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Wilburys set to travel again

George Harrison, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison joined forces to create supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. USA TODAY has the latest on their special album reissue. Check it out here.

One to watch: Robbers on High Street

If you haven't heard of Robbers on High Street, then it's a good time to take a listen to this New York-based quartet. They're currently on the road promoting their sophomore album, Grand Animals (due out July 24). Their tunes are catchy and jangly, demonstrating witty lyricism, and range from playlist-worthy toe-tappers to light-hearted ballads. Here are a couple of clips. What do you think? Across Your Knee | The Fatalist

If you like what you hear, here's a list of their tour dates and locations.

-- K.L.

Monday mood music

Luantoinette There are several ways to combat the Monday blues, and on a day as gray as today, sometimes you need more than a few slaps of the snooze button and a cup of coffee to wake up.

Here are a few tunes that may help you ease into the workweek:

- Opus 36 by Dustin O'Halloran from the Marie Antoinette soundtrack. This sleepy, sweet song pairs well with those early-morning stares.

- And while we're still snuggled up in a morning fog, Private Universe by Crowded House is great if you can't deal with anything perkier than your percolator.

- Ever Fallen In Love? by Nouvelle Vague. A fresh, Brazilian jazz/lounge twist on The Buzzcocks' 1978 punk classic.

- Afro Latin Concrete by Red Cloud & Digital Hemp (Journeys by DJ). A booty-shaking mix of Latin guitar and hip-hop beats.

- Ooh La by The Kooks. A lively song from the up-and-coming Brit band. It's bound to put a little pep in your step.

- Ice Cream by New Young Pony Club. A fine specimen from the New Rave movement. Check out this electro-fueled dance tune with sexy, sassy lyrics like "I can give you what you want/I can make you heartbeat short/I can make your ice cream/ We could be a sweet team," and see if you don't find yourself using the office hallways as a catwalk.

Any recommendations on getting through the Monday blues? Send them over and I'll post them.

-- Korina Lopez

The 2006 box set roundup

Each year USA TODAY compiles a roundup of box sets, timed to come out for gift-giving season as one of our thoughtful reader services (the service being providing ideas to help empty your wallet during the holiday season. You can thank us later.)

This year we've got a story on how box sets fit in to today's shrunken record-store marketplace, another one on the emerging digital box sets, and last but far from least, a lengthy list of the year's top box sets.

A brief return plus assorted thanks

Just wanted to let you know I am back, although scary deadlines for the paper mean I probably won't be in full swing until later this afternoon. Meanwhile, I caught up on most of the comments while I was gone -- plenty of interesting stuff on the Time list of greatest albums, the evergreen Rock & Roll Hall of Fame topic, and -- a nice surprise -- some very eloquent Bobby Darin comments (good to see he's got such knowledgeable, dedicated fans).

I also wanted to thank Steve Jones for a quick and heartfelt Ruth Brown appreciation Friday, and Edna Gundersen for her usual fabulous fill-in work, including some highly entertaining and informative sales and radio airplay commentaries.

This week's album reviews are going up tonight, plus an interview by Steve with Jay-Z, so check those out.

A purrfect Cat Power offer

An exclusive Cat Power EP can be yours for the taking on Oct. 3 at eMusic. Recorded in June for KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic, it includes covers of Hank Williams’ Ramblin’ Man and Otis Redding’s Remember Me, plus Good Woman and the title track from her album, The Greatest, which was re-released Sept. 12 on Matador.

Take a trivia break

On Oct. 17, ABKCO Records is unleashing Cameo Parkway Greatest Hits, a 26-track overview of the Philadelphia label that championed such classic artists of the '50s and '60s as Bobby Rydell (Volare and The Cha Cha Cha), The Orlons (South Street and Don't Hang Up), The Dovells (You Can't sit Down), ? & The Mysterians (96 Tears) and Chubby Checker (The Twist and Pony Time). The set has 17 songs that reached the Top 5. So how familiar are you with these golden moldies? Name the artists who did these tunes (winner gets the undying admiration of his/her cyberspace peers and also gets outed as a boomer -- or the eldest sibling of a boomer!):

Bristol Stomp

Mashed Potato Time (same artist did the follow-up Gravy For My Mashed Potatoes)

The Wah-Watusi

Dinner With Drac Part I

Wonderful! Wonderful!

