Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sound ‘Round: Ashely Monroe / Kacey Musgraves

For love of country. For love of weed.

Ashley Monroe – Like a Rose (Warner Bros.)

ashley monroe - like a roseHaving comprised a third of the excellent country trio Pistol Annies, her nine-song sophomore release is similar in character to the group which reintroduced her; beautifully damaged, unabashedly trailer trash. She prefers weed over roses, is romantically impetuous, runs away from her family’s past while simultaneously embracing it, and is broke but street smart enough to make ends meet for herself and the baby she’s carrying in sin. Aside from the weed (and perhaps the impetuousness), I doubt any of this is autobiographical. Rather, these are vignettes constructed by a meticulous songwriter and a team of co-writers who are just as exact. While much of the music is delivered as folksy ballads, stretching what should feel like a brisk 32 minute run time, the three lively ones are spunky, witty and brashly charming. The chorus of the title track almost sums up the tone for the rest of the album. “Sitting in this dinner with a coffee in my hand. / Waiting on a bus to some promised land.” GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: Two Weeks Late” / “Weed Instead of Roses” / “Like a Rose

Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park (Mercury)

kacey musgraves - same trailer different parkBased off the promise of last year’s well-written single “Merry Go Round,” let’s start by calling her major-label debut a modest disappointment in the lyrics department, but not place the blame on her tiny shoulders alone. For all I know, the corniest and most hackneyed verses could be the brainchild of either co-writers Shane McAnally and Luke Laird – who each double as co-producers. As charmingly plain as her voice is, it doesn’t flatter lines like “If you wanna find the honey/You can’t be scared of the bees/If you want to see the forest/You’re gonna have to look past the trees,” and it only adds to the gushiness of the blandly titled “Dandelion” and “I Miss You.” But for how austere she is vocally, she wears the feisty songs rather well – as the raunchy stomp of weed-smokin’ anthem “Blowin’ Smoke” proves. Yet, for all the dope, trailer trash, small town gossip and high school weddings to be found, Musgraves proposes a toast to all of them and more on “Follow Your Arrow,” an ode to individuality that’s more pro-gay than it pretends to not be. GRADE: A-

Key Tracks: Blowin’ Smoke” / “Follow Your Arrow” / “Merry Go Round

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Sound ‘Round: Jimi Hendrix

Bookends. 

Jimi Hendrix – People, Hell and Angels (Legacy)

jimi hendrx - people hell and anglesEddie Kramer, the producer who recorded much of Hendrix’s music, says this full-length album of unreleased studio material, intended to serve as a follow up to Electric Ladyland, is the last one of its kind we’ll get. Apparently the vaults are dry. Here’s hoping so, because this is more jam and incomplete as opposed to anything final and concrete. And while some may prefer the nearly six-minute slush of “Hear My Train A Comin’,” I’ll take the concise 2:27 of “Little Wing” every time. True, his death at 27 meant he never got to trim the fat off, or even revise, these songs, but I’m inclined to believe he would have done little self-editing – he was turning from psychedelia towards what was the beginning stages of funk rock, a genre which can go on for infinity. His shredding prowess is on full display, but the riffs sound soupy and undefined. His lyrics are simply filler – taking the place of words which would never come. Completists may revel in another round of unheard Hendrix material. Everyone else can revisit Are You Experienced? and relish in the music he got to complete. GRADE: B-

Key Tracks: Izabella” / “Mojo Man” / “Earth Blues

Jimi Hendrix – Cry of Love (Reprise, 1971)

jimi hendrx - cry of loveThis one is hard to find in a physical format, and even harder still if it’s not vinyl. So go ahead and pick up (or burn or download or whatever) 1997’s The First Rays of the New Rising Sun, which features all 10 tracks found here, plus an additional seven. The reason I chose the more obscure release isn’t due to some elitist hipster hubris, it’s because it works better. The album’s track list is tightly wound, making the music instantaneous, groovy and well-aged. All but one of these songs (“My Friend”) were recorded in the year leading up to his death, and all find Hendrix transitioning from acid-rock to new frontiers – hence the intrepidly-titled “Freedom” and “Straight Ahead.” While the squirrelly feedback of “Purple Haze” (or even “Voodoo Chile”) is nowhere to be found, his burgeoning talent as a songwriter picks up the slack. The quiescent beauty of “Drifting” and “Angel” are every bit as gorgeous as “Wind Cries Mary,” and “Night Bird Flying” is one of his best guitar-driven songs. Added up, the whole thing serves as a fittingly warm farewell, without ever begging the question, “What If?” GRADE: A

Key Tracks: Freedom” / “Night Bird Flying” / “Angel