FUN ON A SATURDAY NIGHT
The Blasters (Rip Cat)
If you're old enough to remember when the Blasters were a fresh new act on the cutting edge of the burgeoning roots rock movement, it's comforting to know the old fellas are still hammering away.
The band's newest album, "Fun On a Saturday Night" sounds like it came out of a time capsule from 1980, which is really intriguing given that back then the Blasters sounded like a smoking hot rockabilly band from the '50s. All of which is a way of saying that A) their sound is timeless, and B) they still burn.
Roaring through a batch of covers such as Johnny Cash's "Jackson" and James Brown's "Please Please Please" the band led by Phil Alvin is defiantly retro and ready to rock.
"Jackson" features Exene Cervenka of X doing her best June Carter Cash to Alvin's Johnny. "Please Please Please" is stripped down with Alvin's deep baritone doing the heavy emotional lifting, "No More Nights by Myself" is a harmonica driven ballad, and "Love Me With Feeling" features freakishly fast guitar playing that is part country chicken pickin' and part surf guitar.
Holding it all together are strong blues and rock roots, with no song clocking in at longer than three minutes, 58 seconds. It's a shame that this music will largely go unheard even though it's based on sounds that were extremely popular about 50 years ago.
Some things should never go out of style.
-- ROD LOCKWOOD
NEW YORK ATTITUDE
Erena Terakubo with Legends (Four Quarters Entertainment/King Records)
Barely 20 years old, saxophone prodigy Erena Terakubo fits in seamlessly with four giants of the jazz world -- Ron Carter on bass, Lee Pearson on drums, Dominic Farinacci on trumpet, and Kenny Barron on piano.
Barron is in the American Jazz Hall of Fame, has twice performed the Art Tatum Piano Recital at the University of Toledo, and has played in concert at Bowling Green State University. Terakubo's association with such a top-shelf foursome is remarkable enough, but this album shows what a powerhouse talent she is in her own right and how her talent belies her age.
The beauty of her crisp tone, swinging melodies, knack for rhythm, and ability to play sweet and lush as easily as snappy, uptempo jazz puts her in an elite class for saxophonists at this or any age. The fact Terakubo's already got the brilliant saxophonist-composer Wayne (Weather Report) Shorter on her short-list of mentors makes her potential downright scary.
Although this is Terakubo's North American debut, New York Attitude is her second release. Her first, Nightbird, was on a major Japan label, King Records, with Barron and renowned bassist Christian McBride.
Take note, jazz buffs the youngster's out front on this disc, coming on strong, and her performance is one of the more intriguing ones of 2012.
-- TOM HENRY
The Gaslight Anthem (Mercury/Island Def Jam)
The Gaslight Anthem has always occupied an unsettling space between the earnestness of Bruce Springsteen's lyricism and the musical passion of harder-edged bands like Jawbox. The former is no surprise, given the quartet's New Jersey Roots and the latter -- well, this is a band that bounds back and forth across the line between punk and folk with no apologies.
Nor should it.
On its fourth studio album, the appropriately titled "Handwritten," Gaslight Anthem offers up plenty of material that is rich in texture and layered in its subtexts about love, longing, and losing that careens from composed whispers to impassioned pleas.
In a way, the 11 tracks -- starting with the sublime "45" -- evoke the band's prior recordings of stories blending hope, redemption, memories, and regret. But there's a more adult air infusing the 11 songs.
The Gaslight Anthem has fashioned a sturdy major label debut that more than pays homage to its upbringing while, at the same time, shows off a maturity gleaned from so much time playing on the road and a cohesion that is remarkable.
-- MATT MOORE, Associated Press