MUSIC REVIEWS: Roseanne Cash, Kristina Train, Inglourious Basterds OST, Broken Records, 17 Hippies, Budos Band, Cause Co-Motion!, Jon Reep
On her 12th studio album, The List, Rosanne Cash interprets some songs from the list of “100 Essential Country Songs” her dad gave her way back when to help educate her to country music. Opening with the perfect Jimmie Rogers’ “Miss the Mississippi and You,” this great version features some sweet single guitar playing from Cash’s producer and husband John Leventhal and Rosanne sounding like Pasty Cline. “Sea of Heartbreak” (featuring Bruce Springsteen) is an ok duet at best, but duets with Elvis Costello on the very commercial “Heartaches By Number” and shuffling “Silver Wings” with Rufus Wainwright fare better.
“Take These Chains From My Heart” has some simple single bass notes, brush snare and great vocal from Cash, again mining that old-time country like on “Mississippi.” “I’m Moving On” sounds like the band playing Tom Waits behind Cash’s vocal, but I’m afraid this one doesn’t ever really get going for me. But the two tunes that might just slice you open are Dylan’s “Girl From the North Country” recalling as it does the infamous duet done by Rosanne’s dad and Mr. Zimmerman…though Rosanne makes this version her own. I actually had to play it a few times just to hear her sing the line: “Please see she has a coat so warm to keep her from the howling winds.” Wow! And the last tune, The Carter Family’s “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow” is near perfect heartache to end The List and our education.
Kristina Train’s debut album Spilt Milk is a gorgeous jazzy album with a good serving of R&B, Soul, and Motown added to it. Train’s vocals are sexy and sultry, and on this album she gives it her all. Some comparisons to Carole King have been made and hints of it are prevalent. Although, her voice shines the best when she hits the more soft and vulnerable notes that are subtly delicate, yet just as powerful. There’s a raspy and soulful quality to her vocals that stands out on its own. At times her voice reminds me of Cat Power mixed with an Aretha Franklin soulful influence. Standout songs for me include the title track “Spilt Milk,” which is a classy jazz tune that is accompanied by pianos and a soft rhythm. The song is both soulful and sultry. Another great track is “I Can’t But Help,” which is a classic number that adds all the right elements of rhythm, soulfulness, and a catchy blues sound.
Throughout the album the musical background provides an old Motown feel, complete with backup vocals, horns, and jazzy elements. There’s an even mix of slower ballads and moving R&B numbers. The true star of the album, however, is her outstanding vocals. While Train may be a new addition to the blues genre, her voice remains eternal and classic, withstanding the test of time. She is definitely one artist to watch as her talent and range continues to unfold.
A perfect companion for the film, this collection straddles the line between soundtrack and score, performing superbly. Opening with a composition befitting a grand Spaghetti Western, one can almost see the curtain rise upon the words “Once upon a time in Nazi Occupied France.” I’ll admit, unless you’ve seen the film, the majority of the album might not be for you just yet. Part of the joy is associating the tracks with the different parts of the film they played over. Still, “The Green Leaves of Summer” is a perfect opening track that is quickly followed by the king of Spaghetti Western composers; Ennio Morricone.
Then we’re in for some high funky notes as “Slaughter” blares out, a nod to exploitation films that Tarantino still emulates. But then it’s straight back to Morricone’s music. Slow drum, rhythmic acoustic guitar, and tense piano lead up to a crescendo crushing the speakers in the form of a blaring brass horn and pressing violins. Always captivating, the master composer lends considerable power and life to the track list, acting as a touchstone listeners frequently return to over the album’s duration.
Along the way you’re in store for some more cool instrumentals, songs with early 20th century German/French flair, as well as vaudevillian era songs sung in both languages. Check out the “Main Theme from Dark Sun” as an interesting track with really great strings. The Bowie song “Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)” is the most surprising and enjoyable gem on the album. It’s a classic and killer cut showing the contemporary nature of the film. Indeed, the track kicks off the ending of the album with a strong showing.
Again Morricone is used; a pair of his tracks graces the back end of the soundtrack. The first is a sad warble of farewell, tears, and death. However the second is a double killer with jangling incessantness and a desert gypsy vibe. Both combine to create a certain kind of Death Ballad that I believe goes to the heart of the revenge fantasy of the film itself. Definitely worth checking out!
Without asking one could guess that Broken Records is a band born of the Celtic Isles steeped in the melancholy sound that is so common in Celtic music. Though I did enjoy Until the Earth Begins to Part overall, it is best held for a rainy day. The entire album is heart felt and the vocals slap you with the emotion that the band puts into their music.
