SUGAR BLUEIn Your Eyes
THERE'S GREAT STUFF on this disc, but there's also a bad breeze of cheesiness wafting over much of it, too.
The great: Sugar Blue's harmonica. Almost as delicate and precise as an orchestral violin at times, it wails when Sugar feels blue.
Best cut: "She." The omnipresent butt dangling from Keith Richards' lips as he rips into the opening riff. At least that's what I saw when I heard the song.
Very gouda: Horn arrangements. Three cuts suffer terrible cheese wounds from a Barry-White-sits-on-the-Pips arrangement. The schlock aftershocks rumble ominously throughout the disc, but once you know where the cracks are, you can program your CD player around them.
MERLE HAGGARDThe Lonesome Fugitive: The Merle Haggard Anthology (1963-1977)
Razor & Tie
DESPITE HIS RECENT induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the release of two very different tribute albums, Haggard is still without a proper, career-spanning boxed set. Obviously, no one (i.e., his two labels, Capitol and Sony) thinks it would pay.
Fortunately, his most fertile years are now summarized on this double CD set that chronicles his time with Capitol.
"Hungry Eyes," "Workin' Man Blues," "Okie From Muskogee," "Daddy Frank" and the rest of one of America's most indispensable song catalogs is here. Most striking of all is how supple his voice once was. Every element here, from the remastering to the CD booklet, is first class.
KENDRA SMITHFive Ways Of Disappearing
4 AD Records
THE TITLE OF Smith's full-length solo debut might comment on her exit from music since the late 1980s. The bassist, guitarist and gentle vocalist helped shape such seminal acts as The Dream Syndicate, Clay Allison and Opal--and then left music behind. Five Ways touches thematically on all of her previous pioneering, while also experimenting with odd or unconventional instrumentation and arrangements. Her trademark hushed vocals and restrained presence are also omnipresent, and stand-out tracks such as "Temporarily Lucy" and "Valley Of The Morning Sun" show that Smith has been away for much too long. Now if only there was a way to drag her away from her Northern California farm for "live" performances....
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