Music

HONEST ROCK 'N' ROLL

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Someone's in the kitchen with the Tragically Hip. Twice among the 14 songs on "Music @ Work" (the Canadian quintet's ninth album), the band uses the word "caramelized," the process in which heat intensifies a vegetable's natural sugars, creating not only a sweeter flavor but a gorgeous aroma. It is a delicious metaphor, and emblematic of the band's quirky lyrics, which, to the delight of its smallish-but-devoted following, often cover topics outside the rock mainstream and use words you'll practically never hear on the radio or anywhere else.


AN EARLY ENTRANT FOR BEST OF THE YEAR

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Those who've heard the intoxicating wail of Sonny Landreth in concert couldn't be blamed if they were left hungry by his 2000 release "Levee Town," which was true to his Louisiana roots but lacked the thrill they had experienced live. They'll get their fill from "The Road We're On," a bounty of bottleneck slide guitar that is rich with the twang of the National guitar and laced with electricity throughout. Landreth's past includes stints with the zydeco champion Clifton Chenier and blues baron John Mayall, and grit from both those paths bolsters this disc.


LANDRETH'S LIVE ALBUM IS LIKE BEING THERE

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There is very little artifice to Sonny Landreth. Offstage, he's quiet, modest, and real. He's like that onstage too, but what matters to music fans is that he's also one of the superior guitar players of his time. These facts help explain why "Grant Street," the live album he recorded over two nights last April at his hometown club in Lafayette, La., is so successful and enjoyable, even if it isn't remarkable in the extreme.


LOS LOBOS DIGS DEEP, LETS LOOSE AT PARADISE

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They identify themselves with their home in East Los Angeles, but Los Lobos are more like a universe than a neighborhood: They've been around forever, and they're still expanding.

Wednesday night at the Paradise, they took an intense and steamy two-hour-plus tour through better than 15 years of their music and beyond.

Whatever direction they chose to go - old or new, dense or light, smoky or snaky - it was the right one, and even after two encores, the crowd's cry was, "Where to next?"


HAMMING WITH MANN AND PENN

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Aimee Mann's and Michael Penn's "Acoustic Vaudeville" tour was short an appendage when it started out Sunday night at Berklee Performance Center, prompting Penn to allow that it could legitimately be called only "Acoustic."

That's because comic Patton Oswalt, who normally does an opening set and then provides between-song patter for the wife-and-husband team, was delayed by plane difficulties. But Oswalt arrived perhaps 20 minutes later, and what ensued during a three-encore evening easily restored credibility to the name. Among the highlights, both silly and sublime:


PONTY'S NEW CHAPTER THRILLS BOOKSTORE CROWD

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PEABODY - The world's greatest jazz violinist, Jean-Luc Ponty, opened a US tour Wednesday night before a thrilled, standing-room crowd of about 60 at a bookstore here.

He played three songs from "Life Enigma," his first studio album since 1993, and then answered questions and signed memorabilia for fans, some of whom drove two hours for a taste of his music. Before playing, he begged indulgence, saying, "I never did this before, but I'm taking a little more time, now that I'm older." He played alone, backed only by a CD of instrumental tracks he said he had recorded.


MANA MIXES POLITICS AND ROCK, MEXICAN STYLE

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You've heard this description before: a charismatic lead singer leading three guys playing guitar, bass, and drums, performing their songs born of love and politics, spiced by talk of faith and evidence of social activism.

U2, you say? Fair enough, but the subject today is Mana, the Mexican rock band rolling into Tsongas Arena in Lowell Tuesday.


LOS LOBOS ENLISTS ITS MUSICAL FRIENDS

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Even among music fans who've never developed an affection for Los Lobos, only the addled would withhold their respect: Together for 30 years, they have long been in the top rank of bands both for consistency and for innovation. Both of those drive "The Ride," their 12th album, even while it also is a loop into charted territory: Four of the 13 songs are new versions of songs from their past.


LOS LOBOS TAKES A STEP BACK

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The burden of genius is expectation, and Los Lobos has carried it impressively since 1992, when "Kiko" proved forever what these boys from East LA can do. Most recently, on "The Road to Aztlan" (2002) and "The Ride" (2004), the band has continued to explore the threads of its ethnic and musical heritage in fresh and virtuosic ways. But this 13-track effort revisits too many old tricks to warrant a place on the band's top shelf.


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