Storied musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Dr. John—Mac Rebennack—releases Locked Down, a startling album that marks a significant departure from his recent efforts. The new album, produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, is an entirely new approach for the iconic Dr. John, featuring as it does his collaboration with Auerbach and a band of young musicians Auerbach hand-picked to make Locked Down at his Nashville studio. "Full of muscled, vintage R&B grooves, fevered soloing, psychedelic arrangements and oracular mumbo jumbo," says Rolling Stone, "it's the wildest record he's made in many years." Dr. John, says NPR, "proves that now, as always, he's the ruler of American roots music." Grammy Award winner for Best Blues Album.
Recorded during the Nashville sessions for Punch Brothers' critically acclaimed album Who’s Feeling Young Now?, the EP Ahoy!, also produced by Jacquire King, features songs by Josh Ritter, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and Mclusky; a traditional tune arranged by Punch Brothers; and a new instrumental track by the band. Ahoy! is available on vinyl, CD, MP3, and FLAC.
Produced by Danger Mouse and The Black Keys, the band's seventh studio album was recorded at singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound studio in the band’s new hometown of Nashville during the spring of 2011. "They sound like a band who think they've made the year's best rock 'n' roll album," says the Guardian, "probably because that's exactly what they've done." The Independent calls it "by some distance the most powerful, compelling rock album of the year." El Camino has earned three Grammy Awards.
Pat Metheny’s recording of John Zorn’s Tap: The Book of Angels, Vol. 20 from Zorn’s Masada Book Two is the first collaboration between the two artists. Besides his frequent collaborator, drummer Antonio Sanchez, Metheny plays all other instruments—guitars, sitar, tiples, bass, keyboards, orchestrionics, electronics, bandoneón, percussion, flugelhorn, and more—himself. The New York Times calls the album "an impressive feat of imagination, and a strikingly clear distillation of both artists’ distinctive languages." NPR says it's a "stunningly vivid sound world." The Independent concludes: "It's all dazzlingly virtuosic and evocative."
Mala, Devendra Banhart's eighth studio album and his Nonesuch debut, took shape in LA, where he and longtime cohort Noah Georgeson produced the album together, playing most of the instruments themselves, using borrowed equipment and a recorder they’d found in a pawn shop. The Guardian says it's a "triumph," giving it four stars, as does Q which calls this "enthralling" album a "career best." The New Yorker calls it a "thought-provoking joy." The LP, pressed on 140-gram vinyl, includes the album on CD, an additional 7” with two bonus tracks, and an exclusive poster.
Nomad, Tuareg guitarist, singer, and songwriter Bombino's Nonesuch debut album, was produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. NPR calls the pairing "inspired," noting that Bombino's "sound and style are alluring on a global scale." NPR's All Things Considered says it's "a landmark in African rock music." The Los Angeles Times says "anyone who has ever appreciated a master player make magic on a Fender ... will find comfort in Bombino’s music." Rolling Stone says: "A perfect match of sound and soul, the set introduces a new guitar hero, and confirms Auerbach’s arrival as a roots-music producer to be reckoned with." The BBC calls it "utterly, utterly fantastic."
On Leaving Eden, the Carolina Chocolate Drops follow their Grammy-winning album Genuine Negro Jig with a record of original compositions, covers, and traditional songs produced by Buddy Miller (Emmylou Harris, Robert Plant, Patty Griffin, Solomon Burke). They “may take their cues from 1920s string- and jug-band music," says USA Today, "but they're simply a great band.” The Observer calls them "the most electrifying acoustic act around." Rolling Stone gives the album four stars. The BBC says: "It's plain terrific."
Walking Shadows, Joshua Redman’s first recording to include an orchestral ensemble, was produced by his friend and frequent collaborator Brad Mehldau. The record's core ensemble is a quartet featuring Mehldau, Larry Grenadier, and Brian Blade. Walking Shadows includes original tunes from both Redman and Mehldau along with works by a wide range of composers, like John Mayer and Pino Palladino, Kern and Hammerstein, and Lennon and McCartney. Buffalo News calls it "an unmitigated triumph ... one of the jazz discs of the year." The New York Times says "there hasn’t been a more sublimely lyrical gesture in his 20-year recording career."
On Home Stretch, composer/pianist Timo Andres pairs the newly composed title work with two reinventions of works by musical heroes Mozart and Brian Eno: Mozart "Coronation" Concerto Re-Composition, conceived as a companion piece to Mozart's Piano Concerto, No. 12, K. 414, and described by The New Yorker's Alex Ross as "mesmerizing," and Paraphrase on Themes of Brian Eno. New York City-based chamber orchestra Metropolis Ensemble performs with the composer on piano. Nonesuch Store pre-orders include a reprint of the first page of the Home Stretch score, autographed by the composer.
How I Knew Her, the Nonesuch debut from Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose, comprises 12 autobiographical, introspective songs by Dawn, produced by her longtime partner Jack Conte and recorded with a group of accomplished musicians—Ryan Lerman, David Piltch, Louis Cole, and Matt Chamberlain—at Prairie Sun Studios, where many of her favorite Tom Waits albums had been made. Mojo gives it four stars, as does the Daily Telegraph, which calls it "delightful." The BBC calls it "the sound of a woman brimming with ideas as she seizes her moment."
