Jim Campilongo Electric Trio
Tele master Jim Campilongo lets ’er rip on American Hips— easily his best effort to date. The components of Campilongo’s sound are simple—wire, wood, and hands—just like his hero, Roy Buchanan. And, like Buchanan, Campilongo treats every note like his last. But Campilongo isn’t simply a Buchanan devotee. Underneath the exposed-nerve twang lurks a dark compositional sense. Think of what it would sound like if Roy Nichols was asked to record the soundtrack to the film-noir classic The Big Sleep, and you’ll get the idea. American Hips also features two tracks with Grammy bogarter Norah Jones, who lends beautiful vocal performances on the standards “Stella” and “Sweet Dreams.” Go do your inspirational muse some good and get American Hips. It’s a great record by a player who just keeps getting better. Blue Hen. —Darrin Fox
Fans of stuttering, spitty country guitar have waited years for a new solo album from the genre’s maestro, Albert Lee. There’s plenty of outrageous playing here—Lee is as ripping as ever—but it’s the songs that make Heartbreak Hill so rewarding. Tearing into first-rate material by the likes of Townes Van Zandt and Delbert McClinton, Lee draws sheets of clucky, Stratoid tones from his signature Music Man, while never losing his grip on the vocals, arrangements, or rolling grooves. Throughout the record, Lee punctuates his fiery licks with sudden wang-bar dips—a cool effect. In “Born to Run,” Lee spins more than two minutes of snappy double-stops and whining bends into a mind-melting outro. On an instrumental rendition of “Luxury Liner”—a showcase for Lee when he replaced James Burton in Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band in the late ’70s—he dukes it out with fellow 6-string slingers Vince Gill and Brad Paisley. Whoa! Pedal-steel giant Buddy Emmons adds soaring lines to many of the selections, and Jerry Douglas makes his Scheerhorn resonator cry in an old George Jones classic, “One of These Days.” And with his solo on “’Til I Gain Control Again,” Lee proves he’s as eloquent on a ringing flat-top as on a snarling electric. Sugar Hill. —Andy Ellis
Thieves and Poets
This ambitious outing presents both a three-movement full-orchestral work and guitar arrangements of four jazz standards. According to McLaughlin, the three movements of “Thieves and Poets” represent the Old World, the New World, and their unification. “In a way, it is the story of my musical journey through life,” he says. Indeed, the work is often self-referential—both in terms of McLaughlin’s myriad influences (Beethoven, Stravinsky, Bartok , Coltrane, Bill Evans, Miles, etc.) and his own previous work. Particularly striking is the brilliant deconstruction and abstraction of Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Porkpie Hat,” which falls squarely into both categories. The work was orchestrated by McLaughlin’s long-time collaborator Yan Maresz, and performed by the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie.
On the standards—“My Foolish Heart,” “The Dolphin,” Stella by Starlight,” and “My Romance”—and the second and third orchestral movements, McLaughlin is joined by the Aighetta Quartet—the amazing acoustic guitarists who appeared on his Time Remembered: John McLaughlin Plays Bill Evans—and bass guitarist Helmut “Hell” Schartlmueller. Thieves and Poets is a complex and compelling work by one of the world’s most accomplished and innovative guitarists, and, as might be expected, McLaughlin’s acoustic playing is extraordinary. Verve. —Barry Cleveland
Are you in a garage band looking for the “new sound?” Dudes and dudettes, I’m telling you, garages are so 2002. Nowadays—if Suffrajett’s rocking debut is any indication—it’s all about mini-storage. Apparently recorded and mixed on a “bunch of crappy gear” in a Manhattan storage unit, this album is packed with fat, ambient drum tones and massive walls of interlocking guitar hooks that sound too huge to have been tracked in such modest surroundings. Add to this glorious cacophony the visceral-yet-somehow-melodic hissin’ and spittin’ of vocalist Simi, and you have an album that might give the immensely successful Yeah Yeah Yeahs good reason worry about their status as New York’s premier female-fronted neo-garage rock band.
Suffrajett guitarist and sonic mastermind Jason Chasko (who produced Liz Phair’s Whitechocolatespaceegg), has a knack for cramming a ton of guitar tracks—doubled chords, feedback, sneaky single-note riffs, harmony lines— into a stereo mix without diminishing the impact of each part. The only tiring aspect of Suffrajett might be the constant low-fi, “screaming through a megaphone” treatment on Simi’s vocal tracks. Simi has a great voice, but this record often seems to do all it can to hide the fact. In Music We Trust. —Jude Gold
I love Reeves Gabrels, but he’s an alien. His inspiration for guitar parts is not of this galaxy, and the technique he wields to manifest the ideas in his crazed little head is jaw dropping. As if that weren’t enough, this live album shows that his massive, cover-the-world tone, eccentric melodic hijinks, speed-of-light runs, twisted riffs, and almost out-of-control rhythm punctuations can be masterfully recreated on a naked stage. Damn. In addition, Gabrels attacks the guitar with more ferocious intensity than 2,000 royally pissed off punk rockers. Double damn. (No wonder one of the record’s disclaimers is: “No Musicians were harmed in the making of this album.”) Oh, and his songs aren’t just platforms for cutting-edge histrionics, either—they’re actually very accessible and memorable pop tunes. Triple damn!
Gabrels is one of those guitar players that, quite simply, redefines guitarcraft. He’s obviously a brainiac who has developed colossal technical and compositional skills, but he didn’t sacrifice his rock and roll swagger to intellect, and—thank goodness—it’s obvious he doesn’t give a toss about restraint. It’s a shame we don’t live in an era where such 6-string talent is globally lauded, because Gabrels is a bona fide 21st-century guitar god who deserves massive amounts of Justin Timberlake-style fame—or at least his own reality TV show. Myth Music. —Michael Molenda
If you were a time traveler lucky enough to hang out with Robert Mitchum in some ’50s tiki bar, you could do worse than have Jungle Jems as the soundtrack to your misadventures. This basement recording is pleasingly evocative, yet simultaneously tough sounding—there’s a subtle intensity that prevents the songs from being island lullabies or background music for Hawaiian travelogues. I’m sure big Bob would be tapping his foot, nursing his drink, and not thinking about fighting—which might get you back to the future with your nose on straight, and you can thank the Ape boys for that.
The steel-guitar performances by Frank Novicki and Eric Rindal are marvelously slinky and drenched in island pathos. Their ukulele parts are uplifting and aggressively propulsive, and Mitch Tobias’ electric solos evoke all the mystery and funk of Caribbean hoods and fearless surfers. Get this for the fun and vibey
instrumentals—the vocal tracks break the mood and threaten to get Mitchum all distracted and riled up. Tiki-rific! Simian. —Michael Molenda