Music Reviews for 5-28

May 28, 2008 at 12:41 am

Lay It Down

Al Green


Smooth as molasses, it doesn’t get more charming than the Rev. Al Green. Lay It Down, the latest release from the 62-year-old soul legend, features guest vocals from Anthony Hamilton, Corinne Bailey Rae and John Legend, horns by The Dap-Kings, and strings lushly and wonderfully orchestrated by Larry Gold. The James Poyser/Ahmir ”?uestlove” Thompson-produced disc shows Green in top form.

Time is often unkind, but Mr. Green sounds delicious and looks as darling as ever (I want AG to be my friend! He looks so sweet!). From the title track to his collaboration with John Legend on “Stay With Me (By the Sea),” the waters run deep and the emotion is rich. The album ends with the uplifting, good time, old-school R&B tune “Standing in the Rain.”

Al Green has been entertaining us since 1970, and though it’s been a few years since his last album, I hope he will continue to add to his catalog and remind us why he’s a master of soulful sounds with an abundance of heart. —L. Park

No, Virginia

The Dresden Dolls


Collections based on a previous album’s leftovers have a painful history (Let It Bleed notwithstanding). This one holds together well. Maybe that’s because The Dresden Dolls’ musical modus operandi (shine varying spotlights on Amanda Palmer and take in the barrage of her emotional fireworks and Brian Viglione’s cathartic accompaniment) practically demands some variation imposed by outside forces. Then again, since the duo’s first release was a strong live disc, perhaps they’re simply very aware of what works for them at any given moment. Held-back tracks from the Yes, Virginia… sessions are carefully intermingled with a newer handful. A cover of the Psychedelic Furs’ hit “Pretty in Pink” is, on paper, more evidence that this album’s a quickie knockoff, but the musical quality proves that ain’t necessarily so. Palmer is just so much more than a wizened gothgrrl, and the additional background shadings from a multi-source provenance goose the results beyond the reach of sameness and dullness. That’s as true for the slightly understated “Boston” as for the memorably titled “Lonely Organist Rapes Page-Turner.” –T.E. Lyons

Earth to the Dandy Warhols

The Dandy Warhols


The Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You” is one of my all-time favorite songs. Released in 2000, I probably listened to it more than a thousand times in the years directly following its debut. The pinnacle of the Dandy Warhols’ commercial success, and probably the fullest realization of their collective musical abilities, the song is catchy, well-made and laced with cute digs at pseudo-intellectual hipsters and their various affectations.

Earth to the Dandy Warhols has a lot of those sorts of things (Wind chimes! Concise songs! Lyrics that ask pretty girls to “come back to my place and … talk about Dostoyevsky”!), only it sucks.

Lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor’s voice is creaky and aged, which does not jibe with the upbeat instrumentation. The beloved cracks on indie culture have been reduced to pot-shots at hookers. There’s so much hazy, sonic layering that it’s impossible to understand the lyrics or appreciate the melodies. There are rainsticks interspersed through several tracks. If the Dandys know what’s good for them, they’ll go back to writing songs about cool waitresses and vegan food and abandon this spacey nonsense. —Kirsten Schofield

Character Flaws

King Sonic


You know that episode in every sitcom where the kids sneak out against their parents’ wishes to go to a party/dance club/seedy bar/rock concert? King Sonic is the house band for that episode. Take two parts Blues Brothers, one part Brian Setzer and a dash of Michael J. Fox shredding to Johnny B. Goode in “Back to the Future,” and you’ve got King Sonic. Their brand of swingin’ whiteboy rockabilly is the swinginest in town. And possibly the whitest. In other words, if you’re looking to go out and dance to simple, straightforward fun-rock, this is your band. In their presskit, drummer Scott Dale says of Character Flaws, “King Sonic blends many different styles of music together to form their own unique brand of roots rock and blues. Including inspiration from Robert Johnson, to Johnny Cash, to Big Joe Turner, to Odis (sic) Redding and many more.” Those sentences sum the band up for me. King Sonic are the kind of guys who can distill a wide array of influences into party-friendly rock ’n’ roll, but they’re not the kind of guys who’d waste time learning to spell the names. And there’s certainly something to be said for that. —Anthony Bowman

Draw the Line

Marion Square


Louisville natives Marion Square offer up one hell of a debut with Draw the Line; establishing early on that their sound is … no sound in particular. They weave through many genres with confidence and ease while maintaining indie-rock credibility. And if voices carry, then those starving children in Africa that we hear so much about must be able to hear McCall Cruse singing from her shower.

“Filigree” leads off with a punchy guitar riff that immediately brings Prince’s “Kiss” to mind; but the song is instantaneously cooled by a Coltrane-esque saxophone line that provides a steady and consistent thread through to the coda. The stripped-down elegance of “Waltz” allows Cruse to show off her emotional range and vocal prowess without falling back on over-the-top flourishes. And “Shaken” sounds like a lost little gem that they happened to borrow from the U2 canon. There is also an ethereal satisfaction when a bitter and damaged Cruse sings to an ex-lover: “You’re a stage without a show.”

With Draw the Line,

the self-proclaimed Radiohead worshippers shouldn’t be the least bit self-conscious about bowing before Thom & Co. to offer up these hymns from their own book. —Brent Owen

Walls Fall Down

Kimmie Rhodes


It’s always good to hear from Rhodes — and not just because the gender ratio of top-rank Texas troubadours skews toward XY types. This singer/songwriter’s always had a unique way with life’s bittersweetness. Just a bit theatrical, yet she doesn’t fall into the trap of drowning her work in lush trappings. Neither does she join the horde of folk-pop and alt-country artists who pockmark their releases with acoustic-and-voice tracks because they were flummoxed on how to present their own songs. The nine originals and three covers (co-produced by the singer’s son/guitarist Gabriel) frequently benefit from cello and keyboards that work like supple harmonies alongside Rhodes’ thrush-that’s-done-some-hard-living voice. Townes van Zandt’s “If I Needed You” gets its just dose of wearied conviction. The Beatles’ “The Fool on the Hill” is a surprise choice, but it isn’t the one disappointment here — that would be the too-obvious Bush slam “Your Majesty.” Overall, this isn’t Rhodes at her peak, but it stands up well enough and succeeds in presenting another distinctive step in an underappreciated artistic journey. —T.E. Lyons