CD Reviews

By Bliss Bowen 05/31/2012

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SONNY LANDRETH, Elemental Journey (Landfall): 3.5 Stars
The Louisiana slide wizard’s surprising 11th album expands his trademark rocking swamp-blues sound with invaluable support from longtime keyboardist Steve Conn and guest turns from fellow fret masters Joe Satriani and Eric Johnson. Beyond Satriani’s busy solos on opener “Gaia Tribe” and the bouncy pop of “Wonderide,” what most defines the all-instrumental project’s sonic differences are Landreth’s melodic compositions and cinematic strings from Acadiana Symphony Orchestra members. Highlights include the elegiac “Opening Sky” and the title track’s stormy mix of blues, zydeco, rock and flamenco guitar patterns.

ROYAL SOUTHERN BROTHERHOOD, Royal Southern Brotherhood (Ruf): 4 Stars
Comprised of Honeytribe frontman Devon Allman (son of Gregg), Neville Brothers percussionist Cyril Neville, Derek Trucks Band drummer Yonrico Scott, bassist Charlie Wooton and blues-rock singer-guitarist Mike Zito, this steeply pedigreed quintet throws down a soulful response to the query: Why haven’t the Neville and Allman Brothers collaborated before? Allman, Neville and Zito divvy up frontman duties, while Allman and Zito’s twin guitar leads naturally evoke memories of their forebears. Curiosity should attract considerable attention; the good news is, that attention’s rewarded. Highlights: “Left My Heart in Memphis,” “Moonlight Over the Mississippi” and the slide-drenched “Brotherhood.”

THE SPY FROM CAIRO, Arabadub (Wonderwheel): 4 Stars
A stalwart of New York’s downtown music community, Zeb — nee Moreno Visini, aka the Spy From Cairo — follows 2010’s “Secretly Famous” with another uplifting blend of dub and Middle Eastern rhythms. Saz, chifteli and especially the oud mesh almost organically with dub’s deep, pulsing bass. Thankfully, those bass lines are used to magnify the Arabic rhythms already driving insistent tracks like “Desert Tears” and “Haboob,” without distorting the stringed beauty of the oud, a revelatory instrument in Visini’s deft hands.

LYNN TAYLOR, Barfly (Good Dirt): 3 Stars
Taylor, formerly of Southern string band Felix Wiley, wields a lightly grained Everyman voice equally suited to rumbling rockers, like the X-ish “It’s Alright” and slide-driven “Beefboy Jack & Mississippi John,” and ballads like the prayerful “My Way Back Home.” Co-produced with drummer Paul Burch and recorded mostly live with Nashville buddies, including David Olney guitarist Sergio Webb and Jayhawks keyboardist Jen Gunderman, “Barfly’s” sonic immediacy benefits the songs, which sound as though they’re being performed at a house concert — an audience should appreciate this modestly ingratiating set.


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