David Crosby/ For Free, folk-rock, Three Blind Mice-BMG
Known as a member of 1960s folk-rock outfits The Byrds and Crosby Stills & Nash (CSN), David Crosby also released good solo albums sporadically. His latest one For Free comes when he’s about to turn 80, and after a rough personal patch.
On the songwriting front, Crosby impresses on the more mellow numbers Secret Dancer, Shot At Me and the poignant concluding piece I Won’t Stay For Long, where he sings, “I need to be with you today”. On a peppier note, I Think I and Ships In The Night are vintage Crosby, and he adapts his voice well.
For variety, Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen co-writes Rodriguez For A Night, which has innovative horns. Collaborations with Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers on River Rise and country singer Sarah Jarosz on the CSN-like, harmony-filled title track are spot-on.
To quote a line from Secret Dancer, this album grows on you “silently, gracefully, beautifully, slowly, in the dark”. And with the right instrumental back-up, this is superb work.
Rating: 8/ 10
John Mayer/ Sob Rock, soft rock, Columbia
With some excellent compositions blending soft rock and pop flavours with blues, country and folk, John Mayer has defined the quintessential American roots sound. His latest album Sob Rock continues in the same vein.
While the album has many crisp numbers, it’s probably affected by the fact that he’s done similar stuff often. One finds shades of earlier albums like Continuum, Born And Raised and Paradise Valley. And with three songs released much earlier, the newness is affected.
Still, it’s trademark Mayer, and One Light, Shouldn’t Matter But It Does, I Guess I Just Feel Like and Wild Blue score with their strong melodies and smart vocals. Country singer Maren Morris appears on Last Train Home, Why You No Love Me and Shot In The Dark, more as the back-up female voice.
The record has another of Mayer’s features. It may take four or five listens to create an impact, but when it does, you want to play it on loop, despite familiar parts.
Rating: 7/ 10
Inhaler/ It Won’t Always Be Like This, alternative rock, Polydor
Three songs into the debut album of the strangely-titled Irish alt-rock band Inhaler, and you’re convinced the lads have been hugely influenced by U2 and Oasis, with a bit of New Order thrown in. It’s not surprising, considering that frontman Elijah Hewson is son of the legendary Bono.
Elijah’s got the pipes, all right, and guitarist Josh Jenkinson brims with energy, backed by a skin-tight rhythm section. The problem is the lack of variety. The guys have a formula, and song after song, they rarely budge.
There are some very gig-friendly numbers, like the title track It Won’t Always Be Like This, the brilliant Cheer Me Up and the foot-tapping When It Breaks, with those scorching parallel guitar lines. Who’s Your Money On is probably the only track that seems different.
The band has had a good initial run on the charts, and has an audience among the younger lot. Of course, for those in their 40s, this is like a mid-1990s playlist rehashed. Hopefully, they’ll get over the Bono-The Edge hangover. This is more a case of ‘U2, brute?’
Rating: 6/ 10
Tedeschi Trucks Band/ Layla Revisited (Live At Lockn’), blues-rock, Fantasy Records
Featuring guitar greats Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, the album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek And The Dominos was among the most significant recordings of the early 1970s. Now, we have a unique tribute by blues-rock outfit Tedeschi Trucks Band.
Recorded at the 2019 Lockn’ festival in Virginia, this is easily one of the best live recordings of the past two decades. Vocalist Susan Tedeschi and guitarist Derek Trucks are joined by guitarist-vocalist Trey Anastasio of Phish, as they play the Layla album their own way.
Doyle Bramhall II completes the guitar trio, and one hears some incredible improvisations on Keys To The Highway, Anyday and Keep On Growing. Tedeschi excels on the Jimmy Cox piece Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.
There are the more popular tracks too. Layla, with an improvised ending, the Jimi Hendrix number Little Wing and the fan favourite Bell Bottom Blues add to the nostalgia element of this fantastic listening experience.
Rating: 9/ 10
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