Joshua Bell & Jeremy Denk (Sony)
Classical music fans will be delighted by this new Joshua Bell album that features three sonatas for violin and piano, all from French composers in Camille Saint-Saens, Cesar Frank and Maurice Ravel.
Jeremy Denk provides the piano for these bright and charming sonatas but moreover, Denk also provides lengthy liner notes for the three compositions that really enlighten the experience for people like me, for example, who have a relatively narrow range of classical music experience—when I want some French impressionism, I always turn to my favourite Claude Debussy.
These superb new sonata performances will readily help widen one’s scope.
The interplay here is sparkling and complementary while recorded with eloquence at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix AZ.
Denk’s notes really augment these pieces where he discusses shades of light, multiple paintings by Monet of the same hay stack and colour with insights that mere mortals can only guess at.
Joshua Bell is frothy and ebullient on these performances that will delight classical purists.
100 Proof (BNA)
Up and coming country star Kellie Pickler placed in the top 10 on American Idol a few years ago and she has turned this into a solid career that promises to blossom with this new third album.
Oddly, both of Pickler’s last albums hit No.1 on the country charts but did not enjoy very big hits. Her highest placing single was only at number 12 with Best Days Of Your Life that no doubt got a bigger boost of attention in that Pickler co-wrote the song with Taylor Swift.
This new album features the same producer, Frank Liddell, who made Miranda Lambert’s last album one of the best releases of last year and Liddell uses the same rootsy, neo-trad, stripped down style on this new album fittingly titled 100 Proof.
Pickler offers up some solid country rockers with Unlock The Honky Tonk, Stop Cheatin’ On Me and Where’s Tammy Wynette (the beleaguered ex-wife of George Jones whose signature song from 1968 was D.I.V.O.R.C.E.).
Pickler offers some lovely ballads here too, but gets a tad too cloying on the missive to a passed-on alcoholic father in The Letter (To Daddy), written from a little girl’s point of view.
But the rest of 100 Proof makes for a fine 35-minute package of roots-styled country where Pickler takes a hand in co-writing half the songs where the bulk of the tunes fare nicely.
Lamb Of God:
There are three levels of metal bands: Those that just play in their basements for friends and family (if they can stand it); metal bands that have cult followings (and there are hundreds of them) and the rare platinum-selling major metal stars.
The veteran American band Lamb Of God, based out of Richmond, Virginia, are of the third sort where their last album, Wrath, hit the top spot on the album charts here and rose to the number two position on the USA album charts.
And there has been no shortage of Lamb Of God material for fans in the last few months. Their label released a three-CD box set of rarities and material from indie releases titled The Hourglass anthology and this new studio album also comes as a two-disc Deluxe Edition with a live album of a dozen songs from their Wrath tour.
I have never claimed to be much of a fan of speed or death metal and at times the vocal FXs here are so over the top they sound cartoonish in their attempt to be so damned hellish. Titles such as Desolation, Ghost Walking, Cheated, Insurrection, To The End etc., along with hollered, screamed, bellowed lyrical snippets like “the walking dead” and “your life if passing by” pretty much tells Lamb Of God’s predilection for death metal. There are a few rare for the genre guitar solos, while there are bluesy acoustic guitar signatures at the start of a couple of songs before the insanely blistering speed metal kicks in.
Finally, the album starts and ends with gasps for air as I suppose LOG take their last gasp or simply run out of energy. I have been getting way too many advance notices from their label about the release of this new set so watch for a major promo boost that could make this disc also hit number one.