Silhouettes

So Much In Love

Limbo Rock

George Strait gets real Sirius

Country's getting Strait-laced, by George. Sirius Satellite Radio will devote its Prime Country channel (61) to the the music of George Strait from Friday, Sept. 29 through Oct. 3. That's all George all the time, commercial-free, with programming to include his full catalog, live cuts, excerpts from a recent interview and his upcoming new album, It Just Comes Natural. Sirius currently dedicates channels to The Who (channel 10), the Rolling Stones (98) and Elvis Presley (13).  In the past, the network devoted channels to the sounds of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and David Gilmour/Pink Floyd.

Good Charlotte hands out "Hands Off"

Good Charlotte is offering fans a brand new song, Keep Your Hands Off My Girl, from its upcoming album due in early 2007. We have the full song right here. The band will be performing Hands Off, along with other new tunes and past hits, on its current tour with The Pink Spiders. Keep reading for the full dates.

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Goodness, gracious, it's Jerry Lee Lewis

Any doubts that Jerry Lee Lewis can still shake your nerves or rattle your brains can be laid to rest by today's release of Last Man Standing, his triumphant return on 21 duets with admirers from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. He talks about his life then and now in a USA Today interview and you can catch a performance by the legendary Killer at 11 a.m. PT Friday, Sept. 29, on Santa Monica public radio station KCRW- 89.9FM and its flagship morning music show, Morning Becomes Eclectic. If you're not on the Left Coast, tune into the streaming format at KCRW.com. Lewis will perform songs and talk with host Nic Harcourt in a pre-recorded broadcast and live session. On Friday, the fabled rock 'n' roll pioneer turns 71.

Solomon Burke's royal soul

Brian Mansfield lucked into a Solomon Burke performance Monday night at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville. Here's his dispatch:

Solomon Burke looked like soul royalty Monday night in his chocolate brown three-piece suit, seated in his massive, throne-like chair. On the eve of the release of Nashville, a collection of country tunes recorded at the house of Nashville producer/guitarist Buddy Miller, Burke gathered several musicians from those recording sessions for a concert at Nashville's Belcourt Theater. The King of Rock 'n' Soul punctuated performances of songs like Tom T. Hall's "That's How I Got to Memphis" and the Tammy Wynette hit "'Til I Get It Right" with dramatic waves of his hands and emphatic thrusts of his thick fingers.

Burke mostly steered clear of his '60s soul hits like "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love" and "Got to Get Your Off My Mind," though he did sing his first Top 40 pop hit, "Just Out of Reach (Of My Two Open Arms)," a song that country singers Patsy Cline and Faron Young had cut before Burke got it. Burke's band for the night included Miller, mandolinist Sam Bush and guitarist Kenny Vaughan; several guests from the album performed with Burke, including Emmylou Harris, Jim Lauderdale, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings.

Burke – who frequently has recorded country songs throughout his career — often referenced Gene Autry several times, singing "Back in the Saddle Again" and reminiscing about singing the silver-screen cowboy's song as a child growing up in a Philadelphia ghetto. He also performed impromptu versions of a Little Richard medley, "What a Wonderful World," "When the Saints Go Marching In."

All Saints Day with U2, Green Day

The first touchdown was scored 10 minutes before kickoff. Or that's the way if felt to me, who doesn't know a yardline from a yardstick but wasn't about to miss the rock 'n' roll pep rally that happened Monday on ESPN between all the huddles, sprints and human pyramids.

U2 and Green Day on stage together isn't necessarily a recipe for enchantment, but add 68,000 fans starved for celebration, a football team that hasn't played a home game in 21 months and a venue that was written off as an upcoming YouTube demolition video, and you've got big drama in the making.

The setting couldn’t have been much more conducive for a grand statement than it was Monday night when U2, Green Day and a battery of local brass players ushered in the first football game --  heck, the first event of any kind -- in the Superdome since that venue was a cesspool of suffering in the aftermath of Katrina more than a year ago.

Just minutes before the NFL game between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons got underway, the New Birth and Rebirth brass bands marched onto the field toward the makeshift stage where, amid thunderous applause, Green Day singer Billie Joe Armstrong launched into the apropos Wake Me Up When September Ends, flanked by U2 guitarist The Edge. Armstrong riffed on a few lines from House of the Rising Sun, fracturing the lyrics to fit the Dome’s tragic stint as a failed shelter and house of shame.

