As I note from time to time, the usual music listener doesn't exactly get to listen to new albums right away, and sometimes it takes a while to get around to everything you want to listen to. Not everyone gets advance copies of the album and then has the time and ability to write a snide review about it after two listens (you know to whom I refer).
Hayes Carll - Trouble in Mind
Hayes Carll's new material came back onto my radar about a year and a half ago when I had the opportunity to see him at a free show in Austin. I had seen him perform solo before, and loved his stage presence, but had lost interest as some of his more recent material I had heard sounded very "roadhouse," I guess you could say. But to be honest, I didn't exactly give it much of a chance. However, that all changed at this live show when I heard him play "Beaumont" off of his new album. This track is an amazing standout among great songs, and on its strength alone I was drawn back to giving Carll another listen. Suffice to say, I'm glad I did. Trouble is a fantastic collection of 15 songs, with a number of gems that include "Drunken Poet's Dream" and "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart." Another great moment on the album is the cover of Tom Waits' "I Don't Wanna Grow Up," and true to form, Hayes shows his comedic writing abilities on "She Left Me for Jesus." This album may be one of the best Americana albums released in the last 5 years or so.
DeVotchKa - A Mad and Faithful Telling
As is standard practice, DeVotchKa never ceases to show me how much more they know about music than I do. My first few listens of AMAFT left me wondering exactly what it was they were doing rather than wanting to hear more. As with most any album that I am not immediately drawn to, I put it aside for a time. I think some of my initial distaste was from my dislike of the first single "Transliterator," which I'm still not a huge fan of. However, I've come to recognize that the album has many strengths. It took listening to the songs toward the end to hook me on the album, as I consider "New World" and "Undone" to be the strongest tracks by far. Additionally, "Head Honcho," a remake from Super Melodrama, "Along the Way," and "A Clockwise Witness" are standout tracks that make this a work that shows DeVotchKa's strengths as a band and firmly hold AMAFT in place along with their best work to date.
Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward - The Lonesome Dirge
If you have found the common theme among these albums yet, then you get the award. Yes, they are mostly albums that just didn't take for me right away, and the latest from Rodney Parker is no different. The more I listened to this album, however, the more irresistible it became. One can hardly have any difficulty rocking along with the band's cover of Springsteen's "Atlantic City," or playing train beat air drums along with "Firefight," but the rest of the album takes a bit longer to sink in. At times, I found myself trying to figure out exactly what was up with the guitar shredding on "Brother," but now I generally accept that it just rocks a little country and a little bit of 1983 at the same time. No one ever said there was anything wrong with that. The Lonesome Dirge is extremely well produced, but not overly so, and the rhythms on the album make it a strong listen that sets it apart from other Americana records. This album is a great record to drive to, so what more do you need to know?