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January 07


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The Duchess

A&M Records

Oh, Fergie, Fergie, Fergie.

The name kind of sounds like one of those little Italian scooters, like a Vespa, you know: “Hey, check out my new Fergie!” or “Yo! My Fergie gets awesome gas mileage!” Anyway, it’s not surprising that given the huge success of other hottie micro-girl singers from hip-hop bands gone solo (Gwen Stefani, Cristina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake.) most labels would be in a full-tilt scramble for the newest flava of the week, and Ms. Fergie certainly fits the bill.

First seen in 1985 on the notorious ‘tweener cable show Kids Incorporated alongside the likes of Mario Lopez and Jennifer Love Hewitt, Stacy Ferguson went on to her own teen-girl pop group Wild Orchid, and later joined the Black Eyed Peas just before their big hit “Elephunk” in 2002. With her smokin’ curves (so praised in the super hit “My Humps”, which by the way was voted by music critics as one of the most annoying hits ever) and equally smoky voice, Fergie is pretty much a given for solo success. It doesn’t hurt to have BEP founder will.i.am as her producer either, since the man has been a hip-hop money-makin’ machine ever since he wrote an entire song where he mostly just yells, “LOUDER!”

Along with a who’s who of hip-hop performers, Fergie (do NOT call her Stacy-she makes it clear that she is not down with that, dog) lays down some skillful vocals, and even dresses up in character for a photo on each track; Fergie in black lace, Fergie in swimwear, Fergie dressed as a bad example for young girls, etc.

While the costume aspect of the album is covered well, the actual music here is surprisingly light stuff, mostly consisting of plenty of love ballads and R&B type melodies, with will.i.am’s standard sampling of classics running throughout the album. While each track is fine, they do tend to run into each other, and frankly the three-letter word rhyming for each track, while infectious when performed by the uber-hyper BEP gang, makes you want to mail whoever wrote these vocals a thesaurus.

Thankfully, with Fergie’s debut, America will continue to lead the world in our supply of thin, over-produced young women who are famous and must be talked about all the time. Take that, Canadian free healthcare system! —Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/19/07)

Dirty Pretty Things

Mercury Records

The four British boys who make up the mod-pop-alt hipster band Dirty Pretty Things have gotten almost as much tabloid press as that lead Babyshambles dude and his freaky-thin girlfriend (or have they secretly gotten married? Or just engaged? What did they have for lunch? Stay tuned right here for all that fascinating and useful news!), and they seem to be rather fond of that.

However, while most “alternative” (pause to stop laughing) bands would just rest on their over-hyped, trumped-up success, Carl Barat (late of the Libertines) and his boys have actually bothered to back up their bravado on their latest album Waterloo with some tasty old-school British rock and roll that more than satisfies fans of mod…at least most of the time.

The first track “Deadwood” (which is already all over the Web) is a great start, with plenty of crunchy guitars, Sid Vicious-style vocals and symbol-crashing percussion, and later, “The Enemy,” plays with a cool Twilight Zone-type melody. There’s also plenty of obligatory banter in between tracks to show how these hipsters are “just like the rest of us”.

Later on, though, some of the tracks like “Wondering” do seem a little lazy in their design, but that’s really in comparison with most of the other songs here, and it isn’t surprising that some experimentation, even if it’s a little iffy in results, would help to clean their musical palate, so to speak.

While most of the kids out there probably think that a Waterloo has something to do with English toilets, at least their attention to these Thing’s music is somewhat deserved, even if their hairstyles probably mean just as much.

FYI: Waterloo was, of course, the famous battle where Napoleon was defeated at the Grandview Triangle by the combined forces of George Washington, Elvis and Rodan. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/12/07)

Grayson Capps
Wail & Ride

Hyena Records

While hurricane Katrina killed thousand of people who were essentially left to die because they were poor (and Democrats), it also almost destroyed one of America’s most unique and remarkable cities and nearly drowned some of the greatest music in the world.

Originally from Alabama, Grayson Capps has spent the last 20 years in the Big Easy, mixing that southern country sound with all that Bourbon Street had to offer. Recorded at the famous Truck Farm studios, Capp’s Second album, Wail and Ride, was almost finished when he, like so many others, was forced to flee the city. After months touring and sleeping in his van, Grayson rejoined with his producer Trina Shoemaker (Whiskytown, Queens of the Stone Age) to finish, while adding a few post-hurricane touches to the songs.

Right from the first few notes, Grayson Capps gets it going, and never lets up. With a voice like Kris Kristofferson, the style of Hank Williams and the heart and soul of all those old cowboy-poets of long-lost lore, Grayson Capps carries on a musical heritage that few others can emulate. He doesn’t shy away from his thoughts on politics, either.

In “New Orleans Waltz”, he sadly asks, What’s going to become of lovely New Orleans? Later, he wirily remarks that FEMA should just issue rubber rafts so that next time We can all go fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Later, in the sorrow-filled “Mermaid”, he wails a plaintive cry for one more chance, while in the blusie “Ed Lee” he rambles off a story about a man who builds a fence out of the empty bottles of just about every brand name of whisky there is (which would appear to be a true tale, considering Grayson even gives directions on how to find that special fence, which is apparently still there. Maybe Mr. Lee should have been in charge of FEMA. At least he knew how to finish what he started.)

New Orleans has always been a jambalaya of amazing music, a place where zydeco swirled with delta blues, spicy jazz and southern rock, where Grammy winning veterans can jam with no-name rookies on old wooden stages that have heard the likes of Dr. John and Fats Domino. Without question, Grayson Capps should now be included in that august personage. Hopefully, he won’t have to go through another Hurricane before the next album.

Oh, yeah…FEMA, you really, really suck. —Brandon Whitehead (posted 01/05/07)

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