Broken Records employs some of the more interesting instrumentation that I’ve heard, using: guitar, piano, accordion, mandolin, fiddle (we are speaking of a Celtic band), cello, and even a little brass. Each instrument is active through the entirety of the album, which does cause a bit of a problem. Though every song is well composed, at times you don’t know what you’re supposed to pay attention to: horn, guitar, piano or vocals. The pace also gets a little old. The album picks up briefly with “A Good Reason” but is the next to last track. It might have been better placed somewhere near the middle of the line up.
The instrumentation is a lot fun. It’s nice to hear such a creative collection of instruments in modern music. I did enjoy the entire album, I just felt tired afterwards. A marathon of melancholy will do that to you. Broken Records is not a band that was meant to be background music. Final verdict; all my criticism can be summed up in two words, too much. They tend to use a bit too much (instrumentation, vocals, melancholy tone) all the time. I would, however, still recommend this for anyone who likes to listen to music intently. If you want music you can find something new in every time, this is for you.
17 Hippies. 13 Musicians. 12 Songs. 3 Languages. The sheer amount of energy exuded on the first track “Uz” is reason enough to listen to the rest of the album. The rising intensity of the strings creates a menacing mood that is quite addictive, whether you’re familiar with the language or not. (I’m not. Who knows what they’re saying.) The aesthetically engaging video for the song showcases some of the instruments that create their full sound.
Sultry singing and sauntering instruments move the second song along at a smoldering stroll that makes “Adieu” quite different from the first track, and “Stern am Ende der Welt” has an endearing, rambling detached quality about it.
On their website they describe the key components of their sound: “Our groove foundation is bass, banjo, guitar, and ukulele (and sometimes accordion and tenor horn), and then we add cello, violins, clarinets, trumpet, and trombone.” The Berlin band has written the score for a couple of movies, so it makes sense this music would make great background music. Or even better, roadtrip music, and it can provide the background to your own madcap plot.
The Budos Band EP represents the latest progression of the eleven piece afro-funk ensemble. From their start, Budos has always had a complex, layered, deep rhythmic sound, but with each album (this is their third) they’ve advanced to new levels of intricacy and depth.
If their first album was an introduction, a beginning of exploration to the concept, and their second a refinement or improvement, The EP is a continuation of that process. The grooves are more enchanting, more captivating and ornate. The principal strength of Budos has always been its power and strength generated by their ability to mend sharply contrasting sounds like the deep baritone sax and the sharp, piercing, trumpets all the while maintaining a steady groove with their unshakable rhythm section. That theme is continued upon and improved in this EP.
While Budos is often in between genres and classifications, they have always been and will continue to be universally funky. If you like the first two albums, you’re going to really like this one.
The fellas of Cause co-Motion! are a trip to see live. Their high energy music, saturated in post-punk pop, makes for a good time. Their newest EP, Because, Because, Because released on Slumberland Records, is much like their other stuff. Lucky for them, their stuff is pretty good. On this record, there are of course the band’s signature jangly guitars, military sounding drum patterns, and short numbers. Then there’s the slower tempo, a big change but the band still manages to sound like their usual self. “It’s Time,” is the standout track and even sounds a bit like early Ramones. Only once does a song on the six track EP make it past two minutes, and that’s the other big change. The last track “You lose,” is of monumental significance as it is the first time one of their tunes ever crossed the two minute mark. It left me wanting more.
Watching Jon Reep’s new DVD, Metro Jethro, is like getting stuck in a conversation with my alcoholic uncle at a family party after his first case of beer: nothing is funny, everything sort of slurs together, and most of the time my mind is focused solely on escape. Reep was ushered to the spotlight thanks to winning Last Comic Standing back in 2007 and is well known as the “HEMI” guy from commercials but his latest CD/DVD goes beyond dull to the “I want my time back” category.
The comic’s material focuses mainly on his own life growing up in Hickory, North Carolina and his family but rather than making you laugh it elicits that same kind of mental drift one gets from waiting in line for an hour. His delivery is a little odd and sounds like he is doing his act after a triathlon and while the affectation is a bit annoying, the real mystery is figuring out how and why the audience is laughing. Jon’s “best” material is the most personal but it lacks originality and innovation and the fellas from Blue Collar should get a hardy thanks for the jokes that almost work. The package comes with a bunch of extras that also don’t deliver and the real highlight of the CD/DVD might be the “Metro Jethro” theme song which does seem to get stuck in your head. In all, Reep may have been thrust into the upper echelon of comedy before he was ready so look out 2020, Jon Reep might be taking over!