Trax

Trax 052914

By Bliss 05/29/2014

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LEE FIELDS, Emma Jean (Truth & Soul): Four out of five stars
The 63-year-old soul/funk veteran’s developed a smoother sound than primary influence James Brown, though he’s retained plenty of grit. And he’s in peak vocal form. His rendition of J.J. Cale’s pedal steel-graced “Magnolia” is a ruefully tempered blend of angst and longing, while his call-and-response exchanges with backup singers on “In the Woods” are echoed by the moody scrunch of electric guitars. Classic soul elements are present — horns, Hammond organ, raw confessions — but what might be retro stylizing with another artist feels like natural expression from Fields. Highlights: “Just Can’t Win,” “Standing By Your Side.” leefieldsandtheexpressions.com
 
 
 
PACIFIKA, Amor Planeta (Six Degrees): 3.5 out of five  stars
Catchy, rhythmic pop from the Vancouver trio of frontwoman Silvana Kane, bassist Toby Peter and guitarist Adam Popwitz plus trumpeter Malcolm Aiken. Dub, bossa nova, funk and rock all contribute to the smartly arranged, sunny sonic weave as Kane’s breathy soprano calmly celebrates romantic, platonic and cosmic “amor.” Highlights: “Sueños,” “Corre Ya,” “Yo Te Amo.” pacifikaonline.com
 
 
 
STURGILL SIMPSON, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (High Top/Thirty Tigers): Four out of five stars
If you’ve got a yen for trad-rooted country with a psychedelic bent, listen up. Sounding more than a little like outlaw hero Waylon Jennings, Simpson clearly absorbed Jennings’ lesson of making music that’s honest. The scrappy Kentuckian has a flair for choice turns of phrase (“A picture’s worth a thousand words but a word ain’t worth a dime”) and spinning road life as metaphor (“Living the Dream,” “Long White Line,” “Life of Sin”). The meat of this thoughtful album’s in the drugs- and “reptile aliens”-referencing “Turtles All the Way Down” and “It Ain’t All Flowers,” which raise stickier metaphysical questions. sturgillsimpson.com
 
 
 
NINA GERBER & CHRIS WEBSTER, Apple Blossom Lane (Tootsie Roll Records):  Four out of five stars
Amongst acoustic guitarists, Gerber is held in near universal high regard, not least for how she distills strength from subtlety. Her melodic fretwork warmly complements and never overwhelms Webster’s expressive alto in a nicely varied set of vintage pop, folk and soul covers lit up by intimate readings of Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting Here in Limbo” and Kate Wolf’s “Lay Me Down Easy.” At Coffee Gallery Backstage Sunday. ninagerber.com, chriswebstermusic.com

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