“If the Roses Don’t Kill Us”
Christopher Denny has a high, keening voice that floats around somewhere between Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Billie Holiday.
His sound also comes from some middle place, that lonesome gap between alt-country twang and Memphis gospel and soul.
Denny got all kinds of critical love for his 2007 record “Age Old Hunger” and started showing up at all the music festivals. Then he got lost in the woods, addicted to drugs and booze, and this is his first album of new material since then.
Those struggles are all over this album, along with hints of hope and redemption. (He and his wife got clean at the same time).
There’s a little Southern church organ drifting through a “Million Little Thoughts,” a song of an abused woman retreating into herself.
“She hates to be broken by your tongue,” Denny sings in his best Roy Orbison vibrato.
That’s about as gloomy as it gets, and not for long. “Watch Me Shine” has a sunny, shuffling Creedence-meets-Springsteen vibe.
“I’m gonna come into your room and darlin’ throw back the blinds and watch you shine,” he warbles.
His “Happy Sad” song is a happy sing-along, and “Our Kind of Love” bounces along with bottom-heavy Memphis horns and upright piano.
Mud Morganfield and Kim Wilson
(A Tribute to Muddy Waters)
He looks like his dad, and he sounds like his dad. But, Mud Morganfield doesn’t play harmonica like any of his father’s famous sidemen (Little Walter, Junior Walter, James Cotton).
Kim Wilson does. And here they are together, logically and finally, for the first time.
Wilson, of course, is a founding member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. And, Morganfield has made some albums good enough to stand on their own blues cred rather than his famous lineage.
Together they run through Muddy’s catalog, in some cases digging fairly deep. As fresh as the recording sounds, the songs don’t get reworked much. Maybe that’s a good thing. The original arrangements were as good as it gets.
“Gone to Main Street” is here, along with “I Want to Be Loved” and “She Moves Me.” There’s also a nice run through “My Dog Can’t Bark” and “Nineteen Years Old.” And, everything gets a lift from a crack Chicago blues back-up band that includes Billy and Rusty Zinn and Barrelhouse Chuck.
The Gaslight Anthem
The Gaslight Anthem have deserved their comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, and not in a bad way. They have rocked the Jersey boogie so convincingly, Springsteen has had them open for him and jammed with them on stage.
But, they knew they couldn’t dine out on that sound forever.
On “Get Hurt,” the band’s fifth album, they mix it up a little without walking away from the big, histrionic songs that makes the boys so much fun.
“So what you wanna say is/ My head is a hurricane,” wails lead singer Brian Fallon in the grungy “Rollin’ and Tumblin’.”
And, that’s the album’s only real shortcoming. It seems like a sampler from the last three decades of rock and roll, from arena-rock Who and Zep, to Seattle grunge, punk, metal, power pop and orchestral psychedelia.
“Stay Vicious” is a big, driving rocker that opens with heavy, fuzzed-out Black Sabbath guitars before shifting into Kings of Leon vocal choruses. “Stray Paper” is pure Thin Lizzy. And “Ain’t That a Shame” borrows from Southern fried bands like Molly Hatchet.
It would all seem a little jokey if the boys weren’t so earnest and so darn good at it.