OA: Rock Cesario Column March 06, 2009

There are keepers among the latest batch of new CD releases

It is time for an update on new music released so far this year.

•  Van Morrison’s newest CD “Astral Weeks: Live at the Hollywood Bowl” is just what the title says. It’s the classic from 1968 redone in a live setting in 2008, 40 years after the original. Morrison rearranged the original album and extended most of the songs. There are also two great bonus tracks on the disc, “Listen to the Lion/The Lion Speaks” and “Common One.” I think this is a great recording especially when you consider that there was only one rehearsal before this show.

•  Iconic singer/songwriter J. J. Cale is back with one of his best CDs in a long time in “Roll On.” On this sparkling 12-song set, Cale utilized his unique style to cover country, rock, Southern blues and his trademark swampy boogie while playing all of the instruments on eight of the cuts. Eric Clapton and Jim Keltner guest on one track on this excellent CD. I think it’s a must-have for all his fans.

•  Jorma Kaukonen, one of the founding members of both Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, returns with a great new CD, “River of Time.” The album was produced by Grammy-winning producer Larry Campbell and features special guest Levon Helm. This wonderful all acoustic CD features covers of songs by Mississippi John Hurt, the Rev. Gary Davis and Merle Haggard.

•  Buddy and Julie Miller released their first new album in eight years with “Written in Chalk,” a stark and beautiful recording that is only the second true recording this duet has released in their 20-plus-year careers. In that time, they have both played with Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. Harris, Robert Plant and Patty Griffin add vocals on this new CD.

•  Always pushing the boundaries of his music and the instrument that makes it, Bela Fleck released “Throw Down Your Heart: Tales from the Acoustic Planet Vol. 3 the African Sessions.” It is the soundtrack to a documentary made by a film crew following Fleck on his journey through Africa as the trend-setting musician researched the origins of the banjo. Many of these songs were recorded with people Fleck encountered along the way.

•   Neko Case, the alternative singer/songwriter who captivated people and gained an audience with her sultry smoky vocals, is back with her most accessible album to date: “Middle Cyclone.” Case still has a few songs that are as beautiful as they are depressing, but most of the disc includes up-tempo songs that are a bit more pop-oriented than her previous records.
Those are just the highlights of what I think are some of the more significant new releases to date.

Here are a couple other new releases of note.

Steve Earle’s son, Justin Townes Earle, released his second CD “Midnight at the Movies” on Bloodshot Records.

Last but not least, rock ’n’ roll giants U2 released “No Line On the Horizon.” I don’t have to say much about this release because I am confident everyone else will.

Rock Cesario owns Triple Play Records, 530 Main St., and hosts “Acoustic Sunday” from 9 a.m. to noon Sunday on Drive 105.3 FM. E-mail him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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