Next, both bands gathered onstage to unveil their highly anticipated collaboration, recently recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London. Bono joined voices with Armstrong in a raucous retooling of The Saints Are Coming, a 1978 song by Scottish punk band The Skids. Bono, sporting a close-cropped coif, rosary and ever-present shades, segued into a gentle delivery of a cappella lyrics that touched on the Crescent City’s recent miseries: “Birds singing in broken trees,” “A child on the roof top” and “The lower ninth ward will rise again.” And then the band exploded into its euphoric Beautiful Day, a fitting tribute to the event’s triumphant mood and an optimistic finale for a poignant musical catharsis.

Continue on for a bit of background.

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Summer Music Road Trip rolls on

This year's edition of USA TODAY's Summer Music Road Trip is all about the big tent approach. You don't have to be a Madonna or a Dixie Chick to qualify. Witness Korina Lopez' dispatch on the British outfit Editors' visit to Washington, D.C.

The buzz band wraps up their current tour in September and then plans to hit the studio. But there will be a little downtime, too. "We've spent four days at home in the past 18 months," points out singer Tom Smith.

Buddy Guy, birthday boy

Blues legend Buddy Guy turned 70 yesterday, but tells USA TODAY's Judy Keen that retirement is still a ways off.  He's still touring up a storm (30 shows in July and August) and his fingers can still fly across his collection of guitars.

"I think music speaks in all languages, and I think everybody who's breathing breath out of their body has had a problem in one way or the other," he says. "You come see me, I'll make you forget about it for an hour and a half or two."

But even at 70, Guy says there's still room for improvement. "I still don't think I'm as good as I should be," he says.

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Metallica: Download 'em all

Is your iPod short on headbanging fare?  That won't be a problem any more, as the members of Metallica have finally decided to set up shop at iTunes. The band will be offering four of their seminal albums (Kill 'Em All, Ride The Lightning, Master of Puppets and ...And Justice For All) to American and Canadian fans.

The move comes some six years after Metallica helped spearhead the drive to shut down Napster in 2000 (the dispute arose from an unfinished song that was leaked through the file-sharing service). Diehard fans were highly disappointed, as they'd been trading concert bootlegs for years with the band's blessing.

Although Metallica's made peace with downloaders, a few other musical heavyweights are still holding out. Chief among them: The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Radiohead.

Tom Petty: Future is wide open

Hard to believe, but it's 30 years since Tom Petty first came on the national scene. (It's even longer since his first regional release with Mudcrutch, but let's let that go for now.) He's got things going in practically every avenue of entertainment, including a wildly successful tour and a brand-new solo album, Highway Companion.

Edna Gundersen conducts a wide-ranging interview and catalogs what he's up to, while Elysa Gardner reviews the new album.

The Lilith Fair legacy

Nearly a decade after Sarah McLachlan filled a void in the summer tour circuit with the female-friendly Lilith Fair, there are relatively few young woman singer-songwriters on the charts. Lately, female artists tend to be peddling heavily-produced pop, save for Nelly Furtado and India Arie, who each had a hand in their current hits. USA TODAY's Elysa Gardner takes a look at the state of serious female artists in today's music market.

Floyd's first leader, Syd Barrett, dies

A sad return for me -- just turned on the computer after 11 days out of pocket and saw that Syd Barrett had died at 60.  The announcement was just released, but it appears Barrett, who suffered from diabetes, died an unspecified few days ago.

Syd Barrett will always be one of rock's great might-have-been mysteries. When Pink Floyd made their startling debut in 1967 straight out of Cambridge, England, with first single Arnold Layne and debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, the band sounded like nothing else on earth. And Barrett, make no mistake about it, was Pink Floyd. The other members -- bassist Roger Waters, drummer Nick Mason, keyboardist Rick Wright -- supplied instrumental coloration, but they were fulfilling the singular vision of Barrett.

In songs such as See Emily Play (a top 10 UK hit), Gnome, Lucifer Sam and Scarecrow, he devised a peculiar mix of classic British whimsy and avant-garde psychedelic pop, a style that set the tone for a key stream of British music for the next five years and onward.

The remarkable Astronomy Domine set Floyd's outer-space-rock agenda, but Barrett's explorations of inner space caused a frighteningly quick crash, as follows.

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Audioslave masters metal-funk

Audioslave's upcoming Revelations album, due Sept. 5, contains a searing political tune, Wide Awake, dealing with Katrina fallout. In an interview with Rolling Stone, guitarist Tom Morello says the funk-injected album sounds like "Led Zeppelin meets Earth, Wind and Fire." The set was recorded in L.A. with Brendan O'Brien, famed for his work with Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen and, of course, Audioslave (Out of Exile). Coincidentally, he also had a hand in earlier albums by Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden.

