“It’s All Good” (Show Dog-Universal)
Joe Nichols has always shown two aspects of his persona: There’s the guy who ranks among the best traditional country singers of his generation, and the one who sings humorous ditties and sentimental family fare aimed at getting radio play.
Both sides rise up on Nichols’ sixth studio album, “It’s All Good.” The album is aptly named, as the 10-song collection features some of the best hardcore country music heard this year and a few lighthearted tunes that manage to be witty without being corny.On the traditional side, the title cut is a sweetly swinging fiddle-and-steel tune that proves once again that Nichols is as good as George Strait at blending tone and rhythm to perfectly deliver a timeless country song.
On the contemporary side, Nichols brings a wink to the macho swagger of upbeat, guitar-and-drum cuts like the lusty “The More I Look” and the recent hit, “Take It Off,” which suggests letting go of worries by bringing convertible top down, putting the boat in the water and losing some clothes as the day goes on. Even better, his deep, easy vocal style ideally fits a modern love song like “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
With “Never Gonna Get Enough,” Nichols celebrates discovering there’s more joy in a lasting love at home than in living it up on the town. He sings the softly swaying tune with the relaxed tone of a guy who has experienced both.
— Michael McCall, for The Associated Press
“El Rego” (Daptone)
In addition to keeping old-school R&B funk alive via such hardworking contemporary acts as Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, Brooklyn’s Daptone Records has an excellent sideline going as a reissue label, doing particularly estimable work when it comes to unearthing long-lost African musical treasures. Exhibit A was the 2009 release by former Fela band member Pax Nicholas and the Nettey Family, and even more intoxicatingly impressive is this 12-song set by 1960s Beninese soulman Theophile Do Rego, aka El Rego, a fedora-wearing bandleader who dressed like Tom Landry but made it funky like James Brown. On the most Brownian track, and the only one sung in English, “Feeling You Got,” that’s guest singer Eddy Black Power grunting like the Godfather of Soul. On the more hypnotic, trance-inducing, John Lee Hooker-simpatico grooves such as “Vive Le Renouveau” or the organ- and horn-fired punchy party track “Achuta,” that’s El Rego himself singing in a mixture of French and Beninese tribal tongues, and wordlessly shouting out in the global language of irresistible rhythm.
— Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Audio Video Disco” (Elektra)
France’s other arena-rocking electronic duo (the one that isn’t Daft Punk), Gaspard Auge and Xavier de Rosnay, defined itself on its self-titled debut with a cluttered kitchen-sink full of sound: choppily edited bass lines, distorted synth skronks, and crunching guitar samples. That album was cheesy, but it was good cheese, triple-cream Brie good.
Justice’s new album is still luxuriant though not too campy, choppy and fresh with its rococo ripples of Italian disco (the delicious “Helix”), tacky New Wave (the clacking “New Lands”) and progressive rock throughout. Big hints of King Crimson, Yes and Rush are found everywhere on Audio Video Disco, from its blustery guitar riffs to its insistent jagged rhythms to its complex bridges. The epic “Civilization” is the best proof of prog rock dominance here. Most of all, though, there is a new-found sunny spaciousness to the preciously contagious melodies, an openness that allows singers such as Vincent Vendetta of Midnight Juggernauts room to roam.
— A.D. Amorosi, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“The Moon Is Waiting” (Palmetto)
Trumpeter Tim Hagans says his music is “tightly structured” to achieve “the wildest playing possible.”
That’s a fair description of this quartet recording, where challenging lines tease and entrance while rockish and searing moments come and go. It’s free jazz with constant drive and passion.
Hagans was artistic director of the Norrbotten Big Band in Sweden for 15 years. After leaving that post, he has veered here into small-group territory with cool results.
Guitarist Vic Juris provides some beautiful fills throughout, especially on the bluesy “Boo,” where Hagans punctuates his licks with raspy wails. Finnish drummer Jukkis Uotila and bassist Rufus Reid lay down the artistic haze that fuels this eight-cut session. “Wailing Trees,” Hagans’ tribute to the first day of Hurricane Katrina, is full of gnarly melody and real heat.
— Karl Stark, The Philadelphia Inquirer