Feb 26, 2007

New Music Review

By Kurt B. Reighley
Special to MSN Music

One of the highlights of the seventh annual Americana Music Conference was a stellar performance by Charlie Louvin of the Louvin Brothers. With their close harmonies, Charlie and his older sibling, Ira, revolutionized country music in the late '50s and early '60s, racking up hits, including "When I Stop Dreaming" and "Must You Throw Dirt in My Face." The duo disbanded in 1963, and Ira died in an automobile accident two years later, but Charlie has continued to record and perform, off and on, ever since.

Well, the younger Louvin is definitely "on" right now, as he was at that live gig last fall. His new self-titled album of revamped Louvin hits (including "The Christian Life," later immortalized by the Byrds) and country classics features more notable guests than many red-carpet award shows. Are you ready? Here we go: George Jones, Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare, Elvis Costello, Tift Merritt, Will Oldham, Jeff Tweedy, Marty Stuart, as well as members of Lambchop, Bright Eyes, Blanche and Clem Snide. Damn.

Ryman Auditorium, original home of the Grand Ole Opry, is another piece of country history that's still going strong. And last May 6, it welcomed a very different sort of act: Erasure. As part of their sold-out acoustic tour, Vince Clark and Andy Bell put down the synthesizers and substituted banjo, mandolin, pedal steel and double bass. That show is preserved on their new live disc, "On the Road to Nashville." Their third album in three years (with a fourth, "Light at the End of the World," due May 22), this 18-song concert disc includes new versions of smashes from the duo's 22-year career ("Chains of Love," "Oh l'Amour") interspersed with stripped-down incarnations of less-familiar catalog selections, à la their last studio offering, "Union Street."
Listen to "On the Road to Nashville

Where the heck have Indiana pop-punk outfit The Ataris been hiding since 2003's "So Long, Astoria," and its hit cover of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer"? Well, they spent part of that time locked away in Los Angeles, making "Welcome the Night." They also spent several months wrangling with record business tomfoolery. But finally, their fifth full-length release is in stores. Their lineup has been expanded to seven members, including keyboard player Bob Hoag and cellist Angus Cooke, and the music is similarly ambitious, atmospheric and moody. The guys couldn't have picked a better producer to nurture their dark side: Australian vet Nick Launay's mind-blowing résumé includes clients such as Nick Cave, The Church, Gang of Four and Kate Bush.
Listen to "Welcome the Night"

Apropos of his new album, "Atlantis - Hymns for Disco," Canadian rapper k-os recently remarked, "When an artist expresses their truth honestly and with a pure heart, they can end up speaking for a myriad of people." From someone else, that might sound like total baloney -- or an old P.M. Dawn press release -- but this Trinidad-born, Toronto-based producer has already proven his diverse appeal, winning three 2005 Juno Awards, and collaborating with The Chemical Brothers on the Grammy-nominated dance track, "Get Yourself High." Having confounded critics in the past with lush orchestrations and having sung as well as rapped vocals, k-os continues to defy easy categorization on his third album, which includes contributions from rocker Sam Roberts, Kevin Drew (Broken Social Scene) and fellow Canadian hip-hop artist Buck 65.
Listen to "Atlantis - Hymns for Disco"

In these tense times, it seems odd to look forward to any sort of noisy pyrotechnics overhead -- unless you're speaking of celebratory fireworks, or Texas band Explosions in the Sky. After winning praise for their score for "Friday Night Lights," EITS is back with its first studio album in nearly four years. Recorded by John Congleton (The Roots, Mountain Goats, Polyphonic Spree) in the Minnesota backwoods, the disc features just six songs, but fans of experimental indie rock instrumentals à la Godspeed You Black Emperor! definitely get their money's worth: The epic "It's Natural to Be Afraid" alone clocks in at more than 13 minutes. Want more? Of course you do. A special limited-edition, double-CD version includes remixes by Jesu, Adem, Four Tet and more.
Listen to "All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone"