Monday, May 21, 2018
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Crystal Bowersox's sophomore album is no jinx

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Crystal Bowersox (Shanachie)

Crystal Bowersox continues to defy expectations on her second album, which was released this week.

It is safe to say that after the relatively slick, heavy production of 2010’s post American Idol release “Farmer’s Daughter” most people expected the Elliston, Ohio, native to settle into a rootsy, Americana vibe that would be in her artistic wheelhouse.

But Bowersox displays far more diversity on “All That For This,” which seems to have as more Carole King and Neko Case as influences rather than Bonnie Raitt. Rather than do something predictable, she honors her pop roots, pays homage to singer/songwriter ethos with plenty of confessional lyrics, and delivers a solid, pleasing disc that moves her creative dial forward another notch.

The opening track and lead single on the Steve Berlin-produced album  “Dead Weight,” appears to be the thematic bridge between “Farmer’s Daughter” and her new sound, deftly mixing hook-heavy pop with a muscular, anthemic country rock vibe.

Over the course of the disc’s 12 tracks she veers into torchy jazz (“Movin’ On,” which she played Monday night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno), gentle radio-friendly soft rock (the sweet, breezy “Fall Into Place”), and big, noisy party-rock (“Til The Whiskey’s Gone.)

The disc’s centerpiece is the powerful, gospel-infused “Shine,” which is aimed directly at the father of Bowersox’s son, who is no longer in the picture. It’s a potent message from a mom who doesn’t have any regrets and, more importantly, knows she’s the winner in this particular emotional exchange.

“All That For This” is most aptly compared to a ‘70s era album in its diversity and wide array of styles. Bowersox refuses to be pinned down, and her commitment to being herself — with that beautiful voice, passion for her art, and down-to-earth core — pays off here.

To see her performance on Jay Leno, go here:




Elan Trotman (Woodward Avenue Records)

Anyone who's ever listened to much Grover Washington, Jr., knows he is a sax powerhouse capable of bringing down the house one minute and offering up something that's equally soothing and sensual the next.

Trotman grew up influenced by Washington, but on this disc, he adds a Caribbean flair to his refined sax technique. "Tropicality" is warm, breezy and fun - a pleasurable and relaxing journey that doesn't try to overpower you or make a statement.

It's the sixth solo album for Trotman, a Caribbean-born saxman who's shared the stage with Roberta Flack, Earl Klugh, Dave Koz and others. He bills this as a "Barbados to Boston" adventure, in part because the 12-track disc was recorded in Barbados, Los Angeles, and Boston. The disc has nine originals, seven written or co-written by Trotman. It opens with a jazzier take on Stevie Wonder's reggae-infused "Master Blaster."

Trotman is a three-time winner of the New England Urban Music Award, and was the 2011 Barbados Music Awards Instrumentalist of the Year.




The Strokes (RCA)

When the Strokes arrived in 2001, reinvigorating American rock and kick-starting interest in New York City bands, they were laser-focused with their indie rock approach on their debut, “Is This It?”

Since then, they have become increasingly more scattershot.

On their fifth album, “Comedown Machine,” the Strokes are all over the musical map, seemingly influenced by everyone from Michael Jackson and A-ha to Nina Simone, with varying degrees of success.

They open with “Tap Out,” which sounds like a combination of the rhythm track of “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”” and the chugging guitars from any number of ‘80s New Romantic bands, while singer Julian Casablancas tries out numerous vocal identities, from falsetto to tough guy. “Welcome to Japan” follows a similar guitar scenario, landing them somewhere between Spandau Ballet and Friendly Fires.

If that sounds confusing, the singles situation isn’t any clearer. There’s the more expected “All the Time,” where the band sounds the most like the “classic” Strokes, and the wildly unexpected “One Way Trigger,” where the band uses A-ha’s “Take On Me” as a jumping-off point, with plenty of Casablancas falsetto to punctuate the fun.

There are lots of ideas here, but the Strokes seem so impatient, they often don’t stick with one for a whole song. The result sounds energetic, but “Comedown Machine” borders on frantic, as if everyone in the band is worried that if they don’t bounce around, they’ll lose interest themselves. The lovely “Call It Fate, Call It Karma” shows that those worries aren’t just unfounded but may have been self-sabotage.

-- GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday

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