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Published: Saturday, 11/28/2009

Fabulous Tickled Pink's family tree has roots here

Another release springs up from the ridiculously deep and talented pool of musicians who came of age in the Sylvania area in the mid-'70s.

Tinkled Pink is a Cincinnati trio featuring Bob Nyswonger on bass, Bam Powell on drums, and Scott Covrett on guitar. All of them were involved with the Raisins, which spawned the Psychodots and the Bears, both of which Nyswonger is also a member. And they're all from this area and transplanted to Cincy, where they play in various groups.

It's a complicated musical family tree that has one common theme: it always produces excellent artistry.

Each one of the Tickled Pink members works his own stylistic turf - Nyswonger, skewed, clever power pop; Powell, thoughtful rockers, and Covrett, jazz and blues-infused rock - and the songwriting chores are shared evenly.

Highlights include Powell's oddball Tom Waits-y "Barefeet," Nyswonger's anthemic "Standing 8" (which sounds like a great long-lost Bears outtake), and Covrett's smoking blues closer, "I Know It's Wrong."

These guys are veterans, but there's nothing tired about their sound, and the more "Tickled Pink" plays the better it sounds, revealing the kind of quirky virtuosity that only the real pros can offer. Here's hoping they find their way to Toledo soon.

"Tickled Pink" is available at CDbaby.com.

- ROD LOCKWOOD

After a dozen years and more than 76 million albums sold, these days the quartet is more Main Street than Backstreet, more men than Boys. But not ones to rest on past successes, they have hooked up with some hot producers and songwriters for this 11-track disc, rather brief at 40 minutes.

It sounds thoroughly contemporary. Which is not necessarily a good thing when that means it is glossily produced, flawlessly performed, and characterless to the point of being nondescript prefab pop/R&B.

There are dance beats on the lead single "Straight Through My Heart" with its kind of Euro-disco, electro-lite rhythm track overlaid with harmonies, and on "All of Your Life (You Need Love)."

All of which would be OK in a forgettable sort of way. But then there are the truly awful "PDA" and "She's A Dream." On the former (the title referring to public displays of affection) there are such lyrics as "kissing and touching with my hands all over your booty." Oh, come on. Really? That doesn't sound hot - just silly.

After that low point the remainder of the disc hardly registers. And the disappointing part of it all is that the Backstreet Boys can really sing. It's just that the material is so pedestrian, the arrangements so rote, and a couple of songs so dreadful that their talent is almost immaterial.

- RICHARD PATON

The art of memorable storytelling is alive and well in the capable pen, musicianship, and voice of the veteran John McCutcheon. With this unusual two-disc set, one of storytelling and the other of songs, he cements his reputation as "folk music's renaissance man."

The first disc, recorded live, contains nearly 66 minutes and five tracks of stories chock full of pathos, funny twists, and riveting human interest. A couple are traditional tales, such as "John Henry," delivered with depth and a modern touch. Others are his own creations, pushing contemporary issues through his potent wringer of humor and insights. His take on the television hit, Survivor, is hysterical and meaningful, punctuated by Pete Seeger's "Well May The World Go."

The second disc is 48 minutes of a dozen McCutcheon original tunes that observe and celebrate the foibles and emotions of modern mankind. With McCutcheon on guitars and banjo, joined by a handful of talented sidemen, these are songs that cry for deep listening.

McCutcheon drains every last drop of emotion from some of these numbers, especially the uncanny mix of music with his words on the second disc. You'd have to be heartless not to feel an occasional stirring of feelings if you're really listening - and hearing - what he's saying.

- KEN ROSENBAUM

He's rude, he's crude, and he's every bit as obnoxious as you'd expect a Howard Stern sidekick to be on his debut comedy album.

Artie Lange could make the late Lenny Bruce wince. But even as demented as Lange's brand of humor is, you can't help but laugh sometimes as he skewers anyone from the late actor Heath Ledger to former boxer Mike Tyson, and explains why he's so envious of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

There's lots of talk about drugs, hookers, and gambling and, as if that's not distasteful enough, a few wisecracks about Special Olympics.

- TOM HENRY

Keeping up with jazz trombonist Luis Bonilla is a bit like shadowing a bumblebee. The one-time member of bands featuring the late Dizzy Gillespie, McCoy Tyner, Tony Bennett, and Freddie Hubbard, Bonilla's all over the place with an unconventional style and loads of creativity, tempered only by the occasional saxophone or drum solo. - T.H.



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