Midnight at the Movies--Justin Townes Earle--Hope we get him back to the Narrows real soon. This CD is one of the best you'll hear in the country/rootsy-not-afraid-of-a-little-twang world. Unlike his daddy Steve Earle, young Justin has a more likable, accessible singing style. But like pops he knows how to create tightly written numbers that are catchy even after the first listen. Oh yeah, he does have some lyrics that reference papa: "I was a young man when, I went down the same road as my old man." Believe it or not, the old man--once a notorious druggy who ended up doing time for his ways--canned his son from his band for the youngster's less-than-healthy indulgences. A great CD, well produced with creative arrangements.
In Boston-Chris Botti--This is a CD and DVD, and darn well should have won a Grammy (it got a nomination but no statuette). In case you're unfamiliar, Mr. Botti is a forty-something trumpet player who did a lot of work with Sting. Some may call him a Smooth Jazz artist (as a put-down), but he's no Kenny G baby. And this CD/DVD is entertaining with a capital E. It's a live performance at Boston's Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops and guest stars including Mr. Sting, Yo-Yo Ma, Steven Tyler (who sings "Smile Though Your Heart is Breaking" to his father in the audience), American Idol's Katherine McPhee (I don't care what you're thinking--she does a helluva job with "I Got You Under My Skin"), and others. It's a mixture of jazz, rock, classical and pop. And it works. Take a Sunday afternoon and watch the DVD. I did. Fab.
The List--Rosanne Cash--The story is her dad, The Man in Black, was concerned his teenage daughter knew more about the Beatles than her backstory. So he scribbled a list of essential songs, and she tucked it away--finally getting around to recording some of 'em a few months back. "Long Black Veil," "500 Miles," and "Take These Chains from My Heart" are among the selections. Guest stars include Bruce Springsteen, but she doesn't need their help. It's a simple, unadorned recording that doesn't grab you right away--but give it a couple spins. Quality. Solid.