Columbia Records will release Bruce Springsteen's twenty-first album,'We Shall Overcome The Seeger Sessions,' on April 25. The album features Bruce's personal interpretations of thirteen traditional songs, all of them associated with the legendary guiding light of American folk music, Pete Seeger, for whom the album is named. Speaking of the origins of the new music, Springsteen said, "So much of my writing, particularly when I write acoustically, comes straight out of the folk tradition. Making this album was creatively liberating because I have a love of all those different roots sounds... they can conjure up a world with just a few notes and a few words." The premise was simple. Bruce Springsteen invites a dozen or so New York City musicians--packing banjos, fiddles, accordions and the like--to his New Jersey farmhouse for a three-day hootenanny, and tape is rolling. The results are sublime, his 21st album featuring their versions of songs harvested from Springsteen's dog-eared LPs by Pete Seeger. Not all written by Seeger, the songs are how the American folk icon interpreted them, and these organic recordings, with no rehearsals or overdubs, pay tribute with the simplicity and spontaneity he intended. It's not hard to link Springsteen's dissatisfaction with American politics to the protest song "We Shall Overcome" or even the Irish ballad "Mrs. McGrath," where he alters the lyrics to read, "I'd rather have my son as he used to be/Than the King of America and his whole navy." But the beauty of these Seeger Sessions are pieces that underscore the mood of the bandleader, which borders on down-home amusement: the bluegrass outlaw ballad "Jesse James," the Dylanesque "Pay Me My Money Down" and the euphoric "Jacob's Ladder," a gumbo-and-whiskey-fueled romp that could pass for the closing hymn at the Church of Asbury Park. --Scott Holter
Manufacturer: Mercury Records
Brand: Virgin Emi Records
Brilliant 1998 album of tales of dusty trails...one of her best! Includes 'Right In Time' & Drunken Angel'. Lucinda Williams makes this whole music thing seem so simple: Write in plain language about the people and places that crowd your memory; add subtle flavors of a mandolin here, a Dobro there, perhaps an accordion or slide guitar; above all, sing as honestly and naturally as you can. Of course, it took her six years to achieve this simplicity, an amazing achievement considering the number of knobs that were turned. Her exquisite voice moans and groans and slips and slides--she delivers a polished tone in a coarse manner. On the superb "Concrete and Barbed Wire," soft acoustic guitars are punctuated by electric slide, accordion, mandolin, and Steve Earle's harmony. Williams's deeply personal stories are matched with bluesy rumbles, raunchy grooves, and plaintive whispers. The entire Deep South is reduced to a sleepy small town filled with ex-lovers, dive bars, and endless gravel roads. --Marc Greilsamer
Jack's Mannequin, the angst-flavored, SoCal-vibed side project of Something Corporate's singer-song-writer Andrew McMahon, debuted live at SXSW and now debuts on album with Everything in Transit. Produced by Jim Wirt (Incubus, Alien Ant Farm), and featuring Motley Crue's Tommy Lee on drums, Everything in Transit offers yet another stage for the ethereal voice of an iconoclastic performer who is among alt-rock's most popular artists.
A 22-track anthematic tone poem to the Prairie State, emphatically answering the question, "Can a songwriter express the spirit of a state he's never called home?" Sufjan weaves various musical styles (jazz, funk, pop) and instrumental textures into a tapestry of persons famous, infamous, and anonymous, and places iconic, obscure, and ghostly. Myths, memories, and incidental anecdotes are swept up with symphonic flourishes. Implementing 25 instruments, played mostly by Sufjan himself, a two-handed horn section, string quartet and small choir, Illinois conjures up images of Danny Elfman conducting a Gilbert and Sullivan company, a minimalist ensemble, and the Marion Catholic Marching Band on a windswept prairie football field. Asthmatic Kitty. 2005.
