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Featured Album of the Week, 10/29/2012 | CD of the Month December, 2012

Now 28 years old, Gary Clark Jr. has been preparing to release his major label debut since he first started playing live in Austin, Texas at the age of 12. Undeniably a blues guitar phenom since that young age, Gary has been Austin’s little secret until recently. The buzz surrounding his 4-song EP Bright Lights was substantial. And his live show, so dynamic that it demanded a relentless touring schedule the last couple years and ultimately delayed the release of his proper introduction - Blak and Blu.
Every fall big name rock & rollers dominant the season with new releases, and this year is no different. While new albums from heritage and popular acts like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison and Mumford & Sons account for lots of listening, there is one album that should compete for your ears. Enter Ben Schneider. The brainchild of Lord Huron, Ben started to shape the sound for his band a couple years ago after a trip back home to Michigan’s Lake Huron.
If you read into the title of the album, Glad All Over, and/or have heard its first single you can probably make an educated guess that Jakob Dylan and his band are in a good place. Yes, The Wallflowers have reconnected (or 'rebooted') to release their first studio album since 2005's Rebel, Sweetheart and with a slightly tweaked line-up they pick up right where they left off.
The success of Mumford & Sons, especially here in the U.S., is the type of story that most bands can only dream of. Their debut album, Sigh No More, was a stormy blend of folk-rock that put banjo back on the commercial radio dial, transcended formats and made Marcus Mumford and his bandmates international stars. Contrary to the sentiment of the bands first single from Babel, their much anticipated second album, audiences ‘couldn’t wait’ to hear more from Mumford & Sons. And so with the release of their sophomore album, the London based four-piece amp up the emotion, realize their potential and deliver exactly what fans have come to love.
The Carpenter is the new album from The Avett Brothers and the follow-up to their breakthrough major label debut I And Love And You. Their latest is an album that continues to distance the band from their early image as a rambunctious bluegrass act and settle them into a place where craftsmanship takes center stage. Perhaps that’s where the title, The Carpenter, comes from (or maybe not) – but on this latest collection it really is about the songs. It’s something that Scott & Seth have always excelled at, but was perhaps easy to overlook because of how dynamic and engaging they are (and continue to be) in performance. The Avett’s are still as engaging as ever on The Carpenter, their approach just slightly remodeled.
As the "Duquesne Whistle" blows, the train pulls out of the station for another ride with the most heralded songwriter of all-time. Despite creeping into his 70's and this being his 35th album, Tempest is far from "just another record" from Bob Dylan. Dylan’s latest work is a testament to his grand acclaim as a lyrical poet. He's constructed a batch of songs that aren't the least bit intimidated by his words penned prior. And throughout Tempest Dylan exudes an aura of greatness, even a little bit of an edge as he chuckles at your expectations.

September, 2012 CD of the Month

It won’t take long as you listen to Is Your Love Big Enough? to draw the conclusion that Lianne La Havas is a special voice. Her enchanting vocals certainly act as the centerpiece to this lovely debut. Yet as you unfold the songs on this album, it becomes clear that you’re not listening to a one-dimensional artist but someone who can sing and play across a wide musical spectrum.
With exclusive live tracks from Alabama Shakes, The Lumineers, Polica, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. Dog and more, it is the best Live At the World Cafe CD yet. Here's the track list.

Live At The World Cafe, Volume 34 Track List

You could call this a side project, an indie-rock super-group or simply a musical experiment, but really Divine Fits stands better as the result of mutual admiration. Spoon frontman Britt Daniel and Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner shared a love for each other’s music, and once Wolf Parade called it quits the idea of starting a band together quickly became a reality. They recruited drummer/percussionist Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks) and started work on their debut album, cleverly titled A Thing Called Divine Fits.

Featured Album of the Week, 8/20/2012 | CD of the Month , 2012

One thing that’s for sure is that Delta Rae does not lack ambition or appeal on their album Carry the Fire. And simply stated these kids can flat-out sing. The six-piece band, featuring four vocalists, is from North Carolina and they pounce onto the music scene with a collection of songs rooted in their southern upbringing and gospel inspired vocal blend. Carry the Fire is a lively attempt at Americana flavored with plenty of pop sensibility.

It won’t take long as you listen to Is Your Love Big Enough? to draw the conclusion that Lianne La Havas is a special voice. Her enchanting vocals certainly act as the centerpiece to this lovely debut. Yet as you unfold the songs on this album, it becomes clear that you’re not listening to a one-dimensional artist but someone who can sing and play across a wide musical spectrum.

July, 2012 CD of the Month

There are some artists that just don’t act their age. And in the case of XPN Aritst To Watch Michael Kiwanuka, that's a good thing! The fact that this singer-songwriter is in his early 20’s will be the last thing to come to mind (if at all) when you make your way through his debut album Home Again. Kiwanuka is the latest in a wave of British soul and R&B singers to captivate audiences. And while connections to his peers like Adele exist, he paves his own path to our ears with the songs of Home Again.

