Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2015-10-16


Guy Davis: Juba Dance Featuring Fabrizio Poggi (M.C., 2013) Well-mannered modern bluesman partners with Italian harmonica virtuoso and reveals that he learned "Prodigal Son" from Josh White, not the Stones (but not Robert Wilkins either) ("Love Looks Good on You," "Lost Again") *

Guy Davis: Kokomo Kidd (M.C., 2015) Ossie and Ruby's Seeger-schooled kid sounds freshest on new originals, a feat for any 63-year-old ("Kokomo Kidd," "Wish I Hadn't Stayed Away So Long") **

Kinky Friedman: The Loneliest Man I Ever Met (Avenue A, 2015) Sings as bad as ever on this covers album from nowhere, aging well anyway ("My Shit's Fucked Up," "A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square") ***

John Kruth: The Drunken Wind of Life: The Poem/Songs of Tin Ujevic (Smiling Fez, 2015) On Kruth's second Croatia album, mostly American musicians render the tunes Kruth wrote for English translations of the poems of a wandering modernist bard who died blacklisted by Tito 60 years ago. It's more haunting than Splitsville, with Kruth's deliberate, nuanced, murmured, pitch-challenged, and once merely spoken vocals deepening its affect. The brief plucked folk-dance intro and Ujevic-inspired Kruth original "Girl From Korcula" brighten things up. But a six-minute "Daily Lament" that earns its title seems the peak--until it's topped by the five-minute closer "Blood Brotherhood of Persons of the Universe," which also earns its title. A-

John Kruth: Splitsville (Smiling Fez, 2008) A prize-winning Townes Van Zandt, Roy Orbison, and Roland Kirk biographer renowned in new-folk circles as the mandolin-motorvating founder of free-conceived NYC world-music troupe TriBeCaStan, Kruth got interested in Croatia because that's his artist wife's heritage. Recorded with on-site Croatian and overdubbed US musicians of casually impeccable chops, these melodically bent, structurally straightforward, verbally concrete songs were inspired by multiple visits to the bustling old Croatian beach city of Split. Delivered in Kruth's raspy, plaintive mandolinist's voice, they're a writer's songs whether praising women or lamenting politics--simple and pointed with just a few duds. And the four instrumentals are intro, interlude, and farewell enough. A-

Amy LaVere and Will Sexton: Hallelujah I'm a Dreamer (Archer, 2015) She's a cryptically homespun singer-songwriter with a 10-year-old's voice and a good witch's soul; he's a guitarist to vie with his brother Charlie with grown kids and a stroke behind him. She spent years playing acoustic bass for rockabilly pilgrims at Sun Studios; he was shoehorned into her tiny road band until they figured out how good they were together. Now married and on perpetual tour, they recorded these many remakes and few new ones to analog tape in a Memphis studio that could be their living room, and there's terrific synergy to it. You poor souls have probably never heard Delaney & Bonnie's Motel Shot. In fact, maybe they haven't either. Y'all seek it out now. A-

Old Man Luedecke: Domestic Eccentric (True North, 2015) This well-regarded Canadian folkie can't be the first to turn the yodeler's "yo-de-lay-ee" into the lover's "you're the lady." But I bet no one else has based a song cycle on the joke: the history of a marriage in which the pair build the house he celebrates with the preliminary climax of "Now We Got a Kitchen." Sad to say, the less auspicious climax that ends the record proceeds from "Seems like you never wanted me around" to "Happy ever after's not the easy part." But that doesn't mean they're finished any more than "We're saving up for date night so we can have our fight" meant they were in trouble when the monkeys were little. So I tell myself, anyway. B+

Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty, 2015) How best expiate a conflicted grief--sardonic musing? Depressive rage? Ironic japes? Cautionary tales? Misery so brutal you burrow through to the other side? Surely something with more tensile strength than musical flower arrangements, doncha think? ("Death With Dignity," "Carrie and Lowell") *

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