Subjects for Further Research / Albums of Noteworthiness That Didn't Make the Grade / Oh Shit, Let's Call Them What They Are: DUDS!
JJ Cale and Eric Clapton: The Road To Escondido (Reprise/WEA, 2006). What made Layla so great was how effective Duane Allman was at forcing Eric out of his comfort zone, something he has had an aversion to most of his career. Since Cale is incapable of forcing even himself out of his own comfort zone, the results are two rather competent - but not passionate - musicians desperately trying to rekindle a flame that long ago was blown out. Terms like laid back and relaxed are disguises for going through the motions. And really, haven't we heard this shit from a dozen or so bar bands? Take away the artists from the cover, and what you have is a pretty pedestrian effort by two people who stopped carring a LONG time ago. C+
The Dixie Chicks: Taking the Long Way (Sony, 2006). I admire their political courage, and yes they have evolved beyond the cute babes they were originally marketed as, but with every lick of the guitar, every syllable that leaves their mouths, these "chicks" personify the worst of country. Neobluegrass, or whatever you prefer to call their style, it is pretentious and superfluous. They have a future in the Democratic party if they want, but musically, I'd vote them out of office! C
Sonya Kitchell: Words Came Back To Me (Velour, 2006). Trivia question: what do Corinne Bailey Rae, Ray LaMontagne, Madeleine Peyroux and KT Tunstall all have in common with Sonya Kitchell? Answer: they all hail from the Norah Jones' school of what I now call Light Adult-Contemporary music. Another word for this is Coffee-house Music. Their sound - hence Sonya's - never draws any ire, plays well in public places (Starbucks comes to mind) where conversation is casual and therefore isn't prone to interruption, and doesn't push any social buttons, i.e. never offends anyone's tastes. Add that she's only 17, and what you end up with is the darling of the year. I'm over reacting you say? The same thing happened to jazz over a decade ago, and now we have CD 101.9 to thank for the crap that passes for light jazz. If you can't handle Monk and Davis, or Dylan and Marley that's your problem, but don't call Kenny G jazz or Sonya Kitchell rock in front of me. Not unless you're looking for a beating! C