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PATTY GRIFFIN “DOWNTOWN CHURCH” (Credential Recordings, $17.98)

Patty Griffin 

With a moving voice that soars to the heavens, it’s no surprise Patty Griffin has released a full-fledged gospel album. Her songs have often been steeped in biblical imagery; most notable, the luminous “Mary” from her 1998 album “Flaming Red”. Recorded in the Downtown Presbyterian Church on 5th St. in Nashville, this album finds Griffin singing of both heaven’s glory and life’s constant sorrow. From traditional hymns like the stoic “All Creatures of our God and King” to the rapturous southern spirituals, “Move Up” and “Wade In The Water”. The ominous “Death’s Got A Warrant” features Griffin and a gospel choir singing acappella with only the clanging sound of chains keeping a steady beat. Singing in Spanish, she duets with Raul Malo, former lead singer of The Mavericks, on “Virgen De Guadalupe” and she keeps the guests coming. EmmyLou Harris makes an appearance on the Griffin-penned “Little Fire” while Buddy and Julie Miller join in on two of the most tender cuts, “Never Grow Old” and “Coming Home To Me”. Rummaging through hundreds of songs to come up with the 14 on “Downtown Church”, Griffin created a tailor made collection rich with history and beauty that only an angelic voice like hers deserves.


THE LOW ANTHEM “OH MY GOD, CHARLIE DARWIN” (Nonesuch Records, $15.98)

The Low Anthem

Sublime, haunting and shimmering are just a few of the words best used to describe the falsetto vocals of Ben Knox Miller and the brilliant sounds from the trio, The Low Anthem. Steeped in traditional American folk music, Miller, along with multi-instrumentalists Jocie Adams and Jeff Prystowsky, picked up the mantle from the musicians of the late 60s, Newport Folk Scene and has delivered a refreshed Americana for the 21st century. The opener, “To Ohio”, features the most beautifully simple harmonies while the wind-up, jingling notes on “Music Box” highlight the brilliance in the simplest of sounds. “OMGCD” even offers a good ol’ fashioned sing-a-long, but if you think The Low Anthem are just sensitive singer-songwriters, think again. Never ones to be precious, The Low Anthem clash and clang their way through a couple of thunderous tracks including the Tom Waits/Jack Kerouac-written, “Home I’ll Never Be”. “Champion Angel” elevates The Low Anthem’s rock sound to stadium heights and even Adams notches up their pedigree thanks to a background in physics and engineering and work as a technician at NASA. Sighting the writing of Ayn Rand, Charles Darwin and Walt Whitman, The Low Anthem encapsulate long-held American themes of restlessness and searching for home brilliantly.



DAvid Rawlings

Better known as the other half of Gillian Welch’s two-decade musical output, producer/guitarist David Rawlings finally releases his debut; an unhurried, southern front porch collection of nine lovely, well crafted tunes. If you’ve ever seen Rawlings perform live with Welch, you’ve been witness to a remarkably talented and hard working guitarist who creates an intricately atmospheric wall of sound, while never once stepping center stage to show off. The lead track, “Ruby”, sets the pace for an easy upbeat ride, featuring Ms. Welch’s exquisite harmonies. She accompanies Rawlings throughout the disc, on vocals and as a co-writer on several cuts, providing listeners with what feels like a long, lingering walk with the couple. Ever the producer, Rawlings cleverly combines Conor Oberst’s “Method Acting” and Neil Young’s “Cortez The Killer” in to one seamless beauty. The track “Sweet Tooth” is a delightful throwback thanks to sugar word play and repeating sing-a-long refrains. Rawlings takes on “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)”, a song he co-wrote with Ryan Adams, featured on Adams’ debut “Heartbreaker”. The closer, “Bells of Harlem”, with it’s shuffling beat and beautiful sweeping strings, is the perfect ending for an effort that should’ve come sooner.



Sweel Season

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova return after their triumphant 2007 Oscar win for best song in “Once”, a film in which they also starred as two musicians in search of making their way in the world. “Strict Joy” finds the two enlisting a substantial number of musicians to create a recording and touring band including several from Hansard’s group The Frames and Levon Helm’s horn section. The first single “Low Rising” is a soulful ballad reminiscent of The Frames signature sound, with Hansard’s affection for Motown shining through. Irglova’s leads on “Fantasy Man” and “I Have Loved You Wrong” convey a haunting sweetness that is as lovely as it is poetic. Hansard plays down his roar of a voice in backing Irglova but breaks wide open on tracks like “Feeling The Pull” and “The Rain”. Appearing later is the sleeper “Love That Conquers”, a mod-styled creeping rocker that nicely changes the course of what has become Hansard and Irglova’s signature quiet-to-tumultuous vocals. The duo became a real-life couple after “Once” completed but soon split so listeners can only speculate about the love-lost centered, brooding lyrics. Thankfully any hard feelings from the split morphed in to a strong, wondrous record. 




Mose Allison 

Blues/Jazz singer and pianist Mose Allison is still at it at the age of 82. And it’s no surprise thanks to the widespread influence he’s had, especially in the world of rock. From The Who’s take on Allison’s “Young Man’s Blues” on 1970’s “Live At Leeds” album to The Clash’s cover of “Look Here” on 1980’s “Sandanista!”, no musician would dream of hanging it up with support like that. Produced by singer-songwriter Joe Henry, “The Way Of The World” features Allison playing and singing lightly and carefree. His musician daughter Amy joins him for their first ever duet on “This New Situation”.


ALLISON MOORER “CROWS” (Rykodisc, $16.98)  

Allison Moorer 

Singer-songwriter Allison Moorer has ventured to a more sophisticated and serious world on her latest effort “Crows”, marking a step from the simple, folk-driven songs of her previous work. Named after the flock of birds that often fly ominously over her home in Woodstock, NY, this disc features 13 tracks with Moorer offering poetry (“Abalone Sky”), lost love (“Should I Be Concerned” and “When You Wake Up Feeling Bad”) and the warmth of childhood (“Easy In The Summertime”). Married to fellow singer-songwriter Steve Earle and with a baby on the way in March 2010, Moorer’s artistic confidence weaves throughout her latest effort.


SPOON “TRANSFERENCE” (Merge Records, $15.98) 


For the past decade, Austin-based Spoon has had a slow, sometimes enviable, sometimes frustrating rise to critical acclaim. Their latest effort, “Transference” is their first without an outside producer and delivers their unique, indie pop-signature sound, best exemplified in the delightful “Trouble Comes Running”. “Goodnight Laura” is a lovely piano-driven ode while “Got Nuffin” is a sly, paranoid-driven rocker. The syncopated “Is Love Forever?” and “Nobody Gets Me But You” sound like throwbacks to the 80s synth era, making this collection of radical pop gems further proof of the quartet’s current world music dominance.



Tom Waits 

Recorded in 2008 on his European and U.S. tour, “Glitter and Doom Live” is a double CD set, the first features of 17 classic Waits songs and the second, called “Tom Tales”, is 40 minutes of Waits waxing eloquently to the crowd, as he traditionally does at the piano, on everything from vultures to working the graveyard shift to his own intestinal encounter with 3 toads. True story! Waits trademark gravely vocals and carnival music arrangements make for suspenseful, entertaining listening. Ever the showman, he croons of traveling the world (“Singapore”), death (“Dirt In The Ground”) and songs revolving around a cast of world-weary characters (“Metropolitan Glide”). / Issue 105 - September 7839
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