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Published: 6/3/2010

Sounds: British rock classics get a revolutionary spin

It's an idea that is long overdue.

For years artists like Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Steve Winwood, Led Zeppelin, and the Beatles have made a living off of reinterpreting the music of black soul singers.

So why not turn the tables and have an authentic America singer record the music from across the pond and rough it up and make it her own?

Bettye LaVette takes 13 songs from artists like the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Zeppelin, Traffic, and The Who and so thoroughly works them over that they become hers. Her takes are radically different and if you're a purist run far away from "Interpretations" because she strips down the originals and rebuilds them into vintage soul chestnuts.

Just three examples: Imagine Ringo Starr's rather lightweight pop "It Don't Come Easy" turned into a slow burning slide guitar blues. Try to picture Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" morphed from a cold tale of isolation and loss into one of deep longing. And perhaps best of all, Zeppelin's "All My Love" is given an intense focus on the lyrics, which until now never seemed to make much sense.

LaVette pulls this off by digging deep into the emotional depths of these songs. She doesn't just interpret them, in some cases she rewrites them, taking liberties with the lyrics or even the structures of choruses and verses. Her voice drips with character and soul - Tina Turner crossed with Sharon Jones - and the arrangements stay firmly locked in a simmer that rarely boils over.

Covers discs often don't work and that's generally because the reworkings are too faithful to the originals. You don't have to worry about that here.

- ROD LOCKWOOD

With this breakout, self-titled debut album, country music singer/songwriter Kennon introduces not only himself, but also a striking new song that has created a stir nationwide.

"The Call," boasts a couple of poignant and powerful vignettes within its track that tug at listeners' heartstrings and emphasize the critical nature of a well-timed phone call and its effect on one or more lives. Corny, but effective.

Kennon's smoky/raspy baritone is an attention-grabber on ballads and uptempo kickers alike. Far from just one top song and an album of 11 fillers, the stuff here is contemporary and lively, packed with great instrumental work and some knockout lyrics.

Kennon wrote or co-wrote eight of the tracks, showing broad creative talent in addition to his fine vocals. There are several album highlights that should get wide airplay on country stations, including the rousing "Mama Raised The Hell Outta Me," the hopeful and upbeat "Ride With Me," and the introspective, thought-provoking "If I Was Any Kind Of Man."

- KEN ROSENBAUM

Bruce Springsteen had "Born to Run."

Simon and Garfunkel had "Homeward Bound."

Every artist, it seems - whether they perform rock, pop, jazz, country, blues, reggae, roots, or classical - hits a point in their careers when they are driven, at least once and often more, to write about either life on the road or their bittersweet longing for home.

Enter the talented and inventive jazz pianist Brad Mehldau, who has composed and executed an intriguing two-disc set written as if all 15 original compositions are a series of stops along the road that collectively become a greater story.

The theme isn't new, but it's one that's universally appealing. And Mehldau, a classically trained artist who seems to get better with each disc, has created a wonderful musical landscape, a tapestry of images featuring various combinations of himself, Jeff Ballard, and Matt Chamberlain on drums, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Joshua Redman on saxophone, plus an orchestra of nearly 40 strings, a few horns, and a couple of woodwind instruments.

This is the first album he composed from beginning to end. Mehldau's songs can have a somber, trance-like texture to them one minute, then simple, earthy sounds offset by dazzling rhythms the next.

- TOM HENRY



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