The Killers: more hits?

When You Were Young, the new single by The Killers, should be hitting radio shortly, and if it generates anywhere near the kind of excitement that Mr. Brightside did, their prospects are bright indeed. The band just sewed up its as-yet-untitled album, due Oct. 3. It was recorded in their hometown, Las Vegas, with British producers Flood and Moulder, who first gained notice as a power duo with Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness in 1995. Watch for updates.

A UB40 splashdown

UB40, busily touting its Who You Fighting For CD, will headline the multi-act Reggae Sunsplash, which starts Aug. 10 in West Palm Beach, Fla., after being missing in action for nearly a decade. The festival tour wraps up Sept. 4 in Salt Lake City. Dates and ticket information here.

Alien Ant Farmer's market

Alien Ant Farm, whose exquisitely menacing version of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal should be on every iPod starter kit, is returning to the marketplace July 18 with the new disc Up in the Attic. The band had a serious setback in 2002, when its tour bus slammed into a truck in Spain, killing the bus driver and seriously injuring singer Dryden Mitchell. An exclusive live performance of first single Forgive & Forget is available at www.rehearsal.com.

Take a Powter

Daniel Powter, whose inescapable Bad Day was the send-off that accompanied axed contestants as they waltzed off the American Idol stage last season, is mounting his first tour starting July 17 in Philadelphia. His self-titled album has already sold a respectable 400,000 copies in the USA and nearly 2 million copies globally and could get a significant boost as new single Jimmy Gets High is unleashed.

One pair and three singles

More details about the long-gestating Outkast move and album are bubbling up. Idlewild the movie, a musical set in the '30s, opens Aug. 25, with the album arriving three days earlier. First single Mighty O is already creating a buzz, and the duo has two others prepped for release: Idlewild Blues and Big Boi's Morris Brown featuring Scar, Sleepy Brown and the Morris Brown College Band. Big  Boi is also plotting a fall tour, sans Andre 3000, who's producing a cartoon series due before the end of the year. Amid persistent rumors of the pair's soured partnership and imminent split, the twosome appeared together at the recent BET awards. Big Boi says, "Who knows what the future holds." Um, solo albums?

Tangled up in tulle

Twyla Tharp has moved on from Movin' Out, her three-year run with the songbook of Billy Joel. Next up for the brazen choreographer is a coming-of-age musical set in a circus and based on the music of Bob Dylan. Why does that sentence seem like a linguistic mash-up? The production, called The Times They Are A-Changin' (I'll say), features such songs as Blowin' in the Wind, Subterranean Homesick Blues, Lay Lady Lay, Mr. Tambourine Man, and Don't Think Twice, It's All Right. It opens Oct. 26 at Broadway's Brook Atkinson Theatre (previews start Sept. 25). After its February premiere in San Diego, the Union-Tribune there dubbed it an "exciting, flawed phantasmagoric fable."

The Lemonheads bear fruit

The Lemonheads return Sept. 26 with a new album, their first in almost 10 years.The self-titled disc on Vagrant Records was co-produced by singer Evan Dando and drummer bill Stevenson and recorded at the latter's Blasting Room Studios in Fort Collins, Colo., earlier this year. Garth Hudson and J Mascis make guest appearances on the album, which includes the cuts Black Gown, Become the Enemy, Let's Just Laugh and No Backbone. The band's 1992 breakthrough, It's a Shame About Ray, sold over 1 million copies, and 1993's Come On Feel the Lemonheads generated the hit single Into Your Arms. A U.S. tour is being planned for fall. Details to come.

Cleveland Rocks. Honest.

You won't often hear me say I'd rather be in Cleveland but there's more going on in Drew Carey World than cold beer and the Johnny Appleseed Festival. At the moment, there's an enticing confluence of retro exhibits at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: 30 Years of Rock and Roll just opened. Bob Dylan's American Journey: 1956-1966, the 150-artifact show featuring handwritten lyrics, his 1949 Martin 00-19 guitar and loads of posters, photos and films, plus listening stations, is still up. So is Haunting and Yearning: the Life and Music of Roy Orbison, which boasts a variety of objects, including a portion of his model airplane collection. And then there's Sam Cooke: A Change is Gonna Come, with items on display for the first time ever. There's the tuxedo he wore in the early '50s with the Soul Stirrers, the ukulele he used to compose music while on the road and his William Morris Agency contract from 1960.

