THE FALL & FURTHER DECLINE OF THE MIGHTY KING OF LOVE
Phil Lee (Palookaville)
Phil Lee is a knife-throwing, rail-skinny, East Nashville singer/songwriter, grampa who looks like he just walked off the set of Justified and ordered a shot of Wild Turkey at a bar south of hell.But the man can certainly deliver the goods, despite a stop-start career that is back on again with the release "The Fall & Further Decline of The Mighty King of Love," featuring 13 songs that run the gamut of rockabilly, blues, country, honky-tonk, soul, and rock and roll.
At 61 Lee has lived the life, serving as a drummer in a number of Americana and rock bands in the ’60s, working as a truck driver (including for Neil Young), and hustling his songs. He has only released four albums, the first one "The Mighty King of Love" coming out in 2000.
The most recent is a rollicking affair that features large dollops of Lee's sly humor and willingness to plow across genres with gleeful abandon, allowing his acoustic guitar work and Dylanesque harmonica to drive the band.
"Blues in Reverse" is a witty ode to not having the blues, "Cold Ground" is a weirdly effective ballad about a dead girlfriend or wife that features a number of Lee's friends asking "Is there anything I can do?" in spooky spoken word interludes, and "Let Your Mind Roll On" is an irreverent back porch country folk tune with a wonderful opening line: "Give it a break/shut your mouth/'for I make you live down south."
"King of Love" is a disc you just keep coming back to for little bits of sardonic homespun wisdom and a shambling sense that everything's going to be OK if you don't take it too seriously.
— ROD LOCKWOOD
THREE FREE AMIGOS
Anders Osborne (Alligator Records.)
New Orleans-based Anders Osborne, one of the Big Easy's most popular singer-songwriter-guitarists, departs from his usual high-energy electric guitar jamming on this EP of six original songs flavored by rock, blues, and reggae influences.
The disc is a little more laid back and loose than Osborne's previous work, but it has its share of earthy, down-home charm, sophistication, and pleasant surprises, including moments in which Osborne sits in on bass and drums.
He has the unique ability to wow listeners with his dexterity on guitar while also offering comfort as a storyteller.
Osborne recently racked up another three Best Of The Beat awards from OffBeat magazine, one of the nation's best for regional music, including the magazine's Best Guitarist awards for the third straight year and its Songwriter of the Year award for a second consecutive year.
— TOM HENRY
PUSH THE SKY AWAY
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Bad Seeds Ltd.)
In December, 2011, Nick Cave claimed to have disbanded Grinderman, his noisy, raunchy reconfiguration of his longstanding band, the Bad Seeds. But his libidinous thoughts live on in "Push the Sky Away," Cave's 15th album with the Bad Seeds. This is an album of quiet tension and fatalistic resignation, with Cave in darkly poetic mode singing about seductive sirens and the men who long for them.
The songs cross metaphoric and mythic overtones with 21st-century details. Cave mentions Wikipedia, Hannah Montana, and Miley Cyrus. He titles one song "Higgs Boson Blues." He describes iPod-wearing "city girls/ with white strings flowing from their ears."
The music is thoughtful and restrained, full of sustained minor chords; slow, deliberate rhythms; and ominous, subtle beauty. "And some people say it's just rock and roll/ Oh but it gets you right down to your soul," he sings in the title track. He's right.