Those legendary singer-songwriters who began in another age are both looking back and going forward and have lots to offer on their latest releases.
Neil Young—Fork In The Road (Reprise)
Inspired by the election of Barack Obama and bent on combining his love of cars with concern for the environment, Young has come up with another musical broadside. The album is in many respects a companion to Living With War in its use of a topical thematic concept and its grungy, Crazy Horse-sounding music. A CD/DVD version includes videos and live performances.
Bob Dylan—Together Through Life (Columbia)
Like Young’s release, Dylan’s album was inspired by the election of Barack Obama but feels more fleshed out and thoughtfully constructed. Dylan continues to draw from what seems like lost American musical styles, while coming up with an album that’s fresh, yet timeless. The bonus CD/DVD contains an episode of his radio show (which he’s quitting after three seasons) and the lost “Roy Silver” interview.
Van Morrison—Astral Weeks Live At The Hollywood Bowl (Listen To The Lions)
Although Van Morrison and Bob Dylan are artists who don’t like to look back, of late both are in reflective moods. Morrison, who often disdains performing older material, revisits his critically acclaimed 1968 album Astral Weeks on this new release. Having recorded it live at the Hollywood Bowl, Morrison has not so much updated the original recording as he is giving performances of the songs the space to breathe and expand in this live setting. Oh, and yes, that is Morrison smiling on the album cover. A companion DVD is also available.
Leonard Cohen—Live in London (Columbia)
He’s been a novelist and poet, and is probably still a ladies man, yet Cohen has for years spent a great deal of time cloistered as a monk in California. Now, after a 16-year hiatus from the stage, Leonard Cohen returns in style. Sounding very much like the soundtrack to the turn of the century, this two-CD set showcases the 66-year-old in top form and more relevant than ever. A companion DVD is also available.
Stevie Nicks—The Soundstage Sessions (Reprise)
Her first release in eight years is a triumphant live album. Nicks, like Cohen, has chased many of her demons away and, at 60, sounds more confident and at peace than ever before. While the CD contains ten tracks, the companion DVD includes 18 performances.
July’s picks for 92.9&96.9 WEHM New Release Tuesdays with Harry Wareing (airing every Tuesday night from 9-10pm) are all about modern expressions of country and singer/songwriter music forms.
One of the veterans of the initial wave of enthusiasm for alt-country music from the mid-90s, Son Volt’s latest is American Central Dust. Their songcraft, seen in the tune “Down to the Wire” while possessing country’s cadence and drawl, has the propulsiveness of rock.
A modern, introspective singer/songwriter, Pete Yorn’s new release is Back and Fourth. As seen in the leadoff single “Don’t Wanna Cry” is the depth of emotion in his vocals and his preference for country-tinged flourishes.
The alternative band of the moment, Wilco have come out with their 7th album Wilco (The Album). As shown in the track “You Never Know” this longplayer is all about layers. Leader Jeff Tweedy’s voice is atop, back by country rock instrumentation, harmony vocals, and other musical elements.