Since becoming crown prince of the blues in the late 80s, Cray has won Grammies and played alongside 12-bar aristocrats such as BB King but has often seemed on cruise control. As a suited-up Mad Men cover shot suggests, he has his mojo back. Won’t Be Coming Home puts Cray in the driveway watching his woman’s tail light vanish, pitting weary vocals against stinging guitar. I’m Done Crying, a slow, soul-soaked epic with strings, has him testifying magnificently. Producer Kevin Shirley keeps things taut and gritty (the sessions took just a fortnight) and Cray burns with urgency.
Over the course of her first albums, including her fourth, 1992’s Every Time You Say Goodbye, Alison Krauss probably did more than any of her contemporaries to attract mainstream-country attention to bluegrass. A traditionalist might say this is because Krauss and her band, Union Station, offer a kind of “bluegrass-lite” that’s cut with pop sensibility, absent any manic-fast picking, and awash in Krauss’s goes-down-easy vocal. Nonetheless, this is a solid album that pushed Krauss deservedly further into the limelight. Highlights include the title track, Union Station banjo picker Ron Block’s fine gospel number “Shield of Faith,” and the traditional instrumental “Cluck Old Hen.”
With their 5th studio album One More Turn Blues Blend are presenting a breathtaking, versatile masterpiece: 60s soul, bluegrass, americana, jazz ballads, Chicago- and New Orleans Blues. Those who join this great panorama will be enchanted by the emotionality, the delight in playing and the pure pleasure and passion for blues and rootsmusic which is accompanied by the powerful and pumping wind section the big band of the HR (hessian broadcasting) has to offer.
Once upon a time, Allison Moorer was a country artist who sang for a major record label. It might be easy then, to see her switch to Sugar Hill as a back-to-the-basics move, a reconnection with her country roots. Moorer, however, isn’t that predictable, and The Duel — while many things — isn’t country. In fact, the opening cut — “I Ain’t Giving Up on You” — sounds a lot like classic rock and most of the album follows this course. This is interesting, in that Moorer’s a strong writer, and it would’ve been easy to fall back on a tasteful country-folk production and become a fairly typical singer/songwriter. Instead, Moorer’s plucky vocals, along with Adam Landry’s electric guitar work and R.S. Field’s steady backbeat, turn a song like “Melancholy Polly” into an easy-rolling romp. Another factor that makes the songs on The Duel so effective is that Moorer, besides being good at penning lyrics, is smart enough to write catchy hooks. This means that the listener doesn’t have to be into the lyrics of “When Will You Ever Come Down” to enjoy the intriguing chord progressions. Even when country elements enter the picture, like John Davis’ steel on “One on the House,” one is reminded of Neil Young’s Harvest more than country. Moorer seems to have found a comfortable spot to express her artistic whim at her new label, and The Duel is the happy result.