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October 05

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Sheryl Crow
Interscope Records

Long-time Sheryl Crow fans brace yourselves: The upbeat songs typical of her other CDs aren’t on Crow’s latest release. And you won’t mind — Crow first-timers, welcome to the fold.

It’s evident even from the ethereal cover art that Wildflower offers a softer, more personal side of the artist. Introspective lyrics seem to reveal intimate secrets. Could the title track have anything to do with Crow’s upcoming marriage (reportedly scheduled for spring 2006) to cyclist Lance Armstrong? Here’s a hint: Every time you go, it hurts me so. I don’t know why when I know we’re free.

The entirety of this album is more than a love song, though. It’s a representation of 43-year-old Crow’s maturity. Backed largely by string arrangements rather than rocking guitar riffs, Crow’s melodic voice reservedly delivers lyrics that are more about substance than smash hit. Crow admits that she didn’t intend to create singles on this album. And most likely, no song in the mix will end up in the Top 40.

The CD does suffer a bit from sameness, as in the sounds of every song somewhat resemble the next. “Live it Up” distinguishes itself with its quick-tempo beat that is most reminiscent of songs from Crow’s former music life. The mysterious chords of “Chances Are” offer a taste of the new, and the opening line, I was lost inside a daydream, coincides well. Aside from these two songs, it might be difficult to pin down the tune without looking at the song number on your CD player.

Not to worry, though. This album satisfies with its searching sounds. But don’t play it if you’re looking to pep yourself up for a night on the town. Instead, turn to it when you want to do some heavy thinking. www.interscope.comKerry Hillard (posted 10/14/05)

Grayson Capps
If You Knew My Mind
Hyena Records

Most singer/ songwriters that are described as “Artists” by their label evoke an instant gag reflex from critics who are often already deluged with the tepid, muddy floodwaters of crappy folk music.

Sometimes though, a CD from that leaning pile of…stuff gets thrown in the tray, and before you know it you’re not doing your laundry or playing video games while half an ear does it’s best to pay attention.

Instead, you stop and listen because the music makes you listen.

New Orleans native Grayson Capps does just that, and more on his newest CD If You Knew My Mind. This is pure blue-collar backroom blues and folk, spiced with that unique Louisiana sound that combines modern lyrics with traditional melodies, and boy is it tasty.

Tracks like “Graveyard” and “How’s I To Know?” speak about heartbreak and loneliness without the mawkish maudlin self-sorrow of most songwriters, and Capp’s guitar playing is simply perfect, moving from a whisper to a defiant, quiet roar like a living thing.

Comparisons have been made to other musicians like Tom Waits, but that’s really cheating the creative skill shown here.

Even the lyrics hit the note, painting images with words that any 40-hour-a-week schlep who’s just fightin’ to pays the bills instantly knows with a shake of the head and a tight-mouthed smile. Take this line from the first track “Get Back Up”: Here comes the power man with the water man by his side/Looks like the telephone man gave them a ride/ they killed my house and left me this way/I bought a kerosene lantern and baby you know I don’t bathe /cause they try to drag me down but I get back up again.

Grayson has a rather eclectic resume in addition to his considerable musical talents, including an appearance in the 1997 Shainee Gabel documentary Anthem, which eventually led to his father’s unpublished novel being turned into the motion picture A Love Song For Bobby Long. Grayson had a cameo and wrote four songs for the soundtrack.

Levees break, homes are washed away in the darkness, echoing with silent, unanswered cries from within that can weigh so heavy it seems like an entire city might break…but if Mr. Capps is any example of the people of New Orleans, they will sing again, and rest assured: they will get back up, baby, oh yeah…

They will get back up. www.hyenarecords.com —Brandon Whitehead (posted 10/14/05)

The Frank & Joe Show
66 2/3
Hyena Records

Some music is an acquired taste. And some tastes in music are easily acquired. The Frank & Joe Show make the embrace of jazz a little easier, particularly with the profile — a sextet — on the their latest release 66 2/3. The new CD’s title plays on 33 1/3, guitarist Frank Vignola and percussionist Joe Ascione’s previous recording.

But 66 2/3 goes beyond the “gypsy swing and guitar jazz” of the 33 1/3. Sure the Django Reinhardt homage remains along with the Latin rhythms, but Vignola and Ascione seem to be pushing themselves away from a confining artistic label that may have left their considerable talents unfulfilled.

From the opening cut “It Might As Well Be Spring” to the last, “Glow Worm,” with vocals by Janis Siegel, this is a feel-good CD — not to downgrade the immense talent of behind it, particularly Vignola’s guitar work. But we do have a little “cruise music” going here; a situation where the musicians play for themselves and the listener has the stature of wallpaper.

But there’s plenty to enjoy. “Quizas” is tinged with a sort of calypso rock sound, and while listening to “Hungarian Dance No. 5,” I caught a few riffs reminiscent of Duane Allman. Crisp, pinpoint traditional jazz phrasing comes through with “After Hours” and “Let It Happen,” alone worth picking up 66 2/3…that and Jane Monheit’s singing and scatting on “Manhattan.” She has a sexy-siren of a voice that makes putty of lonely men.

Frank & Joe are the kind of players that make one want to be in same room with them, basking in the vibe while feeling a little sophisticated. www.hyenarecords.comBruce Rodgers (posted 10/07/05)

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