Tuesday's shopping list

A few key releases to watch for this coming Tuesday:

-Thom Yorke's solo debut Eraser on XL Recordings, an appetizer to hold us over until Radiohead delivers its new disc

-Muse's Black Holes and Revelations on Warner Bros.

-The Early Novermber's three-disc The Mother, The Mechanic & The Path on Sanctuary

-Greg Graffin's Cold as the Clay

-Sufjan Steven's The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from the Illinois Album on Asthmatic Kitty (why this guy isn't a major star is beyond me)

-Seether's One Cold Night on Wind-Up

The Boss, at your service

If you haven't been fortunate enough to catch Bruce Springsteen on tour with the Seeger Sessions Band, you can almost string together the entire set thanks to a series of videos hand-selected by The Boss himself from various stops and made available on demand at AOL Music. The show, built on reinvigorated and updated tunes popularized by Pete Seeger, is as vital and enthralling as anything Bruce and the E Street Band have staged, so don't mistake this for some wimped-out campfire singalong. It rocks hard.

Tom Waits waits no more

Idiosyncratic singer/songwriter Tom Waits, who rarely performs live, is heading out to do eight shows starting Aug. 1 in Atlanta. He played a string of dates in 2004 but has not toured widely since an outing supporting Mule Variations in 1999. No new album is scheduled, though a box set is in the works. In a statement, he explained his reasons for hitting the road: "We need to go to Tennessee to pick up some fireworks, and someone owes me money in Kentucky."

Justin the nick of time

Justin Timberlake is finally delivering the first sonic boom (or bust?) from his long-awaited album. The single will be previewed at 10:30 .m. ET/PT tonight on MTV and then probably repeated ad nauseum until he's inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The song is called SexyBack, and the album is titled Future Sex/Love Sounds. It's a searing refuation of Kenseyian theory on aggregate supply and demand economics. Not. In potentially related matters, Justin and Cameron Diaz apparently are strolling zee rues de Paree on a romantic getaway, a searing refutation of tabloid reports that declared the couple kaput.

This week's new music: Pet Shop Boys, Smokey Robinson, more

Been relying on Discography for all your Pet Shop Boys fixes? The electronic pop pioneers are back with Fundamental. Plus, USA TODAY's critics take a listen to new stuff from Andrae Crouch, Def Leppard, Matthew Sweet and Susannah Hoffs, Smokey Robinson and Ronnie Milsap.

> Gospel: Andrae Crouch, Mighty Wind (* * *  out of four)

The pioneering Crouch gets a little help from his friends (sister Sandra, Tata Vega, Marvin Winans, Fred Hammond and Crystal Lewis) for his first album in eight years. Steve Jones finds him celebrating his 40th year in the biz with a "powerful, heartfelt affirmation of faith."

> Pop/rock: Pet Shop Boys, Fundamental (* * *)

Synth-pop gets a shot in the arm from the Pet Shop Boys, whose song titles (The Soddom and Gomorrah Show, I'm with Stupid and I Made My Excuses and Left) would make Morrissey proud. Elysa Gardner confirms there's enough "poignancy, irreverance and sheer joy" to make Fundamental more than just a guilty pleasure.

Def Leppard, Yeah! (* * * out of four)

The 1980s arena-rock fixtures pour a little pop on unsuspecting fans on this cover album, yet they manage to stay faithful to originals by Blondie, ELO and the Kinks while still stamping every song with their own sound, says Ken Barnes.

> Matthew Sweet & Susannah Hoffs, Under the Covers (* * *)

Power-pop fans get an unexpected treat from the lead Bangle and the guy who brought us the sing-along-friendly Girlfriend. The pair proves to have good taste too, taking on The Who, Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. "The execution is impeccable," writes Ken Barnes.

> Smokey Robinson, Timeless Love (* * *)

The Motown legend lends an air of artful sophistication to standards like Night and Day and Our Love Is Here to Stay. Yet, he manages to have a little fun on Fly Me to the Moon, reports Steve Jones.

> Country: Ronnie Milsap, My Life (* * *)

Brian Mansfield finds this country veteran displaying his 1980s form on bouncy tracks like You Don't Know My Love and There's No Getting Over Me.

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The 'Essence' of summer music

The Summer Music Roadtrip squad headed to Houston this weekend to take in the 12th Essence Festival. This year's lineup included an inspired set by local Yolanda Adams, as well as headliners Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx and Toni Braxton.

