Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn show no signs of slowing down or losing any of the high energy that has kept them at the top of contemporary country music for 30 million albums. For nearly 44 minutes and a dozen songs here, their hard-driving style and catchy melody hooks are perfect for some toe-tappin' or boot-scootin.'
What seems a little different on this album is an effort by the dynamic duo to stretch the country envelope a bit, reaching farther toward the rock side than on previous releases. It's apparent, but not too obvious, with a few of the lyrics and occasional forays into unfamiliar backbeats or odd phrasing, as on "Drop In The Bucket." It all works perfectly, however, and doesn't detract in the slightest from what these guys have been delivering for years.
The voices complement each other in a comfortable sort of way, whether swapping solos or melding into fine harmonies. The songs are unpretentious slices of life, leaning heavily on the emotional side of relationships and ordinary experiences. Of course, there are a couple of uptempo, pure fun songs as expected on any Brooks & Dunn release.
"Proud Of The House We Built," a homage to family values, has already made a mark high on the singles charts. Several others are destined to follow the same path. "Ballad Of Jerry Jeff Walker," with the song's namesake joining in, is a fun romp through the travails of a performer's life.
- KEN ROSENBAUM
A top-shelf ensemble for nearly 30 years, the Grammy-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet creates a gorgeous Brazilian sound on this highly engaging, memorable album. The disc has an effortlessly cool acoustic guitar sound, the kind of Latin music that would seem to be the quartet's bread and butter. But it's not.
This is the group's first foray into the Brazilian genre, something it was reluctant to do until being courted by singer Luciana Souza, a Sao Paulo-born jazz vocalist-composer and three-time Grammy nominee. She has toured with the group, and appears with it on this album.
The disc also marks the debut of guitarist Matthew Greif, who replaced Andrew York in the quartet.
The original compositions came after group members sought advice from some of Brazil's top musicians. The end product speaks volumes about the skills, imagination, and craftsmanship of the finely meshed quartet.
- TOM HENRY
Tough and tender, Lucas Silveira has a story that no gender-bending rocker has yet stepped forward to tell.
Silveira is a transgender male whose first name used to be Lillia. He underwent a radical mastectomy a few years ago and accepted his identity as a man born with female genitalia. The decision helped the struggling Toronto folkie transform into a dynamic rocker, allowing him to write with the kind of unfettered honesty that drives creativity.
"Snakehouse" bears a passing resemblance to the first Pretenders album, due to Silveira's naked honesty and the two-guitars, bass, and drums lineup. The Cliks is a tight band with a hard-edged reggae bent that turns Justin Timberlake's "Cry Me A River" into a down-and-dirty tale of heartbreak that zeroes in on the song's emotional center.
Most of the disc sticks to basic rock in a minor-key Afghan Whigs-type mode until the penultimate song, a gripping ballad called "Nobody Else Will" that is deceptively simple and - once again thanks to Silveira's emotional honesty and beautiful voice - truly moving in its fragile power.
The band is scheduled to perform Friday at Frankie's Inner City in East Toledo.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
WEST SIDE STORY, Various Artists (Decca)
The new West Side Story recording is a fine piece of work that does a credible job of filling some mighty big shoes. While it lacks the original s character by having more of an overtly choreographed, faster-paced, and bigger-than-life production sound, it has impressive solos by soprano Hayley Westenra as Maria and Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo as Tony. T.H.
PUSH, Colette (Om)
On Push it s Colette s talents as a songwriter she co-wrote all the tracks and singer that are showcased, rather than her skills as a DJ. Her voice has a range and depth of expression that well suit these dance, pop, and hip-hop influenced tracks that are a strong and attractive mix of melody and beats. RICHARD PATON
NATHAN COGAN, Nathan Cogan (Self-released)
This Toledo singer/songwriter s debut release captures an artist with an unerring sense of song-craft and instinct for strong melodies. After playing regular shows around the city, Cogan and his band Mahlon Orrin on bass and Dave Martin on percussion recorded this eight-song disc of well-honed tunes. Think a less fussy version of Ben Folds Five or Five For Fighting. The disc is available online at www.myspace.com/nathancogan or at local record stores. R.L.