Manufacturer: Rhino Records
"Your stuff is so hard, they're gonna think it's rock 'n' roll," a friend once told Dwight Yoakam. Twisting strains of Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Merle Haggard, and Gram Parsons into a stripped-down sound wholly his own, Yoakam is one of music's true mavericks, and his body of work is one of the most innovative in all of country. Rooted in the purest country traditions, and wrapped in raw rock 'n' roll attitude, Yoakam's art rivets fans of both genres and remains as utterly original today as when it started burning up the charts in the '80s. Moving to Los Angeles after an unproductive stint in Nashville, Kentucky-born Dwight Yoakam made a name for himself by reviving the more robust honky-tonk traditions of the Bakersfield Sound--a bold contrast with Music City's assembly-line approach. In 1984, his independently released six-song EP, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., added to the buzz and helped land him on Warner Bros./Reprise. Now, twenty years later comes The Very Best of Dwight Yoakam, a superb single-disc distillation of the four-CD box, Reprise Please Baby: The Warner Bros. Years. With 20 tracks spanning his recording career and sequenced in chronological order, the set rolls along with gusto and verve. While not covering every one of his releases (the Christmas and covers releases are omitted, for example), there are some singles and soundtrack entries that fall nicely into place. --David Greenberger
2004 album from the Americana/Alt-Rock band formed by guitarist/songwriter Jeff Tweedy. The infectious twang and pop hooks of Wilco's former efforts may be fading fast, but A Ghost Is Born is still a rewarding effort that demands repeated listening. The group's fifth album extends upon the experimentalism of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with angular, blues-soaked guitar riffs ("At Least That's What You Said," "Hell Is Chrome"), a handful of sparse, yet catchy tunes (smack dab in the middle of the disc) that will surely keep college radio stations smiling, and a lengthy track that descends into mere static ("Less Than You Think"). Frontman Jeff Tweedy's songwriting continues to evolve: "Hummingbird" is a dreamy Randy Newman-styled love song; "The Late Greats" is a sly ode to the world of pop tacked onto the end of the album (as if using such a fun song on this understated disc was an afterthought). Meanwhile, producer extraordinaire Jim O'Rourke manages to make the most complicated arrangements here sound minimalist and laid-back. All told, it's another great addition to the Wilco canon. --Jason Verlinde
2003 LP reissue on 140-gram vinyl. Breaking away from his alt. country sound, Adams tunes into a pop and rock sound from the 1970s. In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, his song "New York, New York" took on new meaning from a lovelorn song to a swaggering song about resilience that hit big on the air waves and MTV. Adams pays homage to his favorite artists from the '70s, and the influences of Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Van Morrison and Elton John are pretty clear. This 3-time Grammy nominated album was originally intended as a double album, but the label at the time cut it down and gave out a bonus 5-song CD to a limited number of fans. This reissue makes it a true double album with 21 songs pressed into 140-gram vinyl. Lost Highway Records.
Torrential creativity has fast-forwarded the artistic evolution of former Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams from country-rock boy wonder (see Faithless Street) to despondent troubadour with a 1960s fixation (his solo debut Heartbreaker), but it may also explain why listeners often need to wade through some pedestrian material just to find a few pearls of poetic excellence. Gold is no exception to that trend, a sometimes engaging middle-of-the-road roots-pop album that's both overlong (70 minutes) and at times overindulgent. There are high spots--such as the bouncy, breezy opener "New York, New York" and the plaintive ballad "When the Stars Go Blue" (which features a vocal turn reminiscent of Morrissey)--but much of the disc gets lost in forests of indistinct guitars and plodding percussion that never nudges Adams into actually rocking. Gold is the work of a notoriously prolific songwriter who hasn't yet learned to play to his strengths, one whose execution doesn't yet match his vision. --Anders Smith Lindall Torrential creativity has fast-forwarded the artistic evolution of former Whiskeytown frontman Ryan Adams from country-rock boy wonder (see Faithless Street) to despondent troubadour with a 1960s fixation (his solo debut Heartbreaker), but it may also explain why listeners often need to wade through some pedestrian material just to find a few pearls of poetic excellence. Gold is no exception to that trend, a sometimes engaging middle-of-the-road roots-pop album that's both overlong (70 minutes) and at times overindulgent. There are high spots--such as the bouncy, breezy opener "New York, New York" and the plaintive ballad "When the Stars Go Blue" (which features a vocal turn reminiscent of Morrissey)--but much of the disc gets lost in forests of indistinct guitars and plodding percussion that never nudges Adams into actually rocking. Gold is the work of a notoriously prolific songwriter who hasn't yet learned to play to his strengths, one whose execution doesn't yet match his vision. --Anders Smith Lindall
Manufacturer: Warner Music Nashville
Grammy-Award winner Dwight Yoakam presents his first all new studio album in seven years, 3 Pears (Warner Bros. Records). The 12-track release, his 26th, is produced by Yoakam, along with two songs co-produced with Beck: "A Heart Like Mine" and "Missing Heart".3 Pears exemplifies Yoakam s ability to incorporate multiple, competing influences into a piece of cohesive art. It balances his country core with a fiercely independent embrace of rock, Americana, pop and soul and builds on his trademark edginess with a notable, growing positivity. 3 Pears contains heartfelt love songs, which showcase Yoakam s authentic country vocals while maintaining his unmistakable classic sound.