There was something for the old school set as well — Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Earth Wind and Fire and rapper Doug E. Fresh. Fellow hip-hoppers Kid 'n Play helped with hosting duties.

And then there was Bobby Brown. After reuniting with New Edition for Mr. Telephone Man, he couldn't help but revert to bad boy antics like talking dirty about wife Whitney Houston and stripping in the photographer pit. Lance Scott Walker fills you in on all the sordid details.

High voltage from Mars

Over the weekend, I listened to the upcoming Amputechture album by The Mars Volta. If you hated Frances the Mute, stop reading. This is another radical mutant, a bilingual, proggy, spaced-out free-jazz rock operatic surrealistic jungle, and I mean that in a good way. With titles like Day of the Baphomets, Vermicide and Tetragrammaton, you know you're not getting High School Music: The Prom Band. Can't say much more, because my kryptonite-encased watermarked copy might dissolve if I divulge details before the Aug. 22 release date.

For the budget gourmet

Now that he's no longer a starving musician, Chris Carrabba, aka Dashboard Confessional, can afford to throw a lifeline to starving students. He's offering his new Dusk and Summer album to school kids (kindergarten to college) for $6.99. The emo hero has joined forces with Best Buy to deliver a genuine best  buy, and if it drums up enough business, perhaps other artists will get on board in a drive away from ludicrous CD prices. Over the next four weeks, anyone with a valid student ID can get the CD at the lower price. Do first-graders have student IDs? Oh, just show up with your crayons and iPod.

Johnny Cash's peaceful, easy feeling

Tuesday brings the release of one of Johnny Cash's final recordings, American V: A Hundred Highways. The album, which earns a three-and-a-half-star rating from our own Brian Mansfield, finds the late country legend revisiting familiar themes. Trains factor in a couple of numbers, and, of course, there are the classic covers Cash became known for through his work with Rick Rubin. This time out, he takes on Gordon Lightfoot's If You Could Read My Mind and Bruce Springsteen's Further on Up The Road.

Hit the 'Road' with Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney has been working hard on becoming the new Jimmy Buffett  over the past few years.  He's set up shop in the Virgin Islands, written a bunch of beach bum anthems and embarked on marathon tours each summer. This year's no different, with some 66 stops along the way. Being on the road has helped him get over the end of his short-lived marriage to Renée Zellweger and made him one of 2006's biggest concert draws. Peter Cooper caught up with Chesney in Evansville, Ind.

Hotter in July: Upcoming albums

Things are relatively slow for new releases in the first half of July, especially on the 4th, when there's Johnny Cash and not much else. But the schedule gets fatter and more interesting in the last two weeks of the month. Here's a sampling of things you might want to look for, including Tom Petty, Golden Smog and (rather frighteningly) A Flock of Seagulls:

July 18: Golden Smog, the ad hoc Midwestern supergroup made up of Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, ex-Jayhawk (and current Dixie Chicks co-writer) Gary Louris and compatriots, hasn't put out an album since 1998's excellent Weird Tales, but they have reassembled, and Another Fine Day is another fine release, possibly stronger song-for-song than its distant predecessor ... Los Lonely Boys are back with Sacred the same date, hoping for another slice of Heaven on the charts ... And a new Sony/BMG series (tied in with VH1 Classic) called We Are the '80s kicks off with hits packages from A Flock of Seagulls (save the jokes about how this should be a single), The Bangles (what a great group!), Bow Wow Wow, Loverboy, Eddie Money, Scandal and Rick Springfield.

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Monday music sweep

- Jay-Z is coming out of retirement for a world tour.

- Attention indie rockers: The Killers have announced more details about their sophomore album, due out Sept. 18. Get a glimpse of the songs that may make the cut here.

- It's been 26 years since Joy Division's Ian Curtis committed suicide, but he's far from forgotten. David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Roxy Music have teamed up with New Order to write the score for the upcoming film about the singer. The soundtrack will also include original Joy Division songs.

Mark your calendars: Upcoming albums

Just browsing through my "incoming CD" file, I found some upcoming releases that may interest you in your varied and infinitely broad collective taste. I looked over the next three weeks this time; following installments will range further into the future.

June 27: The return of India Arie (Testimony Vol. 1) and a couple of blues offerings, Rise by Chris Thomas King (son of blues/R&B artist Tabby Thomas) and Cold as Ice by John Lee Hooker Jr. (son of ... well, you can guess that one).

Dashboard Confessional's latest (Dusk and Summer) and the return of the Pet Shop Boys (Fundamental).

