CD Reviews: Keller Williams latest is a strange treat
12, Sci-Fidelity (release date Dec. 18)For a guy who never gets his music played on the radio, Keller Williams has had quite the musical career. Maybe its because he writes songs with titles like Butt Sweat, or maybe its because every one of his songs sounds different from the next, but whatever the reason, Williams is not a one-sided artist.His latest album 12 is a collection of his past music; one song from each of his 11 previous albums with one new song (Freshies) thrown in to round out the collection.Williams sound could be considered jam music if he played with a band, but most of the time he plays by himself.Never happy to be labeled, Williams mixes musical styles like a chef with a cupboard full of odd ingredients. A pinch of country, a dash of rock, a dollop of hip-hop and a smidgen of bluegrass; stir it all in the pot and bring it to a boil thats just the tip of what Williams can sound like at any given moment.His songwriting capability is exceptional but hard to swallow unless you just happen to be in one of those moods to listen to stream-of-consciousness lyrics and freestyle guitar playing. But if you are ever in that mood, Williams is your man. Charlie Owen, Arts & Entertainment Writer
The Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant, SonyThe good news about Wyclef Jean, ever since his days with the Fugees, always has been his artistic ambition, depressingly rare in a genre that unhesitatingly rewards the safe and mundane.But that ambition has also been Clefs Achilles heel. His never-ending quest to prove hes the most ecleftic hip-hop impresario around has given him a scattershot career missing a definitive statement that would help him reach the level of his oft-cited idols: Marley, Gaye and others.Memoirs, the follow-up of sorts to Clefs 1997 solo debut The Carnival, isnt that definitive statement. However, its impressive in its own right, an authentic world-music showcase encompassing both hemispheres.The diversity works in part because most of Clefs songs have their roots in the Latin-Caribbean sounds which increasingly dominate pop music and are built around the simple core of his guitar and gritty, island-inflected voice.Merely gathering Paul Simon, T.I., Sizzla and Norah Jones under the same cover, and making all those cameos make sense, is an impressive feat, but Wyclef wisely goes a step further, tying the tunes together with tales of his own experience in Americas melting pot.These Memoirs are a reminder of the power that concept still possesses. Dan LeRoy, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.
The Last Post, CarolineOften lost in the legend of the Clash a story that tends to focus, understandably, on late front man Joe Strummer — is the brilliance of Mick Jones.It was Jones riffs and melodies, after all, that allowed Strummer to reach a generation, and if not for the guitarists skills as both a pop songsmith and genre-hopping innovator, the band would never have made it from dank London squats to American stadiums.As leader of Big Audio Dynamite, Jones spent his post-Clash years experimenting with hip-hop and dance music, but now hes back to his roots, fronting a four-piece rock n roll band.Carbon/Silicon isnt the return to form Clash diehards have been pining for, but the project proves Jones hasnt lost interest in loud guitars and social messages.Like Strummer in his later days, Jones has traded youthful anger for a more measured look at humanity, but hes still in the business of drawing lines between right and wrong.What Jones lacks (and has always lacked) is Strummers conviction, not to mention the everyman bark it inspired. Tunes like National Anthem are built on fine ideas and pleasant, if repetitive, guitar parts, but Carbon/Silicon never takes that crucial step of letting its emotions take control. Kenneth Partridge, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.
Nobody Likes a Winner, Get HipBreakup Society front man Ed Masley was born 30 years too late: his regular-guy-with-a-guitar-and-girls-on-his-mind dreams are cut from the same cloth as unassuming late 70s power-pop heroes such as Dwight Twilley and Alex Chilton.How else to explain the righteously retro feel to Nobody Likes a Winner, Masleys sophomore album as the Breakup Society?Those looking for a concept record, a la the bands 2004 release, James at 35, will have to settle for merely a strong batch of tunes that revisits the same territory, albeit without a narrative thread. Masley deals with girl troubles Shes out of his reach / But hes willing to try goes Another Candlelit Night and bouts of insecurity (the title track; How Failure Saved Me From Myself”), all dressed up in chiming guitars, bright hooks and catchy de-doo-doo-doos.Masley, to his credit, doesnt try to top his earlier gem, but rather builds on that record, adding horns and strings, tightening up the songwriting (witness the clever/aching Strictly Biological Heart”) and even recruiting a master of self-deprecation, the Minus 5s Scott McCaughey, to sing lead vocals on By a Thread.Masley starts to run out of steam by the end just when he begins to find redemption on Forget the Past but hes proved his point: Rooting for the underdog is much more fun than pulling for a winner. Stephen Haag, Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service.