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Cake and country music, too

Daily Staff ReportsVail CO, Colorado
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B-Sides and Rarities, Upbeat RecordsAny time an artist releases a b-sides and rarities collection I always feel like they have run out of gas on the highway and cant get the engine fired up. The logic is that we should feel blessed that we even get to hear these rediscovered gems that were just miraculously found under some crate of old recordings or in some abandoned studio locker. I dont buy it. Its a trick, and I fall for it every time.Cakes B-Sides and Rarities is one of the better results of this ploy. There are some unusual tracks on this disc, even for Cake. The same signature sound that we have all grown to know and love is incorporated into their remake of Black Sabbaths War Pigs. It almost becomes a stand-up comedy routine with trumpets and John McCreas laid back vocals crooning what should be a dark tune of destruction. On Ruby, Dont Take Your Love to Town, a song made famous by Kenny Rogers in the late 60s, all the sadness and despair of the lyrics are drained out and replaced by a campy, knee-slapping country jangle. The original meanings of the songs may be lost in translation, but they are a lot of fun to listen to anyway. And really, Cake never hesitates to use comedy to drive a point home. Even though this is a rarities collection, there is nothing new here. Cake is Cake, and thats actually a good thing. This is a fun, irreverent collection of covers and live performances, and fans of the band will just be happy for the odd material. If youre not a fan already, this is as good a jumping on point as any other Cake album already out there.Charlie Owen, Vail Daily Arts & Entertainment Writer

Autumn Response, JajaguwarRichard Youngs folk albums are stark as a rule, meaning newcomers must have patience if they hope to warm to his latest. With only crisp, circular breaths of guitar beneath, Youngs voice and lyrics are the absolute focus. Both are sad and evocative, working with the guitar for an effect that would be lulling if there werent something aggressive lurking in there, too.His vocals are often double-tracked out of sync so that they overlap, as if there were two Youngs and one was lagging behind. Its eerie, but so is everything here. And since the British songsmith rarely plays live, he doesnt have to worry about replicating the effect. One Hundred Stranded Horses is the albums most striking track, hewing closer to the folk tradition, while the weepy No Edge might find crossover fans if it lasted more than 90 seconds. Conversely, the closing Something Like Air stretches to nearly 17 minutes.Other songs are likably loopy I was asleep in my vertical machine, he repeats on I Am the Weather but tend to bleed together. Sometimes Youngs seems to have found an entirely new way of writing songs. Other times its as if hes just being difficult. Doug Wallen, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

The Wolf, Universal SouthShooter Jennings isnt sure where he falls on the country-rock continuum: Am I country enough / Or too rock n roll? he asks with a wink on the title track to his third album. Rather than fret over genre distinctions, though, he embraces them equally: Jennings is one of the few guys who can please both the country and rock camps.After the too-wordy opening misstep of This Ol Wheel, he and his band, the .357s, are off and running: Tangled Up Roses borrows the riff from the Whos Baba ORiley, then leads into an inspired cover of Dire Straits Walk of Life. The Oak Ridge Boys join in on Slow Train, and (slightly) more country-leaning tunes Old Friend and Concrete Cowboys would do his father, outlaw-country legend Waylon Jennings, proud. And because this is a Shooter Jennings album, wine, women and tales from life on the road all show up — sometimes in the same song (Higher).The lone knock is that Jennings essentially has released the same album three times in a row, but when the results are this enjoyable, its not a creative rut, its dependability. Stephen Haag, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

The Storm, Category 5Travis Tritt has been one of mainstream countrys grittiest voices since the early 1990s, a consistent shaper of tunes that are equal parts rowdy and radio-friendly. The 44-year-old Georgia native works that familiar territory anew and expands into soul and blues on The Storm, showing flashes of old-style attitude as he balances puffy ballads and rugged romps.With Randy Jackson along as co-producer, Tritt adds finesse to the accessible streak that always has been part of his music, sounding slick but not quite packaged as he checks his growl on a cover of Richard Marxs You Never Take Me Dancing. He gets considerably looser as he struts through the simmering come-on Rub Off on Me, and his snarl is the roughness that defines the edges of the springy southern blues on the title track.Tritts southern-fried vocalizations dont quite mesh with the climactic string bed of the expansive romance ballad I Dont Know How I Got By, but there is sufficient personality in his rebels twang to elevate Something Stronger Than Me above ordinary and ladle expressive passion onto the deliberate What if Love Hangs On. His bellowing matches Kenny Wayne Shepherds sizzling electric guitar on the pulsating Somehow, Somewhere, Someway, and displays Tritts aptitude for high-polish blues, and the chugging honky-tonk number High Time for Gettin Down is the sort of no-frills burst that has been Tritts most appealing mainstay. Thomas Kintner, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service


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