ALISON KRAUSS and UNION STATION – Paper Airplane

It will come as no surprise to anyone that knows me how Alison Krauss more or less single-handedly re-kindled my liking for all things bluegrass. OK, Ms Krauss and her well oiled band of Barry Hales (bass), Jerry Douglas (slide guitars), Ron Block (banjo) and Dan Tyminski (guitar & mandolin) are the ultimate kings of cool lifting the often berated yee-haw cliché to new peaks of excellence. On this recording her gifted bunch of musicians prove truly inspirational for those ready and eager to embrace ‘acoustic’ music in all its glory and conversely, for those that feel there’s no relevance of this genre in today’s society (and specifically aimed at those ‘Countryfile’ viewers amongst you) then I suggest you check out the three minute diatribe of Peter Rowan’s song “Dustbowl Children” where the stark banjo and desperation in the vocal performance speaks volumes for those who feel rightfully aggrieved at the onslaught of modern technology. As ever though it’s the towering presence of the lady herself where her unhurried and almost breathless tones generate the warm glow of a mother cooing her baby to sleep with a lullaby. Perhaps, for some this album may be a bit laid-back particularly without the recent pyrotechnics displayed on Steve Martin’s latest release but for those who enjoy ‘listening’ to an album and broadening their musical tastes this Grammy awarded album will do nicely. By the way, congratulations to the website design team for the inclusion of the lyrics (a real bonus for reviewers) as space is limited in a CD booklet.

PETE FYFE

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Artist’s website: www.alisonkrauss.com

Counting Crows Announce New Album ‘Underwater Sunshine’ (COOKCD561) To Be Released April 9th

Multi-platinum American rock band, Counting Crows have announced they will be releasing their first new album in over 4 years on 9th April 2012.

Underwater Sunshine (or What We Did On Our Summer Vacation) is a collection of songs, both familiar and obscure, interpreted by one of the most soulful and recognizable bands of the past two decades.

Underwater Sunshine is a testament of a band geek-obsessed with music. “There’s a million great songs written every day that you discover, and wish your friends could appreciate as much as you do,” says singer/songwriter Adam Duritz. “These songs come from bands young and old, stretching from the early 60s to last year. They’re all great and will hopefully be heard by a few more people now.”

Produced by Counting Crows and Shawn Dealey, Underwater Sunshine features tracks written by artists such as Big Star, Gram Parsons, Tender Mercies, Fairport Convention, Kasey Anderson and The Faces. Each rendition offers an entire spectrum of human emotion, delivered with the conviction and intense honesty the band is known for.

As their first independent release, it was the right time for the Crows to make this album. “If you wonder why we didn’t just write our own record, it’s simply because we wanted to do THIS one,” says Duritz, We now have the creative freedom to release albums like this and offer our fans more music than ever.”

Underwater Sunshine track listing:

  1. Untitled (Love Song) by Romany Rye
  2. Start Again by Teenage Fanclub
  3. Hospital by Coby Brown
  4. Mercy by Tender Mercies
  5. Meet On The Ledge by Fairport Convention
  6. Like Teenage Gravity by Kasey Anderson & The Honkies
  7. Amie by Pure Prairie League
  8. Coming Around by Travis
  9. Ooh La La by The Faces
  10. All My Failures by Dawes
  11. Return of the Grevious Angel by Gram Parsons
  12. Four White Stallions by Tender Mercies
  13. Jumping Jesus by Sordid Humor
  14. You Ain’t Going Nowhere by Bob Dylan
  15. The Ballad of El Goodo by Big Star

Counting Crows hail from the San Francisco Bay area and consist of Adam Duritz (vocals), David Bryson (guitar), Charles Gillingham (keyboards), Dan Vickrey (guitar), Jim Bogios (drums), David Immergluck (guitar) and touring bassist Millard Powers. With over 20 million albums sold worldwide, including 5 Top 20 studio albums in the UK (3 of them charting in the Top 10) and all 5 hitting Top 5 on the Billboard 200, as well as eight Top 5 Singles in the US, Counting Crows success dates back to their 1993 debut release August And Everything After and the hit single “Mr Jones” (UK 28 & US top 5).  The band’s most recent accomplishments include a US #1 hit with the song “Accidentally In Love,” which was featured on the Shrek 2 soundtrack, as well as nominations in 2005 for a Grammy Award, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for the track.  In 2004 the band released their first ever “Best Of” set Films About Ghosts which featured songs from every phase of the Counting Crow’s recording career and in 2006 a live record was released,  *New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall 2003, while the band ventured out on a summer tour. Their most recent album, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings (UK album chart 12) was released to critical and popular acclaim in March 2008.

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Nanci Griffith – Intersection

Twenty albums now, and none before like this. “It’s emotional for me, and it’s personal, and it makes my heart pound, thinking I’m going to be totally exposed here,” says Nanci Griffith, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter and Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award winner. Intersection is not an album of resolution or closure; it’s an album about difficulties, about anger, about things that slip away and things that explode.

“I’ve had a hard life, and I write it down,” Griffith sings on the title track, and that line serves as a statement of fact and purpose, and as a gentler way to explain her near-shouted musical exclamation, “Hell no, I’m not alright.”

Intersection is an examination of a particularly difficult time for Griffith, fraught with personal bust-ups, with family turmoil, with hard miles and tears and habits to break. “Sometimes making the best is doing the worst to yourself,” she sings here.

It’s funny what happens with songs. Funny that Griffith’s personal “hell no” moment – delivered here in a frenzy that somehow simultaneously recalls Buddy Holly, Pete Seeger, and The Ramones – can produce a gladdening shock of recognition in audience members who had bought tickets to hear contemplative Griffith gems like “Love at the Five and Dime” and “Trouble in the Fields”.

“Everybody seems to have an investment in ‘Hell No,’ and in ‘Intersection’ as well,” Griffith says. “So many people are at an intersection in their life, with the way the economy is, with foreclosures and downsizing… For me, Intersection is my musical crossroads.”

It is those crossroads, those intersections, that are at the center of Griffith’s latest work. Twenty albums now, and only one like this, but it’s funny what happens with songs. Sometimes making the best is doing the worst to yourself, but sometimes making the best is singing your truth, even if it makes your heart pound.

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