Darrell Scott's The Invisible Man, one of my favorite alt-country/Americana/whatever singer/songwriter albums of the year.

July 4: Not much quantity, but that's when the much-anticipated posthumous Johnny Cash American V: A Hundred Highways album comes out.

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Simon's pleasant 'Surprise'

Paul Simon doesn't do a whole lot of interviews, but he talked to USA TODAY's Edna Gundersen recently. He discusses working with producer Brian Eno (of U2 fame), writing songs backward, and how the music scene has changed in the nearly five decades he's been a part of it.

Among his insights: "Downloading has made people more eclectic in their tastes, and I’d guess eventually that will redirect radio to loosen up, because it will have to compete."

Dixie Chicks: Country fans want 'em back

I haven't done an actual tally, but my impression of the hundreds of Dixie Chicks-related comments this blog has spawned would be that they run about 2-1 unfavorable toward the group, their political statements and their conduct in general.

Country radio has not generally been eager to play new (or sometimes old) Chicks songs, and the group has not been actively embracing country radio or fans in its own right. But a new survey indicates that both sides may be shooting themselves in the foot.

Sixty-two percent of country radio listeners want to hear the Chicks on the air. Details follow.

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Pearl Jam on politics, parenthood and perseverance

The Northwest-spawned grunge movement reached critical mass only 15 years ago (seems less than that), but it's kind of sobering to count up the survivors. There's Pearl Jam and ... well, Soundgarden's splintered, Alice in Chains is not what it used to be, Stone Temple Pilots are long gone and we're not seeing too much happening with Candlebox lately.

Members of Pearl Jam discuss their self-preservation techniques in an in-depth interview with USA TODAY's Edna Gundersen. The conversation also touches on their music, their new label (they're now part of the Clive Davis BMG empire) and, of course, plenty of politics.

Cool sample quote from Eddie Vedder about how the band functions: “It’s an ongoing exercise in democracy ... There’s a little dictator in each of us. But we have a strong constitution.”

New stuff at iTunes

Some new stuff available at iTunes starting today:

> A live AOL sessions EP from Carrie Underwood.

> A live version of Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars.

> A bonus track, On the Arrow, on the iTunes version of AFI's new Decemberunderground album.

Note: "Members only," not accessible to the general, iPodless public.

Send in the mash unit

You music fans who also read books occasionally (how big a crossover is there?) might get a kick out of the results of this oddball contest, which "mashed up" book titles and band/artist names. The winners were "Fleetwood Macbeth" and "The Invisible Manfred Mann," but more bizarre concoctions lurk within the list of suggestions.

Double albums: You win!

OK, you got me. I have to acknowledge a crushing defeat on the double-album reduction challenge question. Too many of your suggestions, when you examine them closely, seem unassailably justified in their double-album or -CD length.

The final straw: the suggestion of the Drive-By Truckers' Southern Rock Opera, which is so overwhelmingly great (they just may be the best rock band out there these days) that I'd hesitate to edit a note.

So to summarize the issue, here's a partial list, culled mainly from your suggestions, of double albums worth their length.

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Gilmour: Stones touring 'ridiculous'?

As the Rolling Stones reschedule their European tour (now starting July 11 in Milan), Pink Floyd's David Gilmour had some unusually candid comments about their habitual touring in a London Daily Telegraph interview:

'I think it's ridiculous, actually. Mick and Keith should get a life. It's like a strange, sexual compulsion. How much do they need? I think a lot of it is the applause. It's a powerful drug, 50,000 people appearing to adore you. I'm a big Stones fan but they haven't done anything that matches their earlier stuff in years. As Bob Dylan shows, it doesn't have to be that way. He can still come up with material that is completely new and interesting.'

The whole article is pretty interesting, but Gilmour may be treading close to pot-calling-kettle-black territory there.

Dixie Chicks: The firestorm continues

Just had a chance to look through a lot of the comments on Brian Mansfield's Dixie Chicks story in today's paper. Talk about a hot-button issue!

I'm going to try to hold to my resolve to keep the politics out of my comments (but that doesn't mean you have to by any means). Having said that, it interests me how much of a furor the Chicks stirred up for one remark (and a whole lot of follow-up explanations/apologies/non-apologies, etc., true) when everyone seems to shrug if, say, Pearl Jam or Neil Young bash the president.

Maybe that has something to do with the country music arena, but I think it's unfair to typecast country as a universal bastion of conservatism. More on that, plus a couple of other points, follows.

