Dixie Chicks - Taking the Long Way
I first heard a few tracks from this album a few weeks ago on the BBC2 Country show (Thursdays at 7) and boy have they grown up.
I used to be a big Country fan but a lot of it has been leaving me rather cold, there has been little new blood, most of what you got to hear was one Brooks&Dunn clone after another, people like Garth Brooks getting more and more commercial and samey and the old league disappearing into oblivion, two notable exceptions being Emmylou Harris and Willie Nelson but their music really isn't Country anymore.
The Dixie Chicks were cool, modern, irreverent, had guts and spoke their mind (they got into big trouble with the rather conservative Country establishment when they publically told everyone what they thought of the Bush administration) but their music was still not quite there, it was all a bit too happy and pandering to the masses for my taste.
Enter Rick Rubin, producer extraordinaire of all kinds of music across all genres from Rap to Speed Metal, including the superb American series of Johnny Cash's late work, who again proves his knack for bringing out the best in the artist.
This album really shows their talent, both as artists and songwriters.
The music is varied from standard modern Country instrumentation (Lubbock or Leave it) via more traditional Bluegrass inspired tracks (Silent House), pure acoustic tracks and finising off with a fantastic Soul number (I Hope).
It's good value for money, too. 14 tracks, only two are (just) under four minutes.
Some of them are beautiful, some of them are engaging, others are just plain fun but all of them have extremely high production values.
One point of criticism would be that the lead vocals get a bit boring after a while, they could be a bit stronger/more emotional. The harmonies are really good, though.
So, in closing, a well thought out, well produced, high quality Country/Americana album.
8/10 on the Ozzometer (new scale)Ali Farka Touré - Savane
I picked this up on a whim after reading a really good review of it in Mojo. I've known of him for a while but hadn't gotten round to actually buying something of his stuff.
This is his latest album and really good.
For those who don't know Touré's World Music, he combines traditional Blues elements (guitar and harp) with equally Northern and West African melodies and instrumentation, singing in French and various African dialects. There's quite a bit of Zydeco influence, too.
This combination might sound odd at first but it really works, which actually isn't surprising as the Blues was developed by the descendants of West African slaves in North America so the music has common roots.
The title track, Savane, is definitely my favourite, it has the best groove but all the songs have their qualities.
The booklet is also worth reading as contains notes and interesting bits about each songs (in French and English), rather than just the lyrics.
Bored of conventional music and looking for something new? You can't go wrong with this.
8/10 on the Ozzometer(crossposted to ultimatereviews)