Kid Rock (Atlantic)
Heartland rock and country epics -- that was Kid Rock, vintage 2010.
Kid's "Born Free" that year was a good one, filled with the grandeur, grit, and fresh air of a Bob Seger record, without Rock's usual hip-hop lean or strip-club soliloquies. Problem was, few people bought into the idea of a Chevy truck-driving, wind-in-your-hair-styled Kid Rock. They like their Kid with dirty hair and a dirtier mind.
So he gave it to them.
"Rebel Soul" is more cliche-driven than Rock's foul, funkier previous albums. Then again, you don't come to his albums for innovation. You come for tried-and-true rock-out axioms, ideas as worn as old motorcycle boots, and how Rock somehow makes them inviting. The churning, bass-heavy sound behind the yowling Rock is crusty and distorted -- a perfect fit for the sleaze factor of cuts like "Cocaine and Gin." Throw some hip-hop and a hot tub into that equation? A tune like "Cucci Galore." Replace sex and drugs with cars, and there's the rich Corinthian leather of "3 CATT Boogie."
No matter how tacky or tawdry, there's always an earnest Kid Rock trying to break through on tunes like "God Save Rock n Roll." As long as it's nasty, let him try.
--A.D. AMOROSI, Philadelphia Inquirer
FIRE RED MOON
Craig Chaquico (Blind Pig)
Former Jefferson Starship lead guitarist and songwriter Craig Chaquico has had a life beyond arena rock that has transcended other musical genres, such as smooth jazz and New Age.
With "Fire Red Moon" he gets in some amazingly hot licks as a blues guitarist on a fine combination of originals with covers of Albert King's classic "Born Under a Bad Sign," the Muddy Waters standard, "Rollin' and Tumblin,'" and Robert Johnson's "Crossroads."
Chaquico, 58, who began playing with Jefferson Starship at age 16, is entering his fifth decade of a musical career that has resulted in numerous accolades beyond his platinum-selling success. Among them is Jazziz magazine's citation as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Guitarists of All Time and the readers of Guitar Player naming him Best Pop Instrumental Guitarist.
He does more than sear and bend notes in his solos; he provides passion, energy, and drive as he brings listeners to the intersection of sweaty, gut-bucket blues and the music that grew out of it, meat-and-potatoes rock and roll.
-- TOM HENRY
Ke$ha burst onto the scene with 2009's "Animal," a wonderland of bourbon-breathed, glitter-flecked, dance-all-night moral relativists.
"Warrior," her guest-laden follow-up, begins on a similar course. Lead single "Die Young" is a classic live-for-the-party anthem, while the Iggy Pop duet "Dirty Love" is deliciously, almost uncomfortably filthy. But cracks begin to show in Ke$ha's neon body paint, through which we can see a beating, vulnerable heart.
The house thumper "Wherever You Are" and the Strokes-assisted "Only Wanna Dance With You" celebrate love of the nonfleeting variety. And the Ben Folds/Flaming Lips-aided deluxe edition track "Past Lives" chronicles an oddball romance for the ages.
Even the kiss-off "Thinking Of You" reveals previously uncharted depths. While not a completely seamless process, the evolution of Ke$ha is fascinating to watch.
-- BRIAN HOWARD, Philadelphia Inquirer