews
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Original Movie Soundtrack, Music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – Mute
I haven’t seen this film yet but based on the intense treatment given the score by Australian cult sensations Nick Cave and Warren Ellis (of the Bad Seeds) I can’t wait!
Without so much as consulting IMDB, I can tell by listening to the music that this is gong to be one hell of a serious Western drama filled with grave tension and dire consequences. It is no doubt this very reason that the filmmakers sought out the kings of gloom, doom and upheaval to compose this incredibly powerful soundtrack. Go out now and buy this essential piece of Bad Seeds work then take it home and turn off all the lights while you play it at fill volume over your stereo. I promise you will find yourself drifting back to the dusty, musty old west breathing in the desert dirt while gunfire rings in the distance.
Beautifully creepy marriages of tinkling piano, singing violin and dramatic brooding cello are perfectly arranged to deliver exactly the look, feel and power of a film named The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.
Sweet Honey in the Rock
Experience 101 – Appleseed Records
Ok. I admit it. I have a bad habit of jumping to conclusions when I read about new work by certain artists. I did it again with this one when the e-mail first arrived that informed me the seminal African-American acapella gospel group Sweet Honey in the Rock was doing a children’s album.
In a way it seems silly of me now not to have regarded it as anything but great. SHitR have been delivering richly textured, entirely vocal music since 1973. In that time founder Bernice Reagon and her disciples have managed to deliver impossibly complex mixes of blues, spirituals, traditional gospel hymns, rap, reggae, African chants, Hip Hop, ancient lullabies and jazz improvisation all with one collective voice. Though Reagon has now retired from the group they still have every ounce of passion and subtlety the group possessed back in the day and every one of the songs speak to listeners of any generation. It’s no wonder Experience 101 garnered a Grammy this year for Best Musical Album For Children.
A Fine Frenzy
One Cell in the Sea - Virgin Records/Capitol Music Group
Alison Sudol, aka A Fine Frenzy, is the latest in a long string of piano girls to writhe and wriggle over the ebony and ivory while spouting diary confessions into a microphone in front of large crowds of people. Lucky for her, she does it better than most.
Sudol’s debut album One Cell in the Sea proves beyond any doubt that she has more talent in her left pinky than Vanessa Carlton or Alicia Keyes has in their entire bodies. One Cell in the Sea is a rousing collection of mostly nautical themed songs filled with lilting vocals and wonderfully layered arrangements that wrap themselves around the listener and take them for a wonderful ride filled with beatific harmonies and powerful emotion putting the listener in the mind of From The Choirgirl Hotel era Tori Amos with perhaps a hint of Sarah Mclachlan lurking in the periphery. In fact, the biggest criticism of this album I can conjure is that Sudol seems at times to be trying too hard to invoke Tori Amos. That said she could be imitating someone much more frightening like Jewel. Ewww!
Moment of Forever – Lost Highway
Anyone who knows me knows how big of a Willie Nelson fan I am. It’s true. I love the man. He’s an iconic performer and a damn good songwriter. So, why the low score on his lowest album Moment of Forever? Two words: Kenny Chesney.
Now before some ten gallon queen starts hacking out hate mail to yours truly for slighting the seemingly permanently shirtless hit maker, please hear me out. I have nothing but respect for (and some pretty vivid fantasies about) Kenny Chesney, but his highballing, arena-ready clamorous style of country music is too heavy handed for the subtlety of Willie Nelson’s work. Putting Kenny Chesney in the production booth when Willie is recording is like letting a monkey play the lead in Hamlet. Sure, it may be entertaining to someone who doesn’t appreciate Shakespeare, but to everyone else it’s just a monkey slinging poo. Everything that is Willie Nelson is completely lost in the over-the-top production, the clamorous claptrap of what sounds like a twelve member band and the complete disregard for what makes Willie who he is. I will always love hearing the iconic crooner sing no matter the context, but as Willie Nelson albums go, this one is a bomb.