Sting’s first disc of original material since 2003 – which he’s been working on for three years – is a concept album inspired by his British youth. Much of the music, which takes its cues from theater greats like Rodgers and Hammerstein, will be featured in an upcoming Broadway musical. So why a concept LP in the age of single-track downloads? “It certainly goes against the grain,” Sting admits. “But I still feel there is a constituency that wants music to be more than just something consumed and discarded like a coffee or an ice cream.”
The wild and the gentle, the new and the old, the rough and the even rougher songs. The band’s style is a mixture of good ‘ole Country, dark facetted ballads, original Southern sound and a touch of acoustic Jack Daniel’s Folk. Impelling songs with a lot of melody, no matter whether it’s a modern Country tune from Shania Twain or Travis Tritt or the more guitar-based sound from The Outlaws or Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Richard & Linda Thompson‘s marriage was crumbling as they were recording Shoot Out the Lights in 1982, and many critics have read the album as a chronicle of the couple’s divorce. In truth, most of the album’s songs had been written two years earlier (when the Thompsons were getting along fine) for an abandoned project produced by Gerry Rafferty, and tales of busted relationships and domestic discord were always prominent in their songbook. But there is a palpable tension to Shoot Out the Lights which gives songs like “Don’t Renege On Our Love” and “Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed” an edgy bite different from the Thompsons‘ other albums together; there’s a subtle, unmistakable undertow of anger and dread in this music that cuts straight down to the bone. Joe Boyd‘s clean, uncluttered production was the ideal match for these songs and their Spartan arrangements, and Richard Thompson‘s wiry guitar work was remarkable, displaying a blazing technical skill that never interfered with his melodic sensibilities. Individually, all eight of the album’s songs are striking (especially the sonic fireworks of the title cut, the beautiful drift of “Just The Motion,” and the bitter reminiscence of “Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed”), and as a whole they were far more than the sum of their parts, a meditation on love and loss in which beauty, passion, and heady joy can still be found in defeat. It’s ironic that Richard & Linda Thompson enjoyed their breakthrough in the United States with the album that ended their career together, but Shoot Out the Lights found them rallying their strengths to the bitter end; it’s often been cited as Richard Thompson‘s greatest work, and it’s difficult for anyone who has heard his body of work to argue the point.
JJ Cale’s back-porch rocker may have stilled, but there’s some solace in Hoodoo, which may be Tony Joe White’s best album. It’s a record full of laidback, shuffling blues and murmured intimacies, with the enigmatic “Holed Up” hitting a Cale-like hypnotic groove.”
Elsewhere are reminiscences of his childhood as a poor cotton-farmer’s kid (“9 Foot Sack”), two perilous extreme-weather songs, “The Flood” and “Storm Comin'”, and a warning never to linger in “Alligator, Mississippi”.
White’s trademark swamp-rock style is best represented by “The Gift”, in which ghosts of bluesmen past appear to him in a graveyard vision, perhaps drawn by the sinister scrawl of fuzz-guitar and the miasmic electric piano. A true original, at his very best.
Southern Rock from the North with a twist, storytelling at it’s best.. hard hitting truth that slaps your face and makes you think.. From the historical “Forefathers” to what we are today “The Few” .. rockin’ songs that will make you move, laugh and sing!
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