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GLEN CAMPBELL “MEET GLEN CAMPBELL”
(Capitol, $18.98) glencampbellshow.com

Really?! Does "meet" need to be the first word in the title of Glen Campbell's new album? It's hard to believe anyone doesn't know the "Wichita Lineman.” For his latest and 56th (!) recording, Campbell takes a page from Johnny Cash's "American Recordings"– maintaining relevancy by covering youngsters like Foo Fighter sand Green Day, along with some rather intriguing choices like The Replacements and Lou Reed. Lush. Studio orchestrations reminiscent of the 70's are present, and Campbell's voice is robust, clear and filled with heartfelt sincerity. He does U2 proud with a dead-on replica of "All I Want Is You" and rings with more enthusiasm on Travis' "Sing" than the originators ever did. The country-pop legend's talents are wasted when he magnifies the blandness that is Tom Petty on the Heartbreakers' tracks "Walls" and "Angel Dream" but excels on "Jesus" by The Velvet Underground and "These Days,” written by Jackson Browne and recorded first by Nico. These two laments fit the 72-year old Campbell to a tee as he pines for help from above on the former, and on the latter he reflectively sings, "These days I sit on corner stones/And count the time in quarter tones to ten.”

GIRLS LIKE US: CAROLE KING, JONI MITCHELL, CARLY SIMON – AND THE JOURNEY OF A GENERATION by SHEILA WELLER
(Atria Books, $27.95 hardcover/$11.56 paperback)

This great end-of-summer read takes a detailed and fascinating look at the trifecta of 70’s rock stardom – Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon. These women came of age when the fairer sex had little opportunity to be nothing more than housewives, which
makes their individual journeys nothing short of astounding. Canadian Joni Mitchell’s career was fueled by the desire to avoid the fate of her own grandmothers, a pair of frustrated musicians who bore more than a dozen children in total. The price Mitchell paid was a lifetime spent wrestling with the guilt of giving up her own child for adoption when she was 20 years old. In contrast, Brooklynite Carole King started her career as a pregnant teenaged wife churning out tunes in NYC’s famed Brill Building. She would have the biggest selling album of all-time and then make a complete 180 by moving to Idaho with a drug addled mountain man to pursue a life of extreme environmentalism. Wealthy Upper East-sider Carly Simon overcame childhood stuttering and sibling jealousies to top the charts with a sexual freedom never before seen by a woman. Girls Like Us is a must read for music fans and as well as those who love cultural history.

IDA "MY FAIR, MY DARK"
(Polyvinyl Records, $9.98) myspace.com/idamusic

Everyone's favorite minimalists are back with an EP of 7 delightfully intimate songs recorded during their last studio effort, "Lovers Prayers." These full-fledged gems, which might have been throwaways and mini-jams for most bands, prove that Ida consistently produces a brilliant level of musicianship even in their downtime. The opening title track is a gentle harmonic ode to love mapped out in poetic verse, while "Don't Wreck It" softly reminds a lover not to screw up. The handclap-driven "Road To Ruin" is sparsely arranged, while the robust sing-a-long of Dolly Parton's "The Pain of Loving You" is pure American songbook, furthering the homespun ambiance of tracks recorded in a barn in upstate New York. "Still Life" is a three-part harmonic convergence of Ida's Elizabeth Mitchell and Daniel Littleton as well as friend and musician Tara Jane ONeil. The lone live track, the previously recorded "Late Blues," was recorded during Ida's performance at The Midnight Ramble in Woodstock, N.Y., a.k.a., home and recording studio of The Band's Levon Helm. The legendary drummer opened his property to fellow musicians years ago, and audiences have been attending concerts from bands like Ida who can happily lull any music lover in to a music coma.

