Produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey, Eels, Sparklehorse), Rokia Traoré’s Beautiful Africa earns five stars from the Observer, Guardian, and Songlines, which raves: "It really doesn’t get better than this in today’s African music ... Rokia’s work is exciting, surprising, and always perfectly executed." The New York Times says: "Traoré has a gentle voice with a steely core, one that’s revealed more clearly than ever on Beautiful Africa." NPR says the album "is just as smart and lovely as its creator."
Written and directed by Academy Award winners Joel and Ethan Coen and produced by Scott Rudin and Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, and Justin Timberlake. The film's soundtrack, produced by T Bone Burnett, Joel Coen, and Ethan Coen, with Marcus Mumford as its associate producer, out now on Nonesuch Records, features 12 new recordings created especially for the film and soundtrack. Also included is a never-before-released recording of Bob Dylan performing his song "Farewell," which was originally recorded during the sessions for his album The Times They Are A-Changin' and is available exclusively on this soundtrack.
Sam Amidon’s label debut, Bright Sunny South, was produced by Amidon with Thomas Bartlett (a.k.a. Doveman) and legendary English engineer Jerry Boys. The Guardian, Mojo, and Q all give it four stars. Drowned in Sound calls it "his most emotionally and tonally complex LP to date." The vinyl edition includes the complete album program with a download of the album plus a bonus 7" disc featuring two previously unreleased recordings. The 140-gram LP was pressed at Record Industry in the Netherlands.
On Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1, mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile performs three Bach works written for solo violin: Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001; Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002; and Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003. "His timing is meticulous," says The New Yorker, "but his version also has the liveliness that improvising musicians sometimes can bring to written material." Gramophone exclaims: "This is extraordinary playing from an extraordinary musician who is willing to stretch stylistic and technical boundaries to further his art while paying homage to one of the greatest composers of all time." The album was produced by Edgar Meyer.
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.
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. The Guardian calls it "glorious." Net proceeds go to the Kate McGarrigle Foundation for sarcoma research.
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."
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."
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."
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."
On the acclaimed Mermaid Avenue albums, Billy Bragg and Wilco put music to lyrics by folk legend Woody Guthrie for which he had not written music or made recordings. Tweedy and Bragg were "the perfect pair to conclude that Guthrie ... was a prophetic rock-and-roller with a whole lot to say," said the New York Times. "All he needed was a band and a little freedom." This third volume, released in conjunction with Mermaid Avenue: The Complete Sessions 3CD+DVD set in 2012, comprises 17 previously unreleased recordings from the original sessions. The 2-LP, 180-gram vinyl edition was pressed at Pallas MFG in Diepholz, Germany, for Black Friday 2013.
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."
On Home Stretch, composer/pianist Timo Andres pairs the newly composed title work with two reinventions of works by musical heroes in Mozart "Coronation" Concerto Re-Composition, described by The New Yorker's Alex Ross as "mesmerizing," and Paraphrase on Themes of Brian Eno. Metropolis Ensemble chamber orchestra performs with the composer on piano. The album, says NPR, offers "thought-provoking glimpses into how the past and the present merge in classical music today." The Chicago Reader says it "bursts with creativity." The Guardian and the Independent give it four stars.
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.
The debut album from the electric duo of Brad Mehldau and Mark Guiliana, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon, due February 11, features Mehldau on Fender Rhodes and synthesizers and Guiliana on drums and effects. Mehliana comprises 12 original tunes—six written by the duo and six written by Mehldau—and was engineered and mixed by Greg Koller (Jon Brion, Kanye West). The vinyl edition, due March 4, includes two 140-gram LPs pressed at Pallas MFG in Diepholz, Germany, and a CD of the album. Nonesuch Store pre-orders include an instant download of the album track "Hungry Ghost."
On 2012's Grammy-winning album Unity Band, Pat Metheny recorded with a band that highlighted tenor saxophone for the first time since 1980, featuring Chris Potter on sax and bass clarinet, Antonio Sanchez on drums, and Ben Williams on bass. With Kin (←→), Metheny has added multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi and christened the ensemble Pat Metheny Unity Group. The vinyl includes two 140-gram LPs pressed at Pallas MFG in Diepholz, Germany, and a CD of the album. Nonesuch Store pre-orders include an exclusive print autographed by Metheny.
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." Nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Americana Album.
Ry Cooder’s first live record in more than 35 years, Live in San Francisco was recorded in 2011 during a special two-night engagement with the Corridos Famosos band and a ten-piece Mexican brass band at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall. "One of those nights when you wish you'd been in Row A," says the Times of London. The album, produced by Cooder, includes original songs and interpretations of other material from throughout his career, as well as Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs' "Wooly Bully" and Lead Belly's "Goodnight Irene." The vinyl edition includes the album on two 140-gram LPs plus a CD in the sleeve.
The Black Keys have announced a number of European tour dates for June and July of 2014, starting with the INmusic Festival in Zagreb, Croatia, followed by sets at Open Air St. Gallen in Switzerland, Down the Rabbit Hole Festival in Holland, Open'er Festival in Poland, Mainsquare Festival in France, Rock Werchter in Belgium, Rock in Roma in Italy, Optimus Alive in Portugal, and Bilbao BBK Live in Spain, before closing out at the Festival de Nimes in France.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops bid farewell to founding member Dom Flemons, who is starting a solo career, with a special US tour earlier this month to commemorate his time with the band. Led by co-founder Rhiannon Giddens, the band will tour throughout 2014 with Hubby Jenkins and two new musicians, cellist Malcolm Parson and multi-instrumentalist Rowan Corbett, who will join the group in the New Year. The band has just announced a number of new US tour dates for early 2014, making stops across the Southeast through March and up into the Northeast in the spring.
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