Now Hear This!

Cary Brothers – Who You Are
Bluhammock Records
Grade: A

Nashville’s own Cary Brothers is back again with what is perhaps his best work yet. The real beauty of Who You Are is in the simplicity of the music. Brothers uses guitar and piano with such simple clarity of purpose that every note resonates with the listener long after the end of the album. A beautiful person I once knew said to me once that there is a song for every chapter of your life. Those songs could have easily been written by Cary Brothers. The lyrics are engaging and smart with a poetic flair that is so perfect you aren’t even sure you’re listening to poetry at all. Brother’s work could easily be classed alongside such indie-folk masters as Sufjan Stevens, Iron & Wine or even some of the better work of the Indigo Girls. Brothers uses delicate styling while maintaining atmosphere and depth. There is intensity behind the façade of subtlety that permeates this piece making its presence engaging without intrusion. Who You Are is the sort of album that could be playing in the background of almost any situation and not be out of place. If you let this album slip by you will be missing out on a future legend in all the raw power of his youth.

Joss Stone – Introducing Joss Stone
Virgin Records
Grade: B+

While it is great to see Joss Stone finally getting the props that an artist of her caliber deserves, I have to admit that I am a bit taken aback by the American Idolization that she seems to have undergone on this album. Don’t misunderstand, this album is pure talent. Stone has an uncannily powerful voice that has depth of soul at her young age that seasoned performers still strive toward. Admittedly, I still prefer the raw power of her first album The Soul Sessions, but the upbeat and infectious groove that is interlaced throughout this album is hard to resist. My only real gripe is the over-airbrushed persona that she seems to have picked up on this album. That said, as long as she keeps doing the amazing work that she is she can dress as Barney the Dinosaur for all I care.

Grinderman – Self Titled
Anti- Records
Grade: B-

Everyone by now knows how absolutely much I adore Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It’s true. Regardless, I really had a lot of trouble getting into this album even though it is chiefly Nick & the Seeds at the helm.  The music is strong and well produced, but the sound is a bit more dissonant than I am used to from the crew. Nick’s vocals are pretty typical for him but I found the album lyrically weak and plastered with horny, knuckle-dragging epithets that had less artistic merit than even their titles suggest. While I am no prude by any means, I expect more from Nick than just something that your average frat boy could conjure in his masturbatory fantasies. While I am impressed that the guys can offer up something as different from their usual offerings as this one is, I still have standards for music (especially from this bunch) that just aren’t met by Grinderman. Still, there are a few tracks that are great and manage to pull the album as a whole out of the black abyss of boring side project-land. Die-hard fans of the Seeds will want to pick this one up for completion’s sake, but anyone else who wants to see what they are all about would be better served by picking up Seeds classics “The Boatman’s Call” and “Murder Ballads” for heir primer before venturing into Grinderman-land.

Gregory Paul Smith – I Can Live Again
Creative Soul Records
Grade: D-

It seems ironic to me that Gregory Paul Smith’s new album is being distributed through Creative Soul Records as it is hardly creative and has almost no soul of its own. Artists like Gregory Paul Smith are exactly what is wrong with CCM music today. Almost every song on the album could easily be the work of any random CCM artist from Michael W. Smith to Steven Curtis Chapman, the main difference being that G.P. Smith is less talented and less innovative than either. I got no problem with artists who sing about Jesus. In fact, acts like Michael Knott, The Violet Burning, The Lost Dogs and others are among some of my favorite musicians of all time. I’m certain that Smith’s album will be well received by most CCM audiences, but that is chiefly a matter of not knowing any better. The sad truth of the matter is that most CCM (especially this album) has the same problem that it did when I was in school and listening to it. The music is watered down, the lyrics are simplistic and boring and overall the genre tends to lag about ten years behind the secular world because the powers that be are working so hard to try and either (a) not sound secular at all or (b) to imitate (badly) music formulas that worked well for secular bands in the past. The one lesson that CCM should learn that it likely never will as a whole is that if they want people to listen to their message then they should stop preaching to the choir and learn to speak the language of real people rather than the Christianeze that issues forth so readily like bile from most CCM companies these days. Artistry, anyone? Oh yeah, I forgot what I was talking about.

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Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

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