Ken Richardson

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Ken Richardson Posted: Aug 20, 2013 0 comments

John Mayer: Paradise Valley

New release (Columbia; tour dates)
Photo by Sam Jones

John Mayer takes another journey into the Americana he explored on last year’s Born and Raised. No wonder. Paradise Valley is named for an area not far from his home in Montana, a refuge that obviously gives him great peace, inspiring him to create music that’s closer to the land. And in further evidence that Mayer has turned a new leaf after the hiatus that was necessitated by his throat surgery and his sometimes out-of-control verbal and physical behavior, this new album is all about understatement.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Aug 13, 2013 0 comments
Also: Glen Campbell, Chastity Belt, Mickey Hart Band, Béla Fleck, Nirvana vinyl, and more.
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Ken Richardson Posted: Aug 13, 2013 0 comments

Sam Phillips: Push Any Button

New release (Littlebox)

You make modern accommodations from audience reaction
Stereo realist
Disconnected exposure meter

Start counting everybody
It's gonna blow
Pretty Time Bomb
You're a mirror of your times

Not the average opening lyrics of your average chanteuse. But then, Sam Phillips has never been anyone's average singer/songwriter, as she herself acknowledges: "I never could go with the crowd / Even though they seemed to know where they were going."

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Ken Richardson Posted: Aug 06, 2013 0 comments

The Civil Wars: The Civil Wars

New release (Sensibility/Columbia)
Photo by Allister Ann

From great suffering comes great art. So they say.

Need more proof? Just spin the self-titled set from the Civil Wars. It’s the follow-up to their acclaimed 2011 debut, Barton Hollow. There will be no follow-up to this album, however. As The New York Times has reported, Joy Williams and John Paul White aren’t talking to each other.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jul 30, 2013 0 comments

Harry Nilsson: The RCA Albums Collection

Archival release (RCA/Legacy)

This week, it’s archival stuff first, folks, prompted by the appearance of this 17-CD set. It has always fascinated me, in a “Yesterday” vs. “Helter Skelter” kind of way, that Harry Nilsson was an artist who could create both the sweet 2-minute tune “Me and My Arrow” and the yowling 7-minute rocker “Jump into the Fire.” But that was indeed Harry, and the full range of his compositional (and interpretive) craft and art can be heard here.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jul 23, 2013 0 comments

Van Dyke Parks: Songs Cycled

New release (Bella Union)
Photo by Roman Cho

This is the first new album credited to Van Dyke Parks alone since 1989’s Tokyo Rose, but the dozen tracks are actually the A- and B-sides of six singles he released on his own label, Bananastan, in 2011 and ’12. Furthermore, whereas four of the A-sides are indeed new-since-1989 original songs (and another track is a co-write), five selections are arrangements of traditional, folk, or classical material, and the remaining two are re-recordings of earlier Parks compositions.

On paper, then, Songs Cycled is a hodgepodge. But when did we ever listen to Van Dyke Parks on paper? Fact is, the 12 numbers miraculously form a coherent whole — an album that, true to its creator’s longtime ambition, celebrates the glorious sound of music.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jul 16, 2013 0 comments

Court Yard Hounds: Amelita

New release (Columbia; tour dates)
Photo by James Minchin

It’s instructive to remember that Emily Robison and Martie Maguire helped co-found the Dixie Chicks in 1989, a full 6 years before Natalie Maines was invited to join. Oh, and of course, Emily and Martie are sisters. Clearly, they have a bond that won’t break, and they use it to their musical advantage on Amelita, the engaging follow-up to their 2000 self-titled debut as Court Yard Hounds.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jul 09, 2013 0 comments

Robert Pollard: Honey Locust Honky Tonk

New release (GBV Inc.; tour dates for Guided by Voices)
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

When you’re the prolific Robert Pollard and you tend to release dozens of songs each year on multiple albums, one thing is certain (despite what the ultra-faithful think): Not every song on every album is going to be a gem. This is particularly true when you’re being especially prolific — as in the past 18 months, when Pollard has released four albums and one EP with his reunited main band, Guided by Voices, and now three solo albums, for a total of 130 songs, 97 of which he wrote alone and another 13 of which he co-wrote.

That said, more things are certain: The gems are far more prevalent, and typically they’re truly sparkling.

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jul 02, 2013 0 comments

In the days around the Fourth of July, the people who run record companies take a lot of time off. They assume you’re more interested in having picnics and watching fireworks than in buying music. Accordingly, this is a customarily light week on the album-release schedule.

Of course, you could always celebrate the holiday by cueing up some “American” albums that have already been released this year, such as Patty Griffin’s American Kid, the Putumayo label’s American Playground, and Willie Nile’s American Ride. Then there’s Wings over America. And don’t forget that bree is an All American Girl.

Yolanda Kondonassis is another American girl (born in Norman, Oklahoma), and if you’d like to hear some American music, you could (with a nod to Tom Petty) listen to her harp:

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Ken Richardson Posted: Jun 25, 2013 0 comments

Willie Nile: American Ride

New release (River House/Loud & Proud/RED; tour dates)
Photo by Cristina Arrigoni

Willie Nile’s latest album may be called American Ride, but he’s been taking us on that journey for more than 30 years now. And although his recording career has had its fits and starts, he’s been on a consistent roll since releasing Streets of New York in 2006. Much of his recent work, starting with the Streets predecessor Beautiful Wreck of the World in 1999, has been earnest and, at times, intense. Now comes Ride, and it’s almost as if Nile is thinking, after all of that admirably hard work, it’s high time to relax, roll down the window, and shoot the breeze behind the wheel.

That said, Nile is an artist who can make shooting the breeze sound like risking it all.

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