3 March 2007
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o and the banjo, for instance. Some might think his delivery a bit
predictable, or find the arrangements lacking in musical variety. But I
think Morus has set out to accomplish something with mood and tone, and
in this he succeeds."
Martin Simpson delivers Kind Letters with love. "Simpson's unadorned,
unforced vocals are on fine form throughout, faultlessly following the
infectious rhythms he picks out with his outstanding guitar playing,"
Mike Wilson says. "Simpson is surely at the top of his game."
Songwriter Cheri Dale and singer Helene Attia have planted A Garden of
Songs for the Magical Child. "These are mostly songs to be shared
between parent and child, in those quiet times when the rest of the
world is far away," Laurie Thayer says. "Children should love this CD,
but even an adult might enjoy a visit to A Garden of Songs."
Jenn Lindsay is running Uphill Both Ways on this folk CD with a
conscience. "All too often singers like this are sidelined because the
powers that be are rarely comfortable with social comment expressed in
mass media," Nicky Rossiter says. "This album has a number of tracks
that need and deserve wider audiences."
Ember Swift is quite political on Disarming. "It doesn't come out in
every song, but it is a consistent part of the CD, and for some it may
well decide if they like her music," Paul de Bruijn says. "There is
passion in the music here, as Swift doesn't hold much back from what
she puts to song."
LeRoy Bell believes there are Two Sides to Every Story. "Bell has a
voice ideally suited to the flavor of bluesy pop he's delivered," Gregg
Thurlbeck says. "It has texture, passion and strength. It recalls Steve
Winwood at his best, or perhaps Seal. It resists being clearly labeled
as black or white and yet it doesn't merge into some sort of bland
Billy Stapleton's music is Slide Swiped with this triumphant return to
the blues, slide guitar style. "The veteran guitarist is happily
responsible for writing all but two tracks on the CD, and he is joined
by a talented cast of friends, each bringing his own skills to blend
with the maestro," Jenny Ivor says. "This is a triumph of an album,
proof that sequels need not be of lesser quality than introductions,
and a welcome return of stylish blues."
Keith Sykes has been at this for a while -- Let It Roll is his 10th
album. "At this stage of his career, Sykes' songwriting ambitions are
modest, and nothing here swings for the bleachers or shoots for the
stars. I like that," Jerome Clark says. "Though in the liner notes he
lists Bob Dylan among his influences, Dylan's influence is surely a
distant one. Straightforward and earthbound, Sykes' lyrics are
typically delivered with rueful grin or chuckle, observing ordinary
life in which nobody dies, gets killed, drowns in despair or misbehaves
Chris Jones "boasts a long, impressive history in bluegrass" despite
his youth, Jerome says. "Bluegrass influences -- not to mention
bluegrass artists such as Chris Hillman and Rhonda Vincent -- are in
ubiquitous evidence all over Too Far Down the Road. His first recording
for the Burbank-based roots label Little Dog Records, however, is no
straightforward bluegrass exercise, rather a creatively conceived take
on traditional country music."
Amir Beso blends flamenco, gypsy and Middle Eastern sounds with a
modern touch on Fatamorgana. "Beso is, in the best sense of the word, a
virtuoso," John R. Lindermuth says. "You don't even have to like the
kind of music on his album, Fatamorgana, to admit his virtuosity. It's
evident by the precise fingering and fretting that this is a skilled
Alberto Balia & Enrico Frongia share Sardinian music on Argia. "What
many people don't know is that Sardinia is a hotbed of languages --
four of them not including several dialects -- and authentic music,"
says David Cox. "This is a recording that, to be fair, does not sound
overly polished. Balia and Frongia's acoustic guitars when they stand
alone sound a bit raw. But the playing is first rate, as are the
Tudur Morgan has made a career of Welsh music, particularly of the
rarely sung language of Wales. In this interview, David Cox chats with
Tudur to tap into the pulse of the Wales songs.
Charlaine Harris launches a new series with Grave Sight, and reviewer
Tom Knapp thinks it's off to an excellent start. "Harris is a gifted
writer, plain and simple," Tom says. "Her Sookie Stackhouse vampire
novels have kept me well entertained, while my wife enjoys Harris's
more straightforward mysteries. Now, this talented imagination has
conjured up a new kind of heroine who straddles the line between
mystery and contemporary fantasy."
