Sound Off: CD Reviews
Jeff Buckley - Grace Around The World. A
Twelve years ago, the body of musician Jeff Buckley was recovered from the Mississippi River. He had disappeared a week before after wading into the water while taking a break from recording his latest album.
Since that accidental drowning ended one of the '90s most promising musical talents, plenty has been written about Buckley's influence. His breakthrough 1994 release, "Grace," still sounds as fresh today as it did upon its release.
If there was any question as to how deeply Buckley's music penetrated the world, "Grace Around the World," a newly released DVD/CD set about Buckley's life and art, answers that.
The first DVD in the set features a treasure trove of previously unreleased live performances by Buckley and his band from all over the world, including London, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Chicago. The CD provides audio versions of 12 of the DVD's 17 tracks. It is the second DVD that really makes "Grace Around the World" worth owning.
The hour-long documentary, "Amazing Grace: Jeff Buckley," is a beautiful testament to Buckley's influence. The deluxe set also includes bonus items, such as a replica tour poster, backstage pass and postcards, not to mention a great companion booklet. It is a beautiful tribute to a remarkable artist who was taken from us way too soon.
Ryan Bingham & The Dead Horses - Roadhouse Sun. B+
There are plenty of alt-country artists who work in the same manner a method actor does, creating an alternate reality and playing a very involved game of "what if." Listening to "Roadhouse Sun," the latest release by Ryan Bingham, one senses that this singer-songwriter is anything but an actor. The music on this new release is far too gritty and salt stained to have been made up.
As it turns out, Bingham had a pretty colorful upbringing, moving frequently as a kid and later traveling the circuit as a bull rider. Bingham's raw voice sounds like what might happen if Tom Waits and Widespread Panic's John Bell combined their DNA with a tumbleweed from middle-of-nowhere New Mexico.
The majority of "Roadhouse Sun" is above-average Americana music, and it is easy to see why Bingham's star has been on the rise as of late. If it turns out that Bingham is simply making this all up, then there needs to be a new Grammy category for Best Artist Who Made Us Think He Was The Real Deal. Again though, I don't think Bingham is acting.
Check out the gleefully raw "Hey Hey Hurray" for the best evidence I can offer in defense of that.
Download These: "Bluebird," "Hey Hey Hurray," "Tell My Mother I Miss Her So"
Connor Christian & Southern Gothic - 90 Proof Lullabies. B+
Listening to "Sunday Suit," the leadoff track on Connor Christian & Southern Gothic's latest CD, "90 Proof Lullabies," the number of artist influences buried in that original piece is almost dizzying. Personally, I heard hints of Jim Croce, early Elton John (a la "Tumbleweed Connection"), Dr. John, The Band and who knows how many other artists. Lest one think that this mishmash of talent might detract from the music's strength, let me just say that nothing could be further from the truth.
"90 Proof Lullabies" is one of those albums that you hear playing at a party that makes you immediately begin to plan how to steal said CD from the host. The rest of the CD is not simply variations on that strong first cut, and that is largely why this album is as good as it is. From the pedal-steel twang of "Midnight Moon" to the Bob Seger growl of "It's Alright" to the Steve Earle-like "Chipping Away," this band has the chops that could only come from playing in plenty of beer-soaked blue-collar bars.
There is rarely a dull moment on "90 Proof Lullabies."
Download These: "Sunday Suit," "Chipping Away," "3Times."