Also, Travis, Mario Pavone Double Tenor Quintet, Nate Wilson Group
His songwriting chops are sufficiently flexible to produce humor on "The Fishing Song" and the heart wrenching of "Whiskey Lullaby," but the musical tool Brad Paisley employs most consistently is his fluid and free-flowing way with an electric guitar. He gives indulges that portion of his muse on the instrumental-centric "Play" while also managing to deliver a collection that is consistently lively and fun.
There is some country in everything Paisley does, but this set stretches across genres, from the swooping groove of "Cliffs of Rock City" to surf music with a stout underbelly on the organ-laced "Turf's Up." He stitches each number together in ways both smooth and playful, whether unleashing the fluid ramble of "Huckleberry Jam" or navigating the loose jazz habitat of his Les Paul tribute, "Les is More."
A duet with Keith Urban on "Start a Band" smacks of a hedged bet to give the collection some commercial punch, but there is juice in crossovers such as B.B. King's appearance on the frilly electric blues "Let the Good Times Roll" and a worthy completion of a tune Buck Owens started before his passing, "Come on In." Even with seven other guitarists on hand for the rambunctious jam "Cluster Pluck" the going never gets too cluttered, as Paisley keeps the mood light and the pace fast as he plows into every piece of new territory he can find.
Essential download: "Turf's Up"
-- Thomas Kintner
Off With Their Heads
The best British bands have always arrived stateside packing plenty of wit and attitude. It's certainly been true this decade, as a stream of loutish "lad-rock" acts have hopped the pond, brews in hand, and launched a mini invasion.
Three years ago, the Kaiser Chiefs were among the more promising would-be conquerors. With songs such as "Everyday I Love You Less and Less" and "I Predict a Riot," the English quintet's 2005 debut, "Employment," was flippant and fun, a throwback to the punky neo-mod pop of the late '70s and early '80s.
The Chiefs' third album follows a similar model, but this time out, the group has neither the songs nor the charisma. Whereas its early tunes built from twitchy verses to shout-along choruses, the new material skews glossy and nondescript.
Only a handful of tunes -- most notably "Good Days Bad Days" and "Always Happens Like That -- muster the bouncy swagger that distinguishes good New Wave revivalism from that which is merely adequate.
Worst of all, front man Ricky Wilson dials back his caddish personality, leaving listeners with little more than vague lyrical sketches. When he sings the song "Can't Say What I Mean," he's not kidding: He might as well be apologizing for the entire album.
Essential download: "Good Days Bad Days"
-- Kenneth Partridge
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