This Chicago group that once opened for Brit provocateurs Oasis marinates in “Come Together”-era Beatles’ pomp, right down to the Baren brothers’ half-whiny vocals, which call to mind Lennon at his most raucous, where “Game of Love” recalls the Fab Four at their dreamiest. —Mat Herron
Peace, Love and Anarchy (Rarities, B-Sides and Demos, Vol. 1)
Oh Boy Records
Initial memories of Todd Snider when he moved to Memphis in the mid 1980’s are quite vivid. News spread fast and crowds gathered in the tiny bar on Highland Avenue, spilling out of the door clapping and cheering for this young man appearing simply with a guitar, mesmerizing words and no shoes on his feet. His music was rousing and bittersweet and his tales were well told, always with a thread of humor and joy in his eye. He left quite an impression and obviously I wasn’t the only one affected.
In this collection of rarities and B-sides, Snider gives just two tracks from past releases, Nashville and Missing You and one cover, Jerry Jeff Walker’s Stoney. Otherwise, he cozies up in his land of comfort with his magical sense of humor in Combover Blues, his luscious mod-country side in East Nashville Skyline and an interesting bit of dialogue in Dinner Plans. All music is poetry of a sort so who’s to say he shouldn’t pull off a little spoken word? Seems to work for Henry Rollins.
This cornucopia is sheer bliss for any prior fan of Snider’s as well as a great deal of fun and discovery for those who have yet to drink the Kool-Aid. Bottom’s up! —Michelle Manker
The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster
(BLUE CORN MUSIC)
This fourth release marks the 10-year anniversary since Foster’s first album. The evolution of an artist is a remarkable thing to witness, I believe. It’s as if we, the audience, are allowed the chance to walk in and stroll along with her through life’s ups, downs and beauty in change.
In this case, change is most readily exemplified through the alteration in style and format typically associated with Foster. The blues and simple folk aspects of her music have inched over to make room for more of an earthy soul and gutsy emotional take on things. Perhaps she has evolved, and if this release serves as indication, it’s a good thing.
“Heal Yourself” just may be the cream that rose to the top. “People Grinnin’ In Your Face” gives a familiar listener a taste of the Foster they have come to count on. But, the ever-so amazing “Up Above Your Head” (done best by the King of Rock & Roll, in the opinion of yours truly) is luscious and sensational when performed by Foster.
This album just plain feels good. It feels good when it starts, on every track throughout and even as it ends. She is truly The Phenomenal. —Michelle Manker