RON SEXSMITH "EXIT STRATEGY OF THE SOUL"
(Yep Roc Records) ronsexsmith.com

Known best for his sensitive, sorrowful melodies that could leave some suicidal, Ron Sexsmith's latest is far from bleak thanks to Cuban horn arrangements and bouts of jaunty piano playing. Fear not! The melancholy still lives, most obviously on the instrumental "Dawn Anna" and the track "Hard Time," which is classic, sad sack Sexsmith. Themes of heartbreak, world destruction and anticipation are woven throughout his most soulful release to date. The drunken sing-a-long "Brandy Alexander" was co-written with fellow Canadian Feist and first appeared on her 2007 album "The Reminder." The song came to
be when the two met up in a bar where Sexsmith was imbibing in the drink John Lennon and Harry Nilsson had one too many of during Lennon's "lost weekend" bender back in the 1970’s. This silliness lightens the emotional load Sexsmith has always carried. "Poor Helpless Dreams" is a soul-flecked tune where dreams, like children, are a responsibility one must never abandon, and "Brighter Still" has the cadence of a Van Morrison song with its folksy lyrics, "Like the morning sun rising o'er the hill/I know it could be brighter still.” Recorded in London, Havana, New York and Nashville, Sexsmith will charm the bitterest of souls and lift the most dispirited among us.



BON IVER “FOR EMMA, FOREVER AGO”
(Jagjaguwar Records, $14.98) boniver.org

Bon Iver (French for “good winter”) is Justin Vernon, a resident of Wisconsin and your basic one-man band. Armed with just a guitar, Vernon creates haunting atmosphere soundscapes that are riveting. The lead track “Flume” starts out as traditional pop folk, but with some knob-twiddling, descends in to the audio equivalent of being underwater. He gets heated in his delivery on “Skinny Lover” and channels Prince when he doubles his voice on “The Wolves (Act I and II)” which builds to a cacophony of bashing metal. Like an old blues man who wandered in to hipsterville, Bon Iver’s music is that rare combination of authenticity and experimentation.

RODNEY CROWELL “SEX & GASOLINE”
(Yep Roc Records, $15.98) rodneycrowell.com

Sounding a bit older and more road worn than his previous work, Nashville stalwart Rodney Crowell takes on contemporary subjects for his latest endeavor, the provocatively titled “Sex & Gasoline.” The 11 tracks are reminiscent of singer/songwriter Joe Henry, who happens to be the producer. Most songs like “The Night’s Just Right” and “Moving Work of Art“ are laid back, meandering in a more folksy way than the country style Crowell is best known for. The energy is turned up on the southern style “Funky and The Farm Boy” with a chorus of gospel backup singers but overall, “Sex & Gasoline” is a subdued effort Crowell’s diehard fans will appreciate.  

CONOR OBERST “CONOR OBERST”
(Merge, $15.98) conorobserts.com

For his first solo disc in 13 years, Oberst took to a temporary studio on the outskirts of Tepoztlan, a town in the Mexican state of Morelos, best known for Aztec magic and alien sightings. What this remote location added is a loose “let’s see what happens” vibe. Oberst’s effort is casual, playful and quite countrified, best heard on the barnburner “I Don’t Want To Die (In A Hospital)” with its desperate refrain of, “Help me get my boots on!/Help me get my boots on!” Oberst drops in some folk-inspired tracks like the calliope driven “Danny Callahan” and the sweet disc ender “Milk Thistle.”

JENNIFER O’CONNOR “HERE WITH ME”
(Matador, $9.99) myspace.com/jenniferoconnor

Following her stunning 2006 release “Over The Mountain,” a disc which revolved around the death of her sister and its emotional aftermath, Jennifer O’Connor returns with a second heartfelt collection focusing on her personal romances and relationships in all their good and bad glory. With lyrics that read more like journal entries and conversations, O’Connor gets confessional on “Days Become Months” and reminisces about high school love on “Valley Road 86.” O’Connor gets jangly on “Always In Your Mind” and “Daylight Out,” tracks that show off her deft touch for pop hooks and clear-cut desires.
www.Dishmag.com / Issue 87 - September 2018
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