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Double albums: An initial re-examination

The nominations for irreducible double albums keep coming in, with two really strong candidates today: Tusk by Fleetwood Mac and Something/Anything by Todd Rundgren, plus one I thought of, Donna Summer's pre-Bad Girls double, Once Upon a Time.

Obviously I can't offer opinions on all of these at once, or you'd still be reading this post next week. So I'll start taking a few at a time, starting with some of the so-called "concept" albums.

When deciding whether a concept double can be reduced, you have to consider not only the music but the storyline as well. (Thanks, Captain Obvious!) This makes things tougher, as the following shows.

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Double albums

After reading a bunch more of your suggestions for double albums that can't be reduced to one, I'm starting to think this was a great question, for stimulating discussions, and a really flawed premise. While assembling the list of suggestions that follows (a few of which are mine), I'm thinking that there actually might be quite a few doubles that would lose some serious impact if they were condensed.

That's a far cry from my original attitude, which was basically that there was no double album that couldn't be pruned and benefit from it. But that's one of the reasons I threw the question out to you: to see if I was wrong. 

What follows is a non-judgmental list; in the next couple of days I'll start analyzing them. And keep the suggestions rolling in.

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This week's Listen Up reviews

Welcome back, hope you had a good holiday weekend. Here's the lineup for this week's album reviews from USA TODAY's critics, divided by genres.  As I did last week, I'll run a separate post for each genre, highlighting and summarizing the reviews, then run the entire reviews.

Under Pop, you'll find the American Idol Encores album, plus former O-Towner Ashley Parker Angel and Dr. John singing the songs of classic American songwriter Johnny Mercer. Rock contains Dave Alvin's California covers album and an R&B-flavored gem from the UK's James Hunter. And there's a soundtrack section this week for Prairie Home Companion.

Double albums -- the deluge

Well, that'll teach me. Here I thought it would be tough to come up with double albums/CDs that might resist trimming down to one, and you've already come up with a bunch that are making me at least reconsider my hardball stance.

Just a few of the intriguing nominations: Clash/London Calling, Dylan/Blonde on Blonde, Zep/Physical Graffiti, Pink Floyd/The Wall, Springsteen/The River, Prince/1999, Sign o' the Times.

I need to think about these and others, so keep coming up with ideas and I'll revisit the topic next week. Interesting that no one's brought up the White Album in a positive way yet, though ...

Chili Peppers and the mid-career turnaround

As promised, a little account of How I Learned to Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers Long After the Rest of the World -- plus another general question for you.

I guess when I was living in L.A., the Peppers seemed omnipresent, and I was never impressed with their funk-rock stylings. Give It Away still makes me cringe, and the ballad hit Under the Bridge just sounded turgid.

I started to mellow a little on the subject around 1999/2000 when Californication was around, and then a non-album B-side called Out of Range (not available on iTunes, interestingly) flipped my attitude around.

Confession continues, plus the question ...

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The double album challenge

I was starting to post something on how I belatedly became a Red Hot Chili Peppers fan, especially with their new double CD, Stadium Arcadium, and I was looking over the tracks and realizing that it would make an even better record if the best stuff was compiled into a single disc.

Then I started thinking about double albums in general, and came to a not startlingly original but, I think, still valid conclusion: There is no double album that couldn't be trimmed to a much more effective single album. There is always going to be a certain degree of bloat, of filler, of tracks that are included just to pad out the record.

So I thought I'd turn it into a public question, the terms of which follow.

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In-car listening

One of the approximately 5 million things I want to do in this forum is reflect on the vast amount of music listening I do, with the hopes of turning you on to stuff, reminding you of things you like or used to like or at least providing you some amusement.

I generally listen to current releases at home. In the car, I gravitate more to anthologies, greatest-hits albums, samplers and such, since I can't listen as intensively and can't jot down notes (unless I was one of those geeks who punch messages into their BlackBerrys with one hand while steering with the other).

My last three, wildly different, in-car listening choices ...

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Welcome to Listen Up

If there's one thing people on the Internet are interested in -- OK, if there are two things people on the Internet are interested in, one of them is music.

The billions of annual file-sharing and downloading transactions make that clear. Then there's the interest in music on MySpace and other sites, the following for the music chats we used to have and the volume of response for our Idol Chatter blog (which will continue in its own right).

Listen Up will be all about popular music (and some that's not so popular). Hope you'll come along for the ride -- and add your comments. The interaction is what makes this fun and will shape the future course.

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