Kelley Armstrong introduces the Women of the Otherworld with Bitten, a
novel featuring the world's only female werewolf. "In a genre dominated
by vampires, Bitten ... is a refreshing change," Tom Knapp says. "One
might think Armstrong has spent some time in wolf packs, to be able to
weave together aspects of two disparate societies so well."
Jayel Gibson disappointed reviewer Chris McCallister with The
Wrekening. "The story is not what I hoped for," he says. "The Wrekening
is good if you want a fast-paced fantasy story that is light on
character development but heavy on action, monsters and battles -- and
if you can tolerate and enjoy repetitiveness."
Cindy Cruciger adds a couple of twists to romance with her Revenge
Gifts. "Daring to be different, Revenge Gifts doesn't fit your standard
stereotypical romance," Daniel Jolley says. "If you're looking for some
kind of sappy, melodramatic romance, you might want to pass this one
by. If you're up for some sexy fun, with a little weirdness on the
side, Revenge Gifts may just have exactly what you're looking for."
The Hulk fares badly at the hands of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale in Gray.
"Probably the biggest failing here is the art," Tom Knapp explains.
"Sale's distinctive style doesn't lend itself well to the Hulk, who is
supposed to be an awe-inspiring figure of strength and rage. Here, the
Hulk has beady little eyes, splayed toes and jagged teeth, all of which
makes him more comical in appearance than inspiring. If that's not
enough, he looks less muscular, more pudgy."
Who approved the cover art for Hellfire & Brimstone? Tom wonders. "The
Phoenix storyline is Jean Grey's big moment, but in the collected
editions of Ultimate X-Men, the emergence of this fiery familiar still
boasts Wolverine cover art. Don't the decision-makers at Marvel think
other characters will sell?"
The Hawks can't seem to get a break in the romance department, Tom
decides after reading the Hawkman collection Allies & Enemies. It's at
times like this you're almost glad to see a dead yeti come smashing
through the ceiling with a threat knifed into its chest," he says.
Tom doesn't feel like spending much energy on Zatanna's Search.
"Zatanna, the magic-wielding, backwards-speaking,
tophat-and-fishnets-wearing magician of the DC Universe, has developed
into a very cool, useful and sometimes complicated character," he says.
"But Zatanna didn't start off quite so cool or powerful. And Zatanna's
Search, which picks up various appearances by the character in
mainstream DC titles, is a weak collection at best."
Tom continues catching up on the Powers with volume three, Little
Deaths. "Another superhero is dead, and homicide detectives Christian
Walker and Deena Pilgrim aren't going to like where this investigation
leads," he says. However, alas, "although an entertaining chapter in
the ongoing Powers saga, Little Deaths is far weaker than the two
preceding trade collections."
Prose poet Thomas Wiloch is Screaming in Code. "In Wiloch's material,
all of the possible worlds come together and create a phantasmagoria
that is a fine place for an occasional visit but one which, in the end,
you are really glad you don't live in," says Michael Scott Cain. "In
fact, there's so much oddness and weirdness going on that you tend to
overlook the quiet skill and art the author uses to draw you into his
Berdj Kenadjian attempts to combine religion, economics and his own
life's story in From Darkness to Light. "There are probably books out
there that take religion into the marketplace and show how those
principles can change the way you do business. There may even be other
books that tell the authors journey to discovering that path," Paul de
Bruijn says. "If that is the type of book you are after, look
elsewhere. From Darkness to Light is a very frustrating read and I can
not recommend it on any point."
Arthur Birkby sets out to tell the story of his life through his early
years in Dig Up My Gold, But I Won't Say Where It's Buried. "One of the
main strengths of the book is his voice and how he describes the
incidents of his life," Paul says. "He is a raconteur and it does show
as the flow of the narrative carries you through the book."
Jen Kopf is off to see the sights in her RV. "You've been over this
road enough; you don't need a map," she says. "And yet, if the National
Lampoon flicks are your style, you need to take this road trip. ... Is
RV mindless? Sure. Are its characters one-dimensional? Pretty much. Is
its ending innovative? Not a bit. And yet, for a lightweight 99
minutes, it won't demand many of your brain cells and could deliver
Miles O'Dometer has a taste for a little Hard Candy. "From the second
you see its cubist credits appear, you know Hard Candy is not going to
be your usual Hollywood fare. In fact, it doesn't even feel like your
usual independent fare, assuming there is such a thing," he says.
"Instead, Hard Candy takes us in a direction few filmmakers have ever
chosen to go, and with good reason."
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