This Week in Music, August 6, 2013: The last days of the Civil Wars Page 2

Tunstall Empire

KT Tunstall: Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon

New release (Blue Note; tour dates)

Singer/songwriter KT Tunstall has often come across like a musician in search of her music, so it’s heartening that her new label is touting her fourth studio album as “a return to the delicate simplicity” of Tunstall’s early work. The split title refers to the fact that the album was recorded in two separate sessions in the spring and winter of 2012. Each six-song mini-album begins with its own title track, as it were, and both sets were overseen by Giant Sand’s Howe Gelb.

Whereas the Invisible Empire half draws primarily from the country-folk environs of Gelb’s recording location in Tucson, the Crescent Moon half digs deeper and goes further afield. That said, the late-night blues of Empire’s “How You Kill Me” and the unplugged shuffle of Moon’s “Honeydew” could easily be swapped between the halves. Which is to say: Despite its two-part genesis, the entire album holds together remarkably well.

Throughout, there’s that delicate simplicity. You can hear it in the sweet melody of “Invisible Empire,” the breezy whistle on “Made of Glass,” the elemental electric-guitar riff that mirrors the tune of “Feel It All” (and its bonus-track radio edit), and the subtle drum pattern that guides “Chimes” — as well as the mellifluous piano that bridges the halves from “Yellow Flower” to “Crescent Moon.” Tunstall saves the biggest template for the climax, “No Better Shoulder,” which begins as a hushed strummer before rocking us wide-eyed and open-earned into the great expanse of an Arizona desert.

Blue Note is also touting Tunstall’s new album as “an evolution of her sound.” I would translate that as a rededication to singing and songwriting.

Underthinkers Everywhere final

Other new releases

Paul Allen and the Underthinkers: Everywhere at Once (Legacy; photo by Alex Berliner)
The Underthinkers include guitarist John Bohlinger and vocalist Tim Pike, supplemented by session keyboardist Matt Rollings, bassist Tommy Sims, and drummers Gary Novak and Matt Chamberlain. Among the guests are lead singers Ann Wilson and Chrissie Hynde, players Derek Trucks and David Hidalgo, and singer/players Doyle Bramhall II (who co-produces with Justin Stanley), Ivan Neville, and the guy on the right in the photo above, Joe Walsh. And the guy on the left? Yes, it’s that Paul Allen, the one who cofounded Microsoft with Bill Gates. Allen has also been “a rock songwriter and guitarist since his teens,” it says here. Concerning his songwriting on Everywhere at Once (he penned “Inside Out” alone and co-wrote the remaining 12 tracks primarily with his bandmates/producers): Most of the music is serviceable blues-rock, with cameos from country (“Rodeo”) and gospel (“Healing Hands”), and the lyrics are basic (quoting “Inside Out”: “You got to show me if you wanna know me / You got to tease me if you really wanna please me”). Concerning Allen’s guitar playing (when he does it, as he’s actually present on only five of the tracks): His rhythm work and fills are decent enough, and his solos on “Down Low” and “Big Blue Raindrops” are admirably wiry. Buyers who take the leap can be content to know that proceeds will go to fund educational programs at the nonprofit, Allen-founded EMP Museum in Seattle.

Explosions in the Sky & David Wingo: Prince Avalanche — A Motion Picture Soundtrack
(Temporary Residence)
Opening this Friday, Prince Avalanche reportedly has director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Your Highness, The Sitter) revisiting his indie roots in an adaptation of an Icelandic movie. (Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch star as road workers spending a summer painting traffic lines on a country highway.) For the soundtrack, post-rock band Explosions in the Sky (whose music has been heard on Friday Night Lights and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) teamed up with film composer David Wingo (Mud, Take Shelter).

Walking Papers: Walking Papers (Loud & Proud)
The lineup: bassist Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver), drummer Barrett Martin (Screaming Trees, Mad Season), guitarist/vocalist Jeff Angell (The Missionary Position), and keyboardist Benjamin Anderson (ditto). Guest guitarist on two songs: Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready.

The Icarus Line: Slave Vows (Agitated)
“Rock & roll has been turned into this, like, Mötley Crüe charade, a parade of f---ing d--ks,” quipped Joe Cardamone, the frontman of this post-hardcore band, in an interview for The Quietus. “It’s crazy how everything I love has been driven back into the underground. That’s where we came from, and that’s where we’ve ended up, and anything else good is back down there, too.”

The Polyphonic Spree: Yes, It’s True (Good/Kirtland)
First studio album of original material in six years.

Rusty Truck: Kicker Town (Crosseyed)
Second album by the country band led by rock (and everything else) photographer Mark Seliger, who writes and sings the material.

Sarah Lee Guthrie & Johnny Irion: Wassaic Way (Rte. 8)
Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy and Patrick Sansone, this is the third studio set by Guthrie and Irion, who are partners in both music and marriage. For those not in the know: Her grandfather is Woody Guthrie, and his grand-uncle is John Steinbeck.

Frances England: Blink of an Eye (francesengland.com)
Produced by Dean Jones, this is “very different” from her three previous children’s albums, says England in a press release. “My boys are growing up, and more and more, they are listening to their own music and deciding for themselves who they like. Bruno Mars, Adam Levine, and Taylor Swift are suddenly played alongside Lunch Money, Caspar Babypants, and Justin Roberts. Blink of an Eye is geared for a slightly older audience than my previous albums and has a quiet pop sensibility about it that I hope both kids and parents will like.”

Chick Corea: The Vigil (Concord Jazz)
The name of the album is also the name of Corea’s new band, “an ever-evolving collective” that here includes saxophonist/clarinetist/flutist Tim Garland, guitarist Charles Altura, bassist Hadrien Feraud, drummer Marcus Gilmore, percussionist Pernell Saturnino, and the leader’s wife, vocalist Gayle Moran Corea. With appearances by bassist Stanley Clarke and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane.

Christian McBride Trio: Out Here (Mack Avenue)
Hot on the heels of May’s People Music, an album by his quintet Inside Straight, comes the debut recording of the bassist’s trio with pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr.

Hugh Laurie: Didn’t It Rain (Warner Bros.)
A short two years after Let Them Talk, Laurie’s homage to New Orleans blues, comes another Joe Henry-produced set. This time, says the former House actor in a press release, “I have resolved to forge on deeper into the forest of American music that has enchanted me since I was a small boy. And the further I go, the more bewitched I become — both by the songs and by the people I have been lucky enough to play them with.” The songs include W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” and Jelly Roll Morton’s “I Hate a Man Like You.” The people include players Greg Leisz, Robby Marshall, Larry Goldings, and the Copper Bottom Band, as well as singers Gaby Moreno, Jean McClain, and Taj Mahal.

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