A Tale of Two Duos, and Two Singer-Songwriters
Some good new stuff this week, so here are a few highlights:
Steve Martin & Edie Brickell
Everybody loves Steve Martin, with his nice suits, banjo, and his half-smirk of a smile. And, with that unique, breathy voice of hers, Edie Brickell is very likable too. Their first album together was really good partly because of the simple arrangements. On this new one, Brickell wrote all of the lyrics and the two of them wrote the music. The words to these love songs are beautiful, but that’s ruined by the overly lush, easy listening arrangements which I have to think is the fault of producer Peter Asher. There are a couple of standouts, but others sound like elevator music with the occasional banjo in the mix. Unfortunately, a couple of decent songs do not make for a good album.
On the other hand, Cicada Rhythm is a brand new Athens, Georgia-based duo that features Dave Kirslis — who plays finger-picked guitar and sounds a lot like Oliver Wood — and Andrea DeMarcus, a Julliard-trained standup bassist with a voice that evokes Iris DeMent. I hear Shovels and Rope, a little Civil Wars, and a hint of Dave and Gillian. The formula works: they have the fresh and spare sound that So Familiar lacks.
This is the first album in five years for Case, and finds him leaning on his acoustic 12-string and stripped-down arrangements more than in past efforts. He still has a brilliant way of dropping in a catchy pop tune like “All Dressed (For Trial)” or “If I Go Crazy,” among the more bluesy songs. Case’s first solo album came out almost 30 years ago (it was one of T Bone Burnett’s first production efforts), and I’ve been a fan of his since The Plimsouls days before that, so I have a bit of a bias. But in all honesty, I think this is a terrific collection that will stick to your ribs.
Americana poster boy Ryan Adams has gotten a lot of press lately with this rather unique project. In case you haven’t heard, he respectfully covered the hugely popular Taylor Swift album, 1989, from start to finish. I am not familiar with the original album, but to me, it sounds like a really good Ryan Adams album. I checked with my daughter, who loves the original, for a different perspective. She had already heard Adams’s album from its September digital release and really appreciated what Adams had done with 1989, making it his own with unexpected musical arrangements while still preserving the spirit of Swift’s smash-hit album. The CD is being released today and a cassette version — who knew those still existed? — comes out in December.
Looking at next week, we have new music from Tim O’Brien, Steve Forbert, Billy Gibbons, and a few more.