Albums of the Week

July 11-July 17

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In this edition: Buxter Hoot’n and Old 97’s

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Buxter Hoot’n: Buxter Hoot’n (Buxter Hoot’n Music)

It takes all of a minute to pick up on something special in the air with San Francisco’s Buxter Hoot’n. The opening cut to their new self-titled album (released May 31), Mariel, is an unpredictably shifting slice of life that makes it sound fun finding “the perfect time to fall,” but the surrounding details offer a darker tale – a harbinger of the thoughtful complications throughout. Dig into these 10-tracks and the level of songwriting nuance and general musical solidity grows quickly impressive. The easy touchstones are The Band and Desire-era Dylan in his Rolling Thunder heyday, but that’s surface stuff. Buxter Hoot’n taps into the underlying principles inside these ancestors. This is music forged from listening to one another, sussing out small, wonderful touches and fine-tuned solos through woodshedding and a self-critical dedication to craft.

As freewheeling as much of this album sounds, music of this caliber doesn’t happen by accident. The attention to detail in their cinematic lyrics, graceful melodies and warm, instantly pleasing voices speak of folks who really care about music and not just their own, guardians of what Gram Parsons famously termed “Cosmic American Music,” a co-mingling of country, rock, blues, gypsy jazz and folk into a swell new mutt. If one must draw comparisons, I’d slot this in with The Mother Hips’ Later Days, The Kinks’ Muswell Hillbillies and the brainer moments in early Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, each twangs of the heart inside rustic yet city-wise spirits. References aside, this is just great music made with obvious care and no little skill. In this mass-produced time, handiwork of this sort should be treasured more than ever. (Dennis Cook)

Buxter Hoot’n plays this Friday night, July 15, at here in San Francisco. Other upcoming live dates can be found here.

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
Old 97’s: The Grand Theatre (Volume Two) (New West)

It must get annoying for the Old 97’s to be so predictably excellent and still not be kings of the world. Nine studio albums in, they’ve got jangly pop-rock down to a science. The Grand Theatre (Volume Two) (released July 5) ranks up there with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and Wilco for consistent quality from top to tails. Story songs and angular introspection prove the band’s main dishes here, and they excel at both approaches, plaintively singing about a Brown Haired Daughter one minute, roughly wiping off the make-up from The Actor the next. In a lot of ways, this set suggests what might have happened had The Replacements kept their shit together. Old 97’s main honcho Rhett Miller is strong of voice and the band swings in a bar band-y fashion that keeps this baker’s dozen on a chugging, forward trajectory. Even well-placed shuffles like Perfume never lose momentum, each number built around quotable lines and inviting melodies. An album like The Grand Theatre (Volume Two) begs one to reassess the group’s catalog with the likely realization that this is a far better band than one realized. (DC)