Three Chords Good (Primary Wave) is far from the only thing to recommend about this album, the first that Graham Parker has recorded with the full line-up of The Rumour in 31 years. During that time, Parker has played on and off with individual members while churning out a consistently great string of records. Coming off a near decade-long affiliation with Chicago alt-country imprint Bloodshot, the acerbic Englishman took this opportunity with his old mates to produce a record that easily fits alongside earlier classics like Howlin’ Wind and Squeezing Out Sparks. These dozen songs range from the reggae-kissed cynicism of “Snake Oil Capital of the World” and the wistful closer “Last Bookstore In Town” and its oddly effective kazoo solo to the R&B-ish “Long Emotional Ride” and “Arlington’s Busy,” a folkly anti-war anthem destined to be a classic that addresses the mess the Afghan situation has become via lines like, “Tillman got hit and fell down like a stone/but they covered it up like a dog, coverin’ a bone.”
Unfinished Business (Sugar Hill) is certainly what rockabilly pioneer Wanda Jackson has on her mind. Having already hit the comeback trail by way of last year’s Jack White-produced The Party Ain’t Over, her 30th album. For the follow-up, the 75-year-old Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Famer tapped Justin Townes Earle, son of Americana stalwart Steve, to produce. Using a more stripped-down and airier touch than White, Earle succeeds in the showcasing Jackson’s range and singular vocal talents whether she’s going to church on Townes Van Zandt’s gospel-inspired “Two Hands,” making Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” her own or matching up beautifully on a duet with her producer on the weepy countrypolitan gem “Am I Even a Memory.” The Oklahoma native also shines on the Earle-penned honky-tonk earworm “What Do You Do When You’re Lonesome” and a stellar reading of the Jeff Tweedy/Woody Guthrie nugget “California Stars.”
The Lion The Beast The Beat (Hollywood) is the follow-up to Grace Potter & the Nocturnals’ self-titled 2010 major label debut. But rather than return to its more straightforward roots rock approach, this new set of songs is a chance for Potter and co-producer Jim Scott to shake things up a bit. Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys gets tapped as a co-writer with his most notable contributions being the funky “Never Go Back” and its jittery drumbeat and airy synth washes and “Loneliest Soul,” which has a psychedelic circus air to it via generous helpings of sitar and Wurlitzer. But Potter shows she’s no slouch, banging out earworms like the fuzz guitar-driven stomper “Turntable” and “Parachute Heart,” which starts out like a conventional pop song before ethereal swaths of pedal steel and equally swoony vocals that put it somewhere between Maria McKee circa Life is Sweet and Shelby Lynne at her most adventurous.
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