By Bliss Bowen 08/21/2014

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BENJAMIN BOOKER, Benjamin Booker (ATO): 3½ STARS

The New Orleans guitarist is generating uncommon heat with his opening sets for Jack White and this striking debut, made with Alabama Shakes producer Andrija Tokic. Kicking up dust at the intersection of garage rock, punk and roadhouse blues, Booker’s energy’s raw and unpredictable, shifting tempo mid-song (“Spoon Out My Eyeballs”), dissolving soulful organ lines in angry guitar crescendos (“Slow Coming”), capping a lazy groove (“By the Evening”) with raucous guitars. Highlights: “Violent Shiver,” “Happy Homes,” “I Thought I Heard You Screaming.” At the Echo in Echo Park tonight, Aug. 21, and FYF Fest Sunday.

JENN GRINELS, Live at the Rutledge (self-released): 3 STARS

Pristinely recorded at a popular Nashville club, this 15-song set’s jazzy snap and verve should attract fans of Melody Gardot and Lake Street Dive. Her gutsy interpretation of Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man” offers more vocal power than persuasion, but Grinels’ smooth, commanding phrasing and rhythmic finesse mark her as a singer worthy of note, particularly during songs like “Misery,” “Pegged or Played” and the moving “Right From the Start.” At Hotel Café in Hollywood Tuesday.

9BACH, Tincian (RealWorld): 4 STARS

Frontwoman Lisa Jen helpfully provides liner notes detailing stories behind the pop band’s Welsh-titled songs, which deal in universal themes such as childbirth, homesickness and loss of loved ones, related with much natural imagery and literate symbolism. Even without benefit of English-language notes, compelling tracks like “Plentyn” (inspired by Australia’s “stolen generation” of aboriginal children), “Llwybrau” and the retooled folk traditional “Pa Le?” affectingly convey melancholy and yearning through spacious, atmospheric arrangements of bass, guitar, harp, loops, piano, percussion and harmonies accenting Jen’s airy, evocative soprano.

ORENDA FINK, Blue Dream (Saddle Creek): 3½ STARS

On her latest solo release, Fink sounds chill and dreamy enough to make her work with pop duo Azure Ray seem downright confrontational. “Blue Dream” shares Azure Ray’s hushed singer-songwriter intensity dressed in electronic effects, but with more atmospheric echoes around Fink’s dispassionately delivered lyrics. Credit her melodic sense and harmony arrangements for any sweetness edging songs like “Holy Holy” and “Ace of Cups” (“Hope is a bitter hand at the bottom of the ocean/ And salvation is like speaking to a wall”).


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