Albums of the Week

October 18-October 24

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In this edition: Leroy Justice, Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, Alex Chilton, Body/Head, Dexys, and Mark Knopfler.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Leroy Justice: Above The Weather (Elm City)

AOTW1018_LeroyJustice The term “timeless” is bandied about pretty carelessly, as if music that transcends the telltale signs of the era it arrives in is something easily accomplished. NYC-based Leroy Justice has possessed a classic flair from their first steps but their third long-player, Above The Weather (released April 23), hits the sweet spot between Bad Company and The Black Keys, The James Gang and The Jayhawks, a seductive sound redolent of 70s vinyl kickass given contemporary edge and punch, the dread and bubbling anxiety of our times weaving in their verses and charged melodies. The band has tightened up their songwriting where the first 3-4 minutes are models of craftsmanship followed by tail sections that offer up thoughtful, concise jams, delicious codas, and other surprises – a treat waiting at the end of each cut that elevates what’s already good to great levels. Third albums are where the best bands usually lay it on the line and offer up a summation of their best attributes as well as pointing to possibilities down the road. Above The Weather accomplishes both these goals handily, a reminder that nitty gritty rock ‘n’ roll needs not be reinvented or twisted into whacky new shapes when it’s caressed and cajoled with the skill and charm Leroy Justice exhibit on this hard driving, timeless-minded pleasure. (Dennis Cook)

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott: Memories And Moments (Full Skies Records)

AOTW1018_MemoriesMoments Given what master interpreters Scott and O’Brien are – check out Scott’s 2008 covers set Modern Hymns and O’Brien’s stellar Bob Dylan homage Red On Blonde (1996) for evidence – it wouldn’t be unnatural to think that Memories And Moments (released September 17) was more panned gold, but this duo effort finds them carving their way through 13 quality originals (and one primo John Prine tune with Prine himself guesting) that mingle the modern and traditional in intimate, winning ways. The pair is such natural musicians that everything skips along in a heartfelt, relaxed conversation we’re lucky enough to be able to eavesdrop on. Small nuggets of wisdom abound on Memories And Moments – “In the end there’s a feast of milk and cookies” is a particular DI favorite – and the whole affair is the work of serious pros that have traveled a few miles and seen a few things, blue eyes and dirty lights glimmering on this road ready song cycle. Anyone sweet on Buddy Miller and other muscular modern folk and Americana will flip for this album, which shows all these decades into their careers O’Brien and Scott still got plenty to offer – simply pickers, singers and songwriters of the highest order. (DC)

Dennis’ Bonus Review:
Alex Chilton: Electricity By Candlelight/ NYC 2/13/97 (Bar/None Records)

AOTW1018_AlexChilton The power goes out at NYC’s Knitting Factory in 1997 and an acoustic guitar is handed to the Box Tops/Big Star man. This official bootleg release shares an intimate, off-the-cuff moment only the people in the club had previously experienced. The sound quality is what you’d expect for a hastily captured audience recording from the 90s – this is for serious Chilton Heads only – but what this loose-limbed, all-covers set does is reveal the jukebox in his head, the touchstones and known-by-heart favorites pinging around Chilton’s skull. Most versions are sloppy in an endearing way, the audience and performer all easily given to laughter and group singing – a campfire session in the center of the city that never sleeps. Cheese pop (“Girl From Ipanema”), Joni Mitchell (“A Case of You”), Nina Simone (“My Baby Just Cares For Me”), Brian Wilson (“Wouldn’t It Be Nice” & “Solar System”), Johnny Cash (“I Walk The Line”) and more are handled with love, and more than anything it’s nice to get a visit from a much missed musician. (DC)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
Body/Head: Coming Apart (Matador)

AOTW1018_BodyHead Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo might’ve gone in a more conventional direction with their post-Sonic Youth careers, but Kim Gordon – at 60 years young and as dangerous/hot as ever – is stolid in her continuance to push the limits of the human eardrum in the grand tradition of her old group’s art ghetto heyday on the hypnotic debut of her two-year-old guitar duo with longtime SY family friend Bill Nace called Body/Head. Coming Apart (released September 10) is by far the most adventurous music Gordon has produced beyond the Youth as she and Nace spool out a marathon of improvisational drones that somehow manage to morph into some of the most emotionally direct material the indie rock empress has ever cooed in that distinctively hushed bellow of hers, creating an oscillating tone poem as daring as anything a Sonic Youth member has achieved since they left SST for Blast First and as haunting as the films that project in slow motion behind the duo at their concerts. Fans of that old school “Death Valley ’69” shit will eat this one up. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Dexys: One Day I’m Going to Soar (Slimstyle Records)

AOTW1018_Dexys It’s a sin that Dexy’s Midnight Runners have gone over 30 years branded as a one hit wonder act in the United States. If you haven’t already, you’d be wise to dig beyond “Come On Eileen” and explore the treasures born from Kevin Rowland and his ingenious fusion of Van Morrison at his brassiest and The Specials at their most R&B across such masterworks as Searching for the Young Soul Rebels and Too-Rye-Ay. And now Dexys (who’ve since ditched the Midnight Runners from their handle), have made their excellent 2012 comeback LP One Day I’m Going to Soar available here stateside. Co-produced by the great Mick Talbot (Style Council) alongside Pete Schweir and featuring some co-songwriting duties with Blur’s Alex James, this is vintage Rowland, who turns in TK tracks as evocative of the trademark Dexys sound as Two Against Nature was for Steely Dan. Funny thing, this is the better album of the two. (RH)

Ron’s Bonus Review:
Mark Knopfler: Privateering (Verve)

AOTW1018_MarkKnopfler There isn’t a more understated catalog in modern rock music than the solo output of Mark Knopfler. And after a solid 20-odd years filled with such notable titles as The Golden Heart, Sailing to Philadelphia and The Ragpicker’s Dream (not to mention a shout out to the lone Notting Hillbillies LP Missing…Presumed Having a Good Time), the English guitar icon behind Dire Straits pulls a first in his near-40 year career: a double album. Recorded in Knopfler’s own British Grove studios in West London, Privateering is an honest, gritty account of working class life in Great Britain delivered through some of the toughest, bluesiest playing in his career. Now available in the U.S. via the Verve imprint of the Universal monolith, fans of Mark Knopfler the guitarist and Mark Knopfler the songwriter will find much to applaud here. (RH)