Buddy Gets Jazzed

CD: Buddy Miller’s Majestic Strings — The guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer who has become an Americana music icon and valued as a musical foil by the likes of Robert Plant and Emmylou Harris convenes a summit session with his player peers Bill Frisell, Marc Ribot and Greg Leisz.

Some of the most respected master guitarists in roots music and jazz, they focus on songs as much as their instrumental prowess.

And welcome singers of equal talent like Harris, Patty Griffin, Lee Ann Womack, Shawn Colvin and others to sing for and with them.

There’s many stunning riffs and licks to enjoy here, but what this set does is not just showcase playing but celebrate how many types of guitars in the hands of skilled musicians can make the most of melody, harmony and in the end the greatness of the song.

And in the process charm and delight the ears and imagination.

CD: The Excitement of Maybe by Exene Cervenka — The singer with the landmark Los Angeles punk band X and their string band offshoot The Knitters spotlights her country/roots side on a winsome and winning collection.

The power and fury she brought to punk is matched by a grace and clarity of voice as well as within the lyrical imagery that reflect her pre-musical background in poetry.

And in the same way that X’s songs and music spun a powerful mesmeric spell, her folk-based melodies with modern splashes of electricity have a subtle yet strong hypnotic pull that help make this disc a delightful listening experience.

CD: Pictures on the Highway by Marc Black — It’s been interesting to see this album get high-level acclaim as setting the contemporary folk-rock standard of the current music industry..

Some four decades ago I heard good words about Black, who graduated from my alma mater a few years before I did. And when he returned to play a show I was wowed in a way that remains a powerful memory.

This classy, emotionally and musically rich plus aptly-named disc is a musical travelogue of the places and subjects a troubadour such as Bob Dylan might touch on as well as the styles to draw from. In sound and voice he’s his own man, but Black has the same qualities in songcraft, singing and sentiments as such masters as Paul Simon and James Taylor.

We shall be hearing more of Black.

From The Progressive Populist, May 1, 2011


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