Maybe it’s the time of the season. Or maybe it’s the fact that as music lovers we’re overdue for a reggae record that truly strikes a chord. Either way, the new album from reggae icon Jimmy Cliff is one of the season’s brightest and most satisfying albums. The aptly titled Rebirth finds Cliff as spirited as at any point in his career and with a batch of songs that are weaved together with a message of righteousness and hope.
It’s reasonable to ask whether or not Passion Pit was ready for the level of exposure that followed the release of their Chunk of Change EP in 2008, and their subsequent debut Manners. For frontman Michael Angelakos, a musical project that started as a Valentine’s Day gift for his girlfriend evolved rather quickly into a full-time band with significant impact. Passion Pit’s animated brand of electronic, dance-pop thrilled audiences and even found a warm embrace across the media landscape from bloggers and radio to TV and film. So with high expectations and anticipation surrounding their new album, can Passion Pit continue to live up to the hype? Gossamer, their sophomore effort, answers that question with conviction.
Reunions don’t often go this well. It’s been twenty five years since The dB’s last released a new studio album. Actually, make that thirty if you’re talking about an album featuring all the original band members. Well, on Falling Off the Sky, Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Will Rigby and Gene Holder reconnect and restore that classic power-pop sound that’s been missing since the 80s. It’s an album that takes a serious crack at picking up where they left off and stands comfortably alongside their admired work.
An enduring rock n roller since the mid-70s Alejandro Escovedo may not be a household name to many, but the continued reverence for his music is no surprise. Big Station, his latest album, is another prime example of artistic vision and the relentless pursuit of challenging one’s own musical aspirations. For Escovedo, at this point in his career, making the same album over and over is a trap that some of his contemporaries have fallen into, but for Alejandro it’s a path that he won’t concede to take. Big Station is the proof of that.
We should’ve seen this coming. For the past decade, The Walkmen have quietly released six studio albums, all of which have been relatively well-received, and have garnered fans at a steady pace. They’ve had some minor indie hits with songs like “The Rat” from 2004’s Bows + Arrows and “Angela Surf City” from their last studio effort Lisbon. But to the general public, they still flew under the radar amongst a growing wave of blog buzz bands. As The Walkmen celebrate their 10th anniversary as a band what’s clear now is that they’ve carved their own path. The past ten years has been a cultivation of a band and a sound that now seems fully realized on the new album Heaven.
Back in 1996, at just 19 years old, Fiona Apple stepped into musical stardom with her debut album Tidal. Only two albums fall between her debut and this latest collection The Idler Wheel. Where some artists would see their supporters fade during long gaps of silence, that’s not the case with Fiona Apple. The periods between albums (the latest of which was seven years) seem to have only strengthened what is already a pretty rabid fan base. And Apple matches that intensity and obsession with her approach to making music. One thing that certainly hasn’t changed over the course of her career is her willingness to bare all no matter how difficult or controversial it may be. The Idler Wheel… is her latest assertion of that.

January, 2012 CD of the Month

There’s a new sound in Chicago and it comes in the form of XPN Artist To Watch JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound. Taking their name from Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, this four piece band goes beyond your typical soul revivalists. Following in the footsteps of standouts like Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings or Austin’s Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, Brooks and company cook up their own brand of soul stew. On their second album Want More you’ll hear a band that can produce some pure soul, add a dash of funk, rock with a punk-like attitude and even sweeten the mix with a little R&B.

February, 2012 CD of the Month

Since her debut, Failer, in 2003 it's hard to be critical of the work of Kathleen Edwards. As a songwriter, as an artist she's never really taken a step backwards. As listeners we can argue over our favorites, but it's a fair to say that each album has matched a certain level of expectations if not surpassed them. And with that the Canadian songstress continues a career trajectory on the rise with her new album, Voyageur, but at the same time broadens our expectations.

June, 2012 CD of the Month

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals have come a long way from their blues-rock beginnings in Waitsfield, Vermont. For Grace, she's finally emerging as the superstar frontwoman that so many of us knew she had the potential to be. And on the latest album, The Lion The Beast The Beat she grabs hold of the spotlight and seems unwilling to let it go. We know what a commanding presence this band, and Grace in particular, can be on stage, yet until now capturing that on record has been a challenge. The Lion The Beast The Beat may be the step in the right direction.

May, 2012 CD of the Month

Mac is back! Well, to be fair, it’s not like Dr. John hasn’t been consistent in his musical output. He’s released more than a handful of albums since the turn of century. But with Locked Down, his latest, perhaps none of those recent releases matches this latest collection in terms of energy and/or sheer appeal. Many will argue that a five time Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has the latitude to do just about whatever they want, but for Dr. John Locked Down is an album he needed to make and music fans need to hear.

March, 2012 CD of the Month

Welcome back Dr. Dog, it’s almost as if you never left. Listening to Be the Void, the 7th album from Philadelphia’s favorite indie-rockers is a quick reminder as to how likeable and captivating they can be. In some ways Be the Void picks up where the last Dr. Dog album, Shame, Shame left off. But add to that tuneful collection of songs an energy that’s indicative of their live shows and you have an album that will keep attracting new fans plus reignite their already faithful following.

CD of the Month

It didn’t take long for the Seattle band The Head And The Heart to find an audience for their brand of indie folk and pop. In fact, within a year of coming together at a local open mic night the six piece band had released their self-titled debut album and become a standout of a hearty Seattle music scene. Following in the steps of fellow indie-folksters like Fleet Foxes, The Head And The Heart signed to the local Sub Pop label who have re-released the group’s introduction this year.

CD of the Month

John Paul White and Joy Williams hail from very different parts of the country (Alabama and California, respectively), and have both have been free spirits when it comes to their solo music careers....more....

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