It never has been fair to compare blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan to his iconic kid brother, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Nor is it particularly fair to compare this latest album of Jimmie Vaughan's to the long list of high-spirited, sweat-drenched blues releases that get confused with rock and pop albums. Recorded in his hometown of Austin, this disc, which went on sale Tuesday, is Jimmie's fourth as a soloist and is his first studio recording in nine years.
It's a generally likeable collection of 13 tame, bread-and-butter blues ballads and songs, many featuring Lou Ann Barton on vocals. Though somewhat mellow, it's not overly subdued. The songs are renditions of favorites Jimmie handpicked from the likes of Little Richard, Jimmy Reed, Willie Nelson, Roy Milton, and Roscoe Garden.
Just easy-going and old school with a slight country twang and a touch of Texas blues sauce, the kind of stuff that inspires cheek-to-cheek dancing in Southern eateries that have red-checkered tablecloths and jukebox collections from yesteryear.
It doesn't make a new statement or necessarily reach out to become something that people will still be talking about years from now, but it can warm the soul.
- TOM HENRY
Southern soul man singer/songwriter Paul Thorn digs up his family roots for his sixth album and rather than come across as an insular vanity project, the results are both fun and enlightening.
Thorn is blessed with a novelist's writing style and a wonderfully evocative voice, and over the course of 13 songs he explores a variety of themes with an emphasis on specific details and universal truths.
The music behind these tales of romantic misadventures ("Love Scar," "Weeds in My Roses"), spiritual open-mindedness ("You Might Be Wrong"), and the foibles of human nature ("Tequila is Good For the Heart," "I Don't Like Half the Folks I Love") is a mix of rock, rhythm and blues, country, and blue-eyed soul.
Thorn crafts an excellent song, sturdy and catchy, and in an alternate universe he'd be as big as Jimmy Buffet or a mainstream country act. But something tells me he's OK with operating under the radar, free to follow his own muse.
- ROD LOCKWOOD
Kylie Minogue still sounds like Madonna's nicer, blander kid sister on her 11th studio album, "Aphrodite," which starts with the airy declaration, "Dance - it's all I want to do." In her long, buoyantly superficial career, her songs have rarely had much more than that in mind.
Through ups and downs and an arty moment or two, Minogue, 42, has been a pop presence worldwide since the late 1980s, particularly in her native Australia and Britain. Her elfin voice, the body she's proud to flaunt, and her decent average in finding catchy songs and hopping on bandwagons have sold her tens of millions of albums, though mostly outside the United States. She made her first North American headlining tour only last year.
"Aphrodite" is part of a pop moment that's reviving dance beats from 1970s disco on into the 1990s, perhaps calculating that dance music thrived in past economic downturns. "I know life is hard, so we're living for the weekend," Minogue offers in "Better Than Today."
She has joined Black Eyed Peas, Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Shakira, Christina Aguilera, Kelis, and even Miley Cyrus in latching onto club sounds. Even in "Get Outta My Way," which stages a voyeuristic menage a trois - "see me with him and it's turning you on" - the music goes bounding along, chipper and indifferent.
The album's executive producer is a certified Madonnaologist, Stuart Price, who produced Madonna's 2005 "Confessions on a Dance Floor," which harked back to her 1980s beats with hints of soul-searching. For Minogue, however, positive thinking rules. Her "Put Your Hands Up" isn't a holdup; its chorus continues, "If you feel love tonight."
In the title song of "Aphrodite," Minogue sings, "I got spirit you can feel/Did you think I wasn't real?" No one's asking for reality in this pop bubble - just a little bit more innovation.
- JON PARELES, NEW YORK TIMES
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