Play Me

Stan Ridgway

Black Diamond
Birdcage Records

BY FAR THE most intimate album to date from an artist who is more often compared to literary heavy-hitters like Carver, Chandler, and Ellroy than to other musicians, probably because nobody writes like or sounds even close to Ridgway. On his fourth solo album, Ridgway strips the songs of their trademark spooky electronics and slows the tempo a bit to deliver fewer stories in favor of greater mood and depth. He remains a remarkably keen observer of a world gone mad, of the average guy in extraordinary circumstances. Surreal work from a rare, enigmatic talent.

--Jennifer Murphy


Twisted Willie
Justice Records

NO LONGER RESERVED for deceased musicians or defunct bands, tribute albums have become so prolific as to be all but meaningless. Twisted Willie combines some of today's more popular "alternative" acts with the songwriting of Willie Nelson. While some cuts (Jello Biafra on "Still Is Still Moving To Me," L7 on "Three Days") simply grate the nerves, most just highlight the sameness of the bands. It's as if they all use the same recipe, distort it, speed it up, blow it through the door. Why pay homage to a songwriter by pummeling the songs? There is some good stuff here--The Reverend Horton Heat shows why he's the master of the rave-up and X once again nod to their American roots. Fittingly, it's co-Outlaw Waylon Jennings who sits back and lets Willie's songs do the talking.

--Sean Murphy



FOLLOWING UP ON his 1994 critically acclaimed release, Adequate Desire, this album is a collection of characters entertaining end-of-the-millennium possibilities ranging from a Heaven-sent apocalypse to destruction by our own hands. The music is subtle and sedate, allowing the stories to unfold and flow. Hall's lyrical talents are evidenced on Day, while more musical variation and/or texture would have enhanced the drama of the searching and passionate nature of the characters. Still, any artist who digs as deep as Hall does to make his characters breathe is worth keeping an eye on.

--Jennifer Murphy

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