Gigi Dover -- Unpicked Flowers (Rockin' Ranch)
Rank Outsiders chanteuse Gigi Dover may be an unpicked flower no more. With some heavyweight backing help -- and no, we don't mean David Childers -- Dover has released an album that might well be charting on quite a few Americana stations by year's end. Recorded at Moondog Studios in Nashville, TN, with Tim Coats manning production, the album features Dover's husband Bill Noonan on guitar, Ray Mitchell on drums, Duane (DJ) Jarvis, Greg Wetzel on keyboards, and E-Street Band member Garry Tallent on bass.
With a voice like a sweeter Linda Ronstadt or a more seasoned Kasey Chambers, Dover luxuriates in almost a dozen laid-bank honkers. The music's certainly not edgy, but certain songs, like the Stones-y "Between The Lines," have a certain swagger about them, saving them from becoming Nashville Country even though many of the songs were written there. Pick hits: "Tangled," which snares with an irresistible hook, and "Beatty Drive," a pleasant, domestic slice-of-life. You can catch Gigi Dover's singing at her CD release party Friday at the Double Door.
4th Ward -- wonderland (Resistor)
Featuring the Robbie Robertson-esque voice and melodic shadings of Mike Shannon, 4th Ward's wonderland is a pleasant enough pop album from a band that blends both Gen X and Boomer sensibilities (no easy feat). Musically, the album's all across the board, sometimes coming off like an older version of David Lowery's Cracker. Other times, there's a few too many ideas per song, with unnecessary whispered refrains and keyboard flourishes. Shannon ultimately makes the album worthwhile, however -- while never afraid to try an idea in a song, he's redeemed by the fact that most of them do work. Recommended: "Situation," "Really Tired" and the laid-back "Since You Left."
ANTiSEEN -- Screamin' Bloody Live (TKO)
Accent on the bloody. You name it, most all the ANTiSEEN classics are here: "Guns Ablazin," Dave Dudley's "Six Days On The Road," "Cactus Jack," "Ruby, Get Back To The Hills" and the soon-to-be-classic "Ten Pounds Of Shit In A Five Pound Bag," all recorded in the most unlikely of surroundings: Portland, OR, and San Francisco. Strangely, the album doesn't suffer very much from the lack of visual stimulation that's such a big part of ANTiSEEN shows, though the boys do their best with all sorts of blood, broken glass and the like adorning the cover. The sound quality is pretty good for a live punk album -- one can easily imagine singer Jeff Clayton breaking all manner of stuff over his head and guitarist/politician Joe Young trying to convert the masses to Libertarianism.
The Avett Bros. -- Country Was (Self-Released)
The Avett Brothers, Scott and Seth, say that Country Was was titled as such owing to the state of country music today. Who can blame 'em? The boys certainly take their shot at improving it, and while they may not be thinking globally, Country Was shows they're certainly acting locally, harmonizing and picking their way through their nice new 8-song disc. Saloon-style piano, a rollicking melodic sense a la hippie rockers like Eric Burdon and Moby Grape, and harmonizing that holds its own even during a cappella moments. Most of the best songs are aural love letters to both old and new girlfriends: the wonderful "Jenny And The Summer Day," the heartbreaker "My Losing Bet" and the regret-filled "Beside the Yellow Line." Good stuff, and worth seeking out. (www.theavettbrothers.com)
Ed James -- Meet Ed James! (Air Mail)
Ed James' packaging of Meet Ed James! is equal parts early Beatles and Cheap Trick's Live at Budokan. Sadly, the music isn't quite there. A veteran of the International Pop Overthrow festivals, James has a pleasant enough voice, clean and lucid (though it often resembles Weird Al Yankovic in the higher registers), and he plays all of the instruments on his debut. The problem lies in the fact that the whole album is so overproduced, it would make Boston's Tom Scholz blush -- a problem with a lot of so-called Pure Pop artists. There are some highlights, however: the catchy-as-all-hell pop babbler "Turn It Around," the reverb-drenched "With You," and the Weezer-lite "How Was I To Know?." If you prefer your pop with a bit more carbonation, you might do well to pass this one over. But if you're a fan of G-rated pure pop, by all means check it out. (www.airmailrecordings.com)
Since our column about Spin magazine's Top 50 Bands list, a handful of people have written in to suggest bands that both that magazine and I overlooked. Votes were received for Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane, X, King Crimson, Television, The B-52's, The Band, and Faith No More (for being a forerunner of the rap-metal genre). That said, a few of those I looked over on purpose, as I did Michael Jackson and Madonna, which two or three readers offered up as worthy for inclusion. Last time I checked, those two were each just one personality and not a musical group, though you could probably put all the various stages of Michael Jackson together and have a pretty interesting lineup. Or a Darwinian graph of evolution; I'm not sure which.
Reach Tim Davis at email@example.com or 704-522-8334. *