Lady Antebellum 'Own the Night' (Capitol Nashville)
Considering this superstar group was formed a mere five years ago, Lady Antebellum's success in the country/pop music business has been remarkably swift.
This new album, the trio's third, recently debuted on the Billboard 200 charts in the No. 1 slot. The group's second album, "Need You Now," did just that in February, 2010. Oh yes, their initial offering in April, 2008, "Love Don't Live Here," was the first album by a duo or group to debut in the No. 1 place on Billboard's Top Country Albums.
That's remarkable success right out of the chute. Several singles from the first two albums reached the very top of the charts, and you can expect that to happen with a few songs here too as the drive to superstar status goes on.
The consistently good songs and performances are obviously the reasons they sell millions of albums. The dozen tracks here dish out solid harmonies, listenable melodies, and good feelings for nearly 48 minutes. That formula is what has brought the three artists such accolades and success.
While that formula isn't likely to change, don't think that familiarity breeds boredom. Each track brings a bit of contemporary difference to modern country/pop without crossing the line into yet another genre. It's all done with a subtle change in back beat, pacing, instrumental emphasis, and downright good musicianship. Outstanding, soft-edged vocals put the finishing touch on each song. From subtle, dreamy and thought-stirring ballads to quicker, barroom anthems, all the bases seem covered.
While they have become consummate recording performers, Charles Kelley (lead and background vocals), Dave Haywood (background vocals, guitar, piano and mandolin) and Hillary Scott (lead and background vocals) have left their marks in the songwriting end of the business too. One or more of their names is on 10 of the songs here.
-- KEN ROSENBAUM
Katy B 'On A Mission' (Rinse/Columbia)
Get ready to add terms such as dub-step, UK funky, and drum & bass to your musical vocabulary, because out of London here comes Katy B ready to take over the charts and finally get this country up to speed with the rest of the world on dance music.
As did almost all important pop musical genres -- from psychedelia to disco, punk, and beyond -- Katy B's sound rises up from the underground, from pirate radio, embracing dance music styles that have a passing acquaintance with mainstream house but go far beyond.
Her outstanding debut doesn't stop there. Her songs -- yes, she's an accomplished songwriter too -- blend intensely rhythmic, skittering, pulsing sounds with a keen ear for melody and some lovely choruses and intriguing song structures.
The lyrics might not be too deep, but who cares? This is about the beats, about the textures of the songs, the joyful vocals.
It takes only a few seconds to know something special is going on. Just a few bars into the opening "Power On Me" there it all is. Her voice strong and smooth on the verse, more expressive on the chorus. The funky house pumps underneath, but not in straight 4/4 beats as the rather skipping rhythm adds an entirely new texture to the song.
And for 11 more tracks -- plus a bonus song, so don't eject the disc right after the final cut -- Katy B brings together UK funky, dubstep, grime, drum & bass, house, and soul (she is a fan of R&B and neo-soul) on a disc that also has an organic, rather than studio-glossy, sound.
Unlike some contemporary pop/dance artists who use glitz and image and PR stunts to mask a paucity of musical creativity or talent, Katy B is the real thing. "On A Mission" is a brilliant fusion of underground dance with a pop sensibility, and a truly stunning debut.
-- RICHARD PATON
The Sean Chambers Band 'Live From the Long Island Blues House' (Blue Heat Records)
For the uninitiated, Sean Chambers is a filthy, no-holds-barred guitarist with incredible dexterity who shreds with a style reminiscent of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn and Chicago blues great Luther Allison.
Yes, he's that good.
He toured with the legendary Hubert Sumlin from 1998 to 2003. He has shared stages with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. In fact, he might be one of the best guitarists that many people have never heard.
Chambers was named one of last century's Top 50 blues guitarists by Great Britain's Guitarist magazine, only to be sidelined and forced into a day job for four years after two hurricanes flooded him out of his Florida home in 2004.This album is a follow to his critically acclaimed comeback album of 2009, "Ten Til Midnight," and is a 10-song hum-dinger that rocks out with Chambers's blend of sweaty Chicago, Texas, and Mississippi Delta blues.
Most of the material is original, sung from the gut with Chambers' gritty vocals, and there are hot versions of an Elmore James number and a Kinsey Report tune. Awesome riffs from a real devotee of the blues who plays like a house on fire.
-- TOM HENRY