CD reviews: The Fixx, Cee Cee James, Keller Williams with The Travelin’ McCourys

The Fixx

The Fixx

Beautiful Friction/Kirtland

Anyone remember The Fixx?

Chances are that if you’re over 40 and I mention songs such as “Saved By Zero” or “One Thing Leads To Another,” you’ll likely have a nice little ’80s flashback.

Led by singer Cy Curnin, The Fixx racked up quite a few radio hits in the ’80s and saw their videos in heavy rotation on MTV back when that channel actually used to do what its name implied.

While most bands from the ’80s have either disappeared or broken up only to reunite for the inevitable reunion tours, The Fixx has remained active all these years.

While the band’s heyday was definitely during the popularity of its 1983 release “Reach the Beach,” the band has released eight more studio albums since then, including the new release, “Beautiful Friction.”

While The Fixx always got lumped in with all of the other new wave British acts of the ’80s, in truth the band had its own special sound, and while that sound has evolved over the past three decades, one can still hear signs of the old Fixx on the new CD.

Curnin has a voice that sounds like a cross between David Bowie and Bono, and he shows that it is still in fine form on songs such as “Anyone Else,” “Follow That Cab” and the title track.

The music definitely has a retro feel to it, but at the same time it doesn’t sound as if the band is desperately trying to recapture the sound of its glory days.

While not quite packing the same punch as “Reach the Beach,” this new album is nonetheless surprisingly good, especially coming from a band many thought no longer existed.

Key Tracks: “Anyone Else,” “Just Before Dawn,” “Follow That Cab”

Cee Cee James

Blood Red Blues/FWG

Not just anyone can sing the blues.

While just about any musical style requires its vocalist to convey a certain amount of emotion, the blues really requires the singer to sell it. One doesn’t simply sing the blues, but instead gets emotionally involved with the material.

If the strength of the material on singer-songwriter Cee Cee James’ latest CD, “Blood Red Blues,” is any indication, she seems to understand that principle.

With a voice that has just the right amount of raspy, smokey goodness, James definitely fleshes out the majority of the songs on “Blood Red Blues,” all of which she either wrote or co-wrote.

James sounds a lot like Janis Joplin on tracks such as “Let’s All Get Loose” and “Thick Like Blood,” but is also able to switch up and exhibit a smoother vocal style on songs such as “Feel My Love Come Down.”

Backed by guitarists Rocky Athas and Rob “Slideboy” Andres, bassist Dan Mohler, keyboardist Susan Julian and drummer Chris Leighton, James does a great job delivering the goods here.

There are a couple of tracks, most notably the mediocre “Wounds,” that don’t quite hit the mark. But overall this is a solid album by a singer who definitely knows what it means to sing the blues.

Key Tracks: “Blood Red Blues,” “Let’s All Get Loose,” “Walk On”

Keller Williams with The Travelin’ McCourys

Pick/Sci-Fidelity

I went to see Keller Williams at the Music Farm about a decade ago. I’ll admit I had no idea who he was going in, and that actually may have made his solo performance all the better.

Standing alone on a stage full of instruments, Williams began playing a guitar, then used a loop pedal to set up a melody. He moved to the bass, then drums, and so forth, until he sounded like he was being backed by a full band.

It was pretty amazing, and showed why Williams remains a huge draw on the jam band circuit.

I became a fan of Williams that night, and over the years, he’s kept my respect by refusing to be pigeonholed as simply a jam-band musician. He’s collaborated with artists outside his genre and even recorded a surprisingly good children’s album a few years back.

On “Pick,” Williams continues to buck trends, teaming with bluegrass stars The Travelin’ McCourys.

The music in “Pick” is freewheeling and fun. The leadoff track, “Something Else,” has a contemporary sound similar to that of popular newgrass outfit Punch Brothers. Other tunes, such as “American Car” and “The Graveyard Shift,” sound more like traditional bluegrass.

Two of the album’s best moments come with covers of My Morning Jacket’s “I’m Amazed” and Jesse J’s “Price Tag,” both of which translate beautifully to bluegrass.

For bluegrass purists and jam fans alike, “Pick” is a great collection of songs by a group of musicians that sound like they had a blast recording it.

Key Tracks: “Something Else,” “The Graveyard Shift,” “I’m Amazed”

By Devin Grant