Archive for album review

bruce springsteen’s cinematic highway songs

Bruce Springsteen. Photo by Danny Clinch.

There is something in the folkloric imagery of the highway that has always fascinated Bruce Springsteen, from the electric restlessness bursting out of songs from “Born to Run” and “Darkness of the Edge Town” to starker, darker snapshots from “Devils & Dust” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad” that blur time references but not the turbulence that sits in the pits of their very human stories.

Springsteen’s new “Western Stars” may be his ultimate road record, a sweeping travelogue that drifts far from Asbury Park and even further from the rougher badlands that inhabited perhaps his finest album, 1982’s “Nebraska.” The journey this time is different. Released three months shy of his 70th birthday, this is neither the celebratory rock ‘n’ roll of Springsteen’s E Street Band music or the brittle acoustic sideroads visited on previous solo records. This is sunshine seen through clouds, songs rich with a majestic unease that are told with little that approximates rockish familiarity and more with string and orchestral settings that color the songs with a cinematic vastness that typifies their narratives.

From the surface, what you hear is more Bacharach than “Backstreets.”

When one of the new record’s concluding tracks, “Hello Sunshine,” was released as a preview single in late April, what we sensed was a melody that breezed along with a decades-old wistfulness. What immediately came to find was Harry Nilsson’s hit 1969 version of “Everybody’s Talkin.” There is a similarity in the approach to other arrangements throughout “Western Stars” with “Sleepy Joe’s Café” standing as the only hint of an E Street throwback.

The journeying begins the second the album starts. “Thumb stuck out as I go,” Springsteen sings over light guitar and banjo as the aptly titled “Hitch Hikin’” gathers steam. Then strings roll in like passing clouds. Not storm clouds – not yet, anyway. They simply color the canvas. The lyrics introduce us to a corral of good-natured visitors – an expecting couple, a trucker and a “gearhead in a souped up ‘72” – that oblige the protagonist with a ride. The travels from there are vast but uncertain.

On “Tucson Train,” the album turns the typical Springsteen scenario of escape on its ear. Instead of bolting from a Jersey-area smalltown, what is left behind is “Frisco” and a freight train full of emotional baggage. “We fought hard over nothin’, we fought till nothin’ remained,” Springsteen sings. “I’ve carried that nothin’ for a long time.” Still, every repeat chorus carries a hope of reconciliation that ends with three words of promise, referencing both the train and who is on it – “Here she comes.”

From there, “Western Stars’ cruises through stories of regret, want and hope – things that have fueled Springsteen’s music for generations. It’s just that the spaciousness of these unexpected arrangements enhance those themes with a new luminescence, as in the luxurious title tune, the epic “There Goes My Miracle” (whose title is augmented by two simple words of doomed finality – “… walking away”) and the equally despondent romantic requiem “Stones.”

The travels close in the middle of nowhere – specifically, the quiet abandonment of “Moonlight Motel,” where the battlements of a hideaway (“She was boarded up and gone like an old summer song”) mirror a life equally forsaken. But as Springsteen all-but-whispers the lyrics over acoustic guitar and muted strings that ring like distant lightning, the story seems more eloquent than sad.

It’s the parting shot in a pack of postcards detailing a journey of time and distance. They are the conversations of a master storyteller spinning a yarn of a perhaps different color, yet you recognize the voice at once. It’s The Boss sounding as comforting and compelling as ever.

black and blue

the black keysBy now, The Black Keys have nothing left to prove. Coming to national prominence as an ultra-primal, blues-saturated guitar and drums duo, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney opened their ears and minds to the input of outside producers, expanded its sound to welcome all kinds of pop accents and became big leaguers with a sound that was alternately joyous, brutish and psychedelic.

Now Auerbach and Carney gives us Turn Blue – an orgy of crunchy, beat-heavy rockers and beautifully warped reflections that collectively serve as a primer on what makes the band so continually fascinating.

To start with, Turn Blue inverts what many might view as its opening and closing songs. It kicks off with nearly seven minutes of Weight of Love, a luxurious jam initiated by the cool sway of acoustic guitar and vibraphone before grooving along with the steady, ragged rhythm of an electric Neil Young record from the mid ‘70s. Then the music explodes with an extended blast of Auerbach’s guitar work and a haunting vocal passage that utilizes a backup chorus in the same manner that the Keys’ superb El Camino album did a few years ago. It’s also the kind of anthem a band works up to, the sort of piece de resistance usually saved for last. Here, Auerbach and Carney toss it out like a dare, an outrageously confidence indulgence that forces a rethink for fans won over the immediacy and musical economy of El Camino or its equally lean predecessor Brothers.

But then as Turns Blue starts to wind down, the Keys kick back into action. The album closing Gotta Get Away is a royal kiss-off song with a killer guitar hook, an almost giddy pop chorus (“I went from San Berdoo to Kalamazoo, just to get away from you”) and the kind of block party spirit that would have served as a proud, enticing intro to any serious garage rock album. But on Turn Blue, it’s the parting shot.

