Mitchell: Country girls bring it like few other acts right now

It has been a busy year for Miranda Lambert. A warmly praised alt-country album as part of The Pistol Annies, her fourth studio album.

Miranda Lambert:

Four The Record (RCA)

It has been a busy year for Miranda Lambert.  A few months ago she released a warmly praised alt-country album as part of a trio The Pistol Annies, including Ashley Monroe and Angaleeena Presley, where Lambert wrote the lion’s share of the music.

Now Lambert has released her fourth studio album and, to my ears, it is one of the best country albums of the year.

Like The Pistol Annies, I would label several songs on Four The Record as alt-country even though Lambert has enjoyed a couple of hits off this solid new album with the Sheryl Crow-styled country rocker Baggage Claim and the more mellow ballad Heart Like Mine.

This new disc managed to top out the country charts and hit near the top of the mainstream charts but it did not stay for long so I wonder if the split buying attraction between the Pistol Annies and Lambert’s new studio release caused the short-lived chart stay.

Moreover, alt-country has never been huge selling versus hot new country as Lambert delivers some very unique and interesting tunes here with the all out rocker Fastest Girl In Town that sounds like Lambert fronting Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers while stealing a few riffs from cult faves The Flamin’ Groovies (specifically their gem Slow Death).

On other tracks, such as the opener All Kinds Of Kinds and Nobody’s Fool, Lambert sounds very roots-oriented while she unexpectedly experiments with some theatrical Kurt Weill influence on Easy Living.

I cannot say very often that I have enjoyed a country album all the way through but I did like every tune on this interesting, articulate and enthralling release. And I have the Deluxe Edition with 15 tunes and they are all uniformly stellar.

B+

 

Dixie Chicks:

Storytellers (Columbia)

 

This Storytellers DVD from The Dixie Chicks must certainly be the last instalment that evolved from the trials and tribulations they suffered after criticizing Pres W. Bush at that infamous U.K. concert earlier this decade.

Their Grammy Award winning response album Taking The Long Way included the bitter and pointed song Not Ready To Make Nice, after red state country radio stations decided to boycott the band and the members of the Dixie Chicks along with their families got death threats.

Something about W. Bush saying that if you do not support him, then you are supporting terrorists?

But the Chicks are so good as musicians and songwriters that this VH1 Storytellers DVD is well worth a view as it contains a few more songs that were not on the original TV broadcast that was timed out after an hour.

This disc clocks in at nearly 80 minutes and shows only 11 tunes but the key to this disc is in the title Storytellers where the ever gracious, articulate and witty Dixie Chicks engage their legion of fans with great songs as well as thought provoking narratives and insights.

B

 

Jonsi: We Bought

A Zoo, Soundtrack (Columbia)

 

This film won’t be released to the silver screen until a couple of days before Christmas.  With the family friendly story based on Benjamin Mee’s true life book and the all star cast including Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Thomas Hayden Church and Elle Fanning, the film promises to lift up the sorely sagging box office revenues of this season, the worst in several years.

The film was directed by one-time rock critic Cameron Crowe (Vanilla Sky, Almost Famous, Jerry McGuire, Singles etc.) and consequently music plays a huge role in the film. Crowe had the cast and crew listening to Jonsi and his band of many years Sigur Ros from Iceland throughout the making of this film to try and set the mood, ambience and atmosphere.

This 15-tune soundtrack features several ‘theme’ instrumentals that are nearly minimalist, while Jonsi offers a few more conventional but still artsy-crafty songs such as the orchestral pop of Boy Likikoi and the heavy drum beats of Go Do.

Old Sigur Ros fans will note the inclusion of their best known song here with Hoppipolla while the majority of tunes here reflect a ghostly, ambient sound.

Even though this is a family film, I am certain that young children won’t find much to like here with the plethora of near tone poems that makes for nice wallpaper music.

C+

 

Deep Purple: Live In Montreux 2011

(Eagle Records)

 

Although Deep Purple have been around for parts of six decades with many personnel changes and new musical directions the one consistent with the group is live albums.

This new two-CD set is yet another but it is particularly strong as it is loaded with hits such as Space Trucking, My Woman From Tokyo, Highway Star, Strange Kind Of Woman, Hush, Black Night and finally, their signature song, Smoke On The Water.

It is noteworthy that this new live set was recorded last summer in Montreux on the shores of Lake Vienna and it was here that they witnessed the fire that some crazed Frank Zappa fans set off during his late ’60s concert that Deep Purple chronicled with their hit Smoke On The Water where they even name check Montreux.

Some of these tunes are augmented with a large orchestra but it is the guitar solos that usually earmark Deep Purple gigs and they do not disappoint here although some of the soloing gets a tad tedious at times. These guys are becoming geezers in their senior citizen years but there is still some fire in the belly where dedicated fans will enjoy this live two-disc set.

C+

 

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