Trax

Trax

07/17/2014

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REIGNING SOUND, Shattered   (Merge): (3.5 stars out of 5)

Frontman and prolific songwriter Greg Cartwright scales back the angsty rock guitar that defined previous recordings and continually cedes the spotlight to longtime bandmate Dave Amels’ organ. It’s a move that suits Cartwright’s bared-heart lyrics, if not his workmanlike vocals. Fans of classic Memphis soul may enjoy ’60s-’70s flashbacks stirred by the psychedelia-dusted “You Did Wrong” and the more rocking “My, My” and “Baby, It’s Too Late,” as well as more traditionally styled ballads “Starting New” and “In My Dreams.” mergerecords.com/reigning-sound


ANDY T & NICK NIXON BAND, Livin’ It Up  (DeltaGroove): (3 stars out of 5)

Reteaming with guitarist/producer Anson Funderburgh, who guided their 2013 debut “Drink Drank Drunk,” veteran bluesmen Nick Nixon and California-raised guitarist Andy Talamantez deliver an ear-pleasingly greasy set of grooving old-school blues. Tasty dollops of harmonica and horns salt tracks like “Best in Town” and “Back Down South,” but the unfussy arrangements focus on Nixon’s mellifluous vocals and Talamantez’s lean guitar solos. Recommended for James Harman fans. At Hermosa Saloon in Hermosa Beach Thursday, July 24. andytband.com


CHRIS SMITHER, Still on the Levee  (Signature Sounds): (4.5 stars out of 5)

Far more — and more illuminating — than a greatest-hits roundup, this handsomely packaged, double-disc retrospective captures the venerated blues-folk guitarist/singer-songwriter revisiting songs spanning his 50-year career, recording in his New Orleans hometown with longtime producer David Goodrich and guests including Allen Toussaint, Loudon Wainwright, “junk-folk” trio Rusty Belle and members of Morphine. Smither’s signature fingerpicking’s deft and evocative as ever, and his road-abused tenor’s gravitas mines deeper wisdom from old gems like “Seems So Real” (“Easy things are hard to learn”), “Hold On” (“My freedom will be measured/ By the length to which I’ll disobey”), a romping “Love You Like a Man,” “Slow Surprise” and “Small Revelations.” smither.com


KELLY WILLIS & BRUCE ROBISON, Our Year  (Thirty Tigers): (3.5 stars out of 5)

The celebrated Austin couple set the tone for their second duets album with an easy opening stroll through Robyn Ludwick’s “Departing Louisiana”; the vivid lyrics and sweet country melody offer a prime vehicle for Willis and Robison’s harmonious vocal chemistry. Surrounded by acoustic guitars, Dobro, fiddle, mandolin and pedal steel, they contribute some originals but mostly shuffle and waltz through country classics (“Harper Valley PTA”) and choice selections by friends (Walter Hyatt’s “Motor City Man,” T Bone Burnett’s “Shake Yourself Loose.” bruceandkellyshow.com


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