Iron and Wine makes its Nonesuch Records debut with Ghost on Ghost, the fifth release from singer-songwriter Sam Beam under that pen name. The album was recorded in Brooklyn and produced by Beam’s longtime associate Brian Deck. "Every song feels lived in, and radiates palpable warmth," says American Songwriter; they "sound absolutely sublime." Uncut too calls it "sublime ... a work of immense beauty and scale." The AP says: "Ghost on Ghost is a wonderfully produced and assembled record, propelled with joyous momentum even on tracks with darker lyrics ... With each successive album, Beam has been able to gradually expand and layer his sound with taste and dexterity."
Go Back Home, Audra McDonald's first album in seven years, features songs by composers with whom she has long been associated (Guettel, LaChiusa, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Sondheim) and some, like the Kander & Ebb title track, relatively new to her repertoire; in addition, McDonald continues to champion works by an emerging generation of composers. "As usual," says the Los Angeles Times, "she stuns upon entrance, exit and everything else." New York raves: "It’s entirely possible that Audra McDonald is the greatest singer alive." USA Today says: "McDonald has one of the warmest, most glorious singing voices on the planet."
Sing Me the Songs: Celebrating the Works of Kate McGarrigle features highlights from three concerts in honor of the late singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle, held in London, Toronto, and New York. The 2-CD set was produced by Joe Boyd, who curated the concerts, and features performances by Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Anna McGarrigle, Emmylou Harris, Antony, Norah Jones, Teddy Thompson, and others. Net proceeds go to the Kate McGarrigle Foundation for sarcoma research. Nonesuch Store pre-orders include instant downloads of the album tracks “Kiss and Say Goodbye” and “I Am a Diamond.”
Old Yellow Moon is the first official collaboration from Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell since Crowell joined Harris’ Hot Band in 1975. The 12-track duets album features songs written by Crowell as well as interpretations of songs by Hank DeVito, Roger Miller, Allen Reynolds, and others. Among the world-renowned musicians on the album are Stuart Duncan, Vince Gill, Bill Payne, and members of the original Hot Band. "It hearkens back to classic recordings like Harris' Elite Hotel and Crowell's Diamonds and Dirt," says NPR Music, "and brings the best out of the two veterans."
The Brad Mehldau Trio’s Where Do You Start is a companion disc to the critically acclaimed Ode. Whereas Ode featured 11 songs composed by Mehldau, Where Do You Start comprises the Trio’s interpretations of ten tunes by other composers, along with one Mehldau original. "The pianist builds his improvisation like a master storyteller," says NPR's Fresh Air. The album, says the BBC, "points to Mehldau entering a new prime phase in his career."
Sam Amidon’s label debut, Bright Sunny South, was produced by Amidon with his childhood friend and longtime collaborator Thomas Bartlett (a.k.a. Doveman) and legendary English engineer Jerry Boys. Recorded in London, the album features a band comprising Bartlett and multi-instrumentalists Shahzad Ismaily and Chris Vatalaro. Jazz trumpeter Kenny Wheeler also makes a cameo. Amidon himself not only sings but also plays banjo, fiddle, acoustic guitar, and piano on the album. The Guardian, Mojo, and Q all give it four stars. Drowned in Sound calls it "his most emotionally and tonally complex LP to date."
On her debut album, singer/songwriter Fatoumata Diawara—whom the Telegraph calls “the most beguiling talent to hit the world music scene in some time” and Mojo calls a "spell-weaving new voice"—uses elements of jazz, pop, and funk along with her ancestral Wassoulou tradition. John Paul Jones, Toumani Diabate, and Tony Allen all make guest appearances. Uncut gives Fatou four stars; Pitchfork calls it "beguiling." The Washington Post says "her well-crafted songs are quietly powerful."
Lianne La Havas has emerged as one of the UK’s most buzzed-about new talents, with critically acclaimed EPs, sold-out shows worldwide and nods from the likes of Bon Iver and Ryan Adams. Her debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough?, produced by Matt Hales (Aqualung), "is not just one of the year's best debuts," says the AP, "but one of the year's best albums." Says the BBC: "It’s always been clear that La Havas has a special voice, and so it proves here. It’s a voice that invites you in, and only the hardest heart will resist the offer." The San Francisco Chronicle exclaims: "It's hard not to want to shout, 'Viva La Havas!"
Rokia Traoré, who is currently touring Europe, recently performed an intimate solo version of "Ka Moun Kè" off her new album, Beautiful Africa, for the Guardian. In the exclusive live session, part of the Guardian's How I wrote ... series, she discusses the origins of this love song, the title of which translates as "Darling, What Can I Do For You?" The performance is a preview of Traoré's upcoming tour stop at the Glastonbury Festival. Watch the video here. Songlines has listed Rokia Traoré's 2009 album, Tchamantché, at No. 4 among the Top 25 Mali albums.
Laurie Anderson began a week of special performances when she was joined by artists and activist Ai Weiwei, via Skype from Beijing, for the premiere of Greetings to the Motherland at Toronto's Luminato Festival last night; watch it in full here. Anderson leads two free concerts in New York City this week for the annual River to River Festival, featuring stories from United States Parts 1-4 with special guests Steve Buscemi and Young Jean Lee on Tuesday and a night of improvisation with longtime musical collaborators on Wednesday.
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