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Music reviews - 8.9.06

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MOTORHEAD
Kiss of Death
Sanctuary

It’s one thing to play loud and dirty; it’s another thing to play loud and dirty and mean it. For more than 30 years, Motorhead has never turned down or cleaned up. And Kiss Of Death is as loud and dirty as ever --- but it ain’t sloppy. Motorhead is one of the few genuine rock ’n’ roll bands that plays this fast and raunchy and still manages to keep the rubber side down.

Unlike 2004’s Inferno, Kiss offers a wider dynamic range of riffs and grooves. “Sucker” opens the whole sordid affair with the band’s trademark speed and might. “One Night Stand” is full of boogie woogie swagger, and “Under The Gun” is reminiscent of Lemmy’s dip in Muddy Waters a few years back. Nothing new, but then again the mainline rush this kind of music delivers, never gets old.

Kiss Of Death plays out like an oil-spewing Panzer full of fire and wit. You can still hear the denim and leather; you can still taste the blood.

--- Frank De Blase

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HAROLD DANKO
Oatts and Perry
Steeple Chase

Harold Danko has an understated touch on the piano that places him among the most lyrical pianists on the scene today. His careful choice of notes and lovely harmonies can be heard every time he solos on his new album. But the album’s title, Oatts and Perry, tells you how unselfish a musician he is by calling attention to the two saxophonists --- Dick Oatts (alto) and Rich Perry (tenor) --- he has enlisted to front his trio (with Michael Formanek, bass and Jeff Hirshfield, drums) this time out. Danko got to know Oatts and Perry when the two joined the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra a couple of decades ago while Danko was the orchestra’s pianist. It’s not difficult to hear what got Danko excited. Oatts and Perry can play together precisely, as on the heads of John Coltrane’s “Like Sonny” and Thelonious Monk’s “I Mean You,” or counter-punch each other brilliantly as they do throughout Thad Jones’ “Don’t Get Sassy.” Danko has recorded his own “Tidal Breeze” before, but never with quite this beautiful a harmony on the theme. On Horace Silver’s “Peace,” all five of the band members play freely, entering and exiting at will and building a dream-like sonic castle in the process.

--- Ron Netsky

 

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LIBBY JOHNSON
anabeLLa
Wrong

If the folk/acoustic end of an artist’s sound is her “walk,” and the throttle-open electric end her “mad dash,” then you could call Libby Johnson’s anabeLLa a cool sprint. Johnson hails from Lilith Fair darlings 22 Brides, but walks down the aisle solo on this one.

The restraint and reserve on this album is remarkable as the songs hover comfortably under Johnson’s casual propulsion. Even when she gives the gentle and funky “Undone” the staccato treatment, it never gets away from her. Songs like “Good To Go” seem to emerge from the shadows before the band sheds slivers of light. And when the band sits out on the bluesy “Mi La Vie” a hint of the lonely and ominous seem to surface and hang there in your mind for while.

--- Frank De Blase

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SCOTT H. BIRAM
Graveyard Shift
Bloodshot Records

Scott H. Biram is a textbook example of the old chestnut “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” Graveyard Shift, the latest release from this country’s finest one-man band, is written by Biram, produced by Biram, and features the Texas native’s weapons of choice (guitar + blues harp + stompin’ + hollerin’) delivering his own brand of revival-tent Americana punk. Songs about Southern concerns like Jesus, the devil (both the pitchforked and fishnetted incarnations), and driving abound, as evidenced by tracks like the gospel-infused “Been Down Too Long” and the plaintive twang of “18-Wheeler Fever.” Graveyard Shift seems a little more traditionalist country than Biram’s last record, the damn-near-perfect psychobilly manifesto Dirty Old One-Man Band. But the chugging, bluesy fury of “Plow You Under” assures us that Biram ain’t fixin’ to settle down on the porch with a shotgun across his lap just yet.

--- Dayna Papaleo

 

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