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music friday: rock & rap confidential

The invaluable Rock & Rap Confidential newsletter arrived in my email box yesterday. An occasional feature offers “downloading prospects”, brief reviews of current music written by intelligent listeners. This time, they wrote,  “Every time we set out to concoct one of our musical surveys, each of us is always knocked out by how much wonderful music is out there and how many different kinds of music make the grade. When our picks come together, with an absolute minimum of overlap (and not by assignment), the impression is deepened and reinforced.”

What follows is a list of music suggested in that most recent list of downloading prospects. I have nothing to say, since with many of these tunes, I’m listening for the first time myself, so I’ll quote a bit from the newsletter. Each newsletter includes the following note, which I’ll cut-and-paste here: “Please feel free to forward or post this issue widely, in whole or in part. We only ask that you include the information that anyone can subscribe free of charge by sending their email address to”

1. Beth Hart, “I’d Rather Go Blind”. “[S]he does a rendition of Etta’s ‘I’d Rather Go Blind,’ a task that I ordinarily wouldn't wish on any singer I loved, especially alongside Jeff Beck at his best. Hart turns on the power gradually, creating a slow burn where a lesser singer would flame out after a chorus. She does it with the same clarity of vision that drives the rest of the album. Beck's guitar solo feels like an ovation for the depth she's touched. Or maybe I'm projecting.” – Dave Marsh

2. Laura Tsaggaris, “Ask for It”. “On the rocking centerpiece, ‘Ask For It,’ Tsaggaris chides, ‘Ain’t no good reason why people should read your mind,’ before calling her listeners to come on up and stake their claim.”

3. Mic Crenshaw, “Free My Mind”. “He’s the guy who takes the likes of Billy Squire and Bachman Turner Overdrive and crams it into tracks until it mutates into a perfect bed for his skilled flow at the mic while adding his own engaging pop sensibility in order to help him convey blistering revolutionary manifestos with a love of family and fun, especially riding Harleys.”

4. Patty Griffin, “Ohio”. “Robert Plant sings on a few songs, but that ain’t the point. He’s there because Patty Griffin is one of our great musical treasures, as writer and singer. That’s why you should be there, too.”

5. La Maquinaria Nortena, “Ya Nada Paso”. “[T]he whole wide world of causes feels quietly understated throughout, nowhere more poignantly than the album centerpiece, ‘Ya Nada Paso.’”

6. Shannon McNally, “Love in the Worst Degree”. “[J]ust like that, Shannon McNally finally has an album as good as her live performances.”

7. Pink, “All We Are We Are”. “Reasons to live come up front with the opening rocker, ‘Are We All We Are,’ which delivers an expansive, energized and rowdy sense of community (followed, appropriately enough, by the anthem ‘Blow Me’).”

8. Mavis Staples, “Jesus Wept”. “She may be the finest traditional gospel voice we have left—depending on how Aretha’s feeling this minute.”

9. Wet Willie, “Keep on Smilin’”. “Wet Willie stands as a clear number four in the Southern rock pantheon which ain’t bad when you’re sitting behind only Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top, and the Allman Brothers.”

10. The Del-Lords, “Me and the Lord Blues”. “As a whole, this extraordinary album benefits from Eric Ambel’s deep crunching production, nowhere pushed to greater limits than the working class fever dreams of ‘Me and the Lord Blues.’”