MARY LOU LORD
Got No Shadow
GOT NO SHADOW, Mary Lou Lord's first full-length album after nearly half a decade of speculative industry innuendo, myth and promise, reaffirms what we already knew--Lord's magic resides in her beautiful vocal ability to ardently breathe life into a song, both her own originals and others'. Rather than the solo acoustic record fans might anticipate, Got No Shadow was recorded with a full roster of rock and rollers, who play passably if without inspiration. Of the 13 tracks, the four Lord originals at best have a meek, pop sheen: good, but not great. The balance of offerings are either copped or co-written, and it's among these that Got No Shadow's strengths lie. Despite their bright polish, Lord's originals are not show-stoppers like the Freedy Johnston cover, or Elizabeth Cotten's "Shake Sugaree." "Jingle Jangle Morning" is Lord's messy-haired response to Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," and "Western Union Desperate," the album's finest offering, is replete with longing--memorable for its clever melody and turn of the phrase. With her apple cheeks, shock of blonde hair and sweet voice, Lord is striking even on the rare occasions when her songs aren't. Although Got No Shadow testifies that her presence as a songwriter and vocalist is alive and well, it stands in the shadow of greater things to come.
FOR LACK OF a better description, The Gourds are sorta alternative country, sorta rock and roll, with a little Tex-Mex thrown in. Their live shows at home in Austin, Texas, are renowned for smart-ass humor and what's probably the only mandolin-led cover of Snoop Doggy Dog's "Gin and Juice," complete with a shout out to Dr. Dre. Though this disc is a little more subdued than their live shows, it's still a helluva lot of fun. The Gourds use mandolin, acoustic guitar, banjo and accordion in their tales of heartbreak, redemption, and, as plainly stated by "I Like Drinking," drinking. "Magnolia" begins with a cool mandolin/guitar interplay, honky-tonk harmonica, and handclaps before the drums and bass kick in to propel the melody. A couple of the songs employ horns, which in combination with the accordion, add a Tex-Mex, conjunto feel to "LGO" and "I Ate the Haggis," which is without a doubt the finest song released this year about eating Scottish sheep entrails. The dish may not be your meat product of choice, but the song is quite tasty. In "Pushed Her Down," the accordion weaves the melody around some rhythmic acoustic guitar while the fellows harmonize on some high-lonesome vocals. It's either a really catchy song of contrition or crass sexual innuendo, but like most of the record, it sure sounds good.
BESSIE GRIFFIN & THE GOSPEL PEARLS
Live At "The Bear" In Chicago
THERE IS NOTHING as exhilarating or stimulating as live gospel music. The unbridled passion and sincerity, and the abandonment which signifies complete assimilation is unmistakable and undeniable. Case in point is this rare 1963 nightclub performance captured at The Bear in Chicago, featuring Bessie Griffin & The Gospel Pearls. This L.A. vocal sextet brought their ebullient religious music to a seedy bar-and-grill environment, and converted all those secular music lovers of blues, R&B and rock and roll into gospel disciples. From start to finish, these rediscovered recordings sparkle with energetic conviction and joyous exuberance. Sparsely accompanied by piano, drums, tambourine and handclaps, Griffin, with backing vocals from the Pearls, make a more passionate, harmonious overture than any performance by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Today's modern rock artists can't touch the vitality of these proceedings with a 10-foot pole. Included in this reissue are two unreleased performances from the same show, highlighted by a brief but powerful rendition of "When The Saints Go Marching In," and the pleading, heartfelt deliverance of "I Won't Be Trouble No More." Apologies to all those faux-angst shoe gazers out there: Do yourself a favor and listen to Griffin, whose unabashed emotion is an inspiration. Hallelujah.
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