What’s in between isn’t exactly filler, either. The title tune is a pop cauldron of a song where after hours soul (complete with Auerbach crooning in a near falsetto) swirl around in an orchestral frenzy. The current single Fever, an electro-dance beat manifesto, follows to keeps the party moving. And as the record heads into the home stretch, In Our Prime lights the fuse to an autumnal reverie that ripens into an absolutely molten guitar solo by Auerbach.

Turn Blue also reteams the Keys with producer Danger Mouse, whose presence in the songwriting and keyboard departments is significant. But everything, even Auerbach’s most open-faced guitar adventures, blend into a singular, magnificent sonic joyride.

Cue up summer, everyone. The party album of the season has arrived.

time flies

john michael montgomery: time flies

john michael montgomery: time flies

The title of John Michael Montgomery’s new album could be viewed as a comment on the four years that have passed since the Central Kentucky country hero last issued an album. But the instant the wiry steel guitar licks and brassy bravado on the opening What Did I Do kick the honky tonk fervor into gear, you sense Montgomery’s music has not changed a fraction as much as the marketing behind it. That’s to say that Time Flies is Montgomery’s first recording as a free agent after 12 years of hit major label recordings for Warner Bros. and Atlantic. As the inaugural release on Montgomery’s own Stringtown label, what sits in the grooves is familiar, welcoming country-pop from the electric barroom twang of Mad Cowboy Disease to All in a Day, a ballad that sports one of Montgomery’s most honestly plaintive vocal performances in ages. Only With My Shirt On, a yarn about encountering romance with a middle age spread, falls flat – and that’s due more to the low aim of the lyrics than Montgomery’s singing. Longtime ally Byron Gallimore remains at the production helm with Montgomery, giving Time Flies a confident sheen that is radio friendly and then some. But making an imprint on country radio as an indie act is always a tough task. Add to that radio’s increasing indifference to many veteran artists and the road back to the country Top 10 may be a long one for Montgomery. But commercial estimations aside, Time Flies is a confident, consistent work that stands up to anything the airwaves currently have to offer.

Josephine Clay Ford

The Herald June 3, 2005 JOSEPHINE Clay Ford, a philanthropist and the only granddaughter of car pioneer Henry Ford, has died. She was 81.

She had been ill for several weeks. “Throughout her life, she embodied the spirit of giving and family loyalty, ” Ford Motor Co chairman Bill Ford Jr, a nephew, said. here ford motor stock

“She was an inspiration. Her love for Ford Motor Company was unsurpassed.” Ford owned more than 13 million shares of Ford Motor stock – about 18-per cent of the stock held exclusively by Ford family members. In 2001, Time magazine estimated her fortune at dollars- 416m (pounds-340m).

The Detroit Institute of Arts, the Josephine Ford Cancer Center and the College for Creative Studies, an art and design college in Detroit, were among recipients of millions from “Dody” Ford and the foundation she established.

“What else is there for a girl who wasn’t competitive to do but try to escape all that Ford stuff?” she once said. website ford motor stock

She was born in 1923, the third of Edsel and Eleanor Ford’s four children. Edsel was Henry Ford’s only son.

Coincidentally, in 1943 she married a man named Ford – Walter Buhl Ford II, who began his career with rival General Motors Corp. He died in 1991.

The couple had two sons and two daughters.

Their younger son, Alfred Brush Ford, was active in Ford corporate charities but otherwise shunned the family business and joined the Hare Krishna religious sect, renaming himself Ambarish Das.

montgomery gentry: back when i knew it all

There were signs on their 2006 album Some People Change that hometown country heroes Eddie Montgomery and Troy Gentry might be settling down. A little. Not so on Back When I Knew It All. While the very Byrds-like title tune hints at life that outlasted a youth run on “beer and gasoline half a lap ahead of the law,” much of the album is fueled by higher octane stuff that is vastly less apologetic. The party starts not in a roadhouse, but in a foot stomping mountainside church service with a taste for snake handling and a preacher on the verge of spontaneous combustion. “He ain’t sure and we ain’t sure exactly what he said,” sings Gentry over screams of slide guitar on The Revival. “So praise the lord and pass me a copperhead.” Can’t wait to see the video for that one. Similarly raucous but vastly less frightful is I Pick My Parties, a middle age manual for mid-week revelry sung with Toby Keith (who Montgomery Gentry will tour extensively with this summer), and One in Every Crowd, which neatly countrifies a David Bowie/Alice Cooper guitar riff as it honors the sort of one-man audience annoyance most folks would opt to clobber if given license. In short, Back When I Knew It All is electric business as usual for our Kentucky pals as it returns to a rowdier framework while keeping a wary eye on the age factor.

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