CD Reviews: New albums from James Moors, Sara Thomsen and Drew Danburry
Though James Moors lists Sting as one of his "top friends" on MySpace, we shouldn't hold that against him. Why? Because A) we're better than that and B) the Superior singer/songwriter's fourth album (though first without the Sterling Waters monik...
Though James Moors lists Sting as one of his "top friends" on MySpace, we shouldn't hold that against him.
Why? Because A) we're better than that and B) the Superior singer/songwriter's fourth album (though first without the Sterling Waters moniker), "Hush," is easily 2008's most promising disc yet.
Before we get to the songs -- which are gorgeous, as usual -- something must be said about the caliber of guest musicians Moors managed to secure for this disc.
It's simply amazing: Among others, "Hush" features help from Marc Perlman (the Jayhawks' bassist), Ed Ackerson (Polara frontman/ubiquitous Minneapolis music industry insider) and Lisa Germano, who has played violin on records by everyone from the Eels and David Bowie to John Mellencamp and Jewel.
An impeccable lineup, to be sure, but not as shocking a tactic as it once was.
Apparently taking a cue from the how-could-they-possibly-cram-so-many-artists-onto-a-single-track approach of mainstream hip-hoppers, a number of polished, radio-ready singer/songwriters have started releasing projects with personnel lists with as many entries as there are tracks on the album.
The trick, though, is for the songs not to collapse under the collective genius of their players. Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson did it last year with "Free Life," his uber-collaborative (and equally infectious) solo debut, and now Moors is doing it too.
That said, there are many unforgettable tracks on "Hush." With lyrics like "I'm not the only one to see / That you're not the happy soul you used to be," it's hard not to take anything away from "Stretch."
Elsewhere on the record, the bouncy "Sunshine" is Moors' best bet for the No. 1 spot; "Magic Place" shines on with an overcast, late-period Jayhawks vibe and the title track, which made its first appearance on the Pearl Swanson benefit album "Treasure Chest," gently winds down the album.
From beginning to end, "Hush" is a beautiful tapestry of gracious, Storyhill-worthy melodies and straight-shot-to-the-soul lyrics; proving, once again, that Moors is one of the nation's most underrated songwriters.
Moors will play a CD release show for "Hush" at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Play Ground (Superior Street level of the Tech Village). Cost is $5. For more information, look for him on the Web at www.jamesmoors.com .
Things don't start out so hot for Sara Thomsen on "Everything Changes," her fourth solo record. Lyrics to the 19-second intro track "Metamorphosis" quickly sour the mood: "You used to wiggle like a worm / Did the caterpillar squirm / Green leaves in your tummy / Then you dressed up like a mummy / And I thought you were gone."
Symbolic, I get it, but cringe-worthy nonetheless.
The first full-on track, a reading of Julio Numhauser's "Todo Cambia," doesn't fare much better. One immediately draws parallels back to Bill Isles' ill-fated "The Shores of My Hometown," which meant well but was so slickly produced it left a bad taste in your mouth.
However, it would be unwise to write off Thomsen so quickly. This overproduction actually works in the gifted vocalist's favor for much of the album.
She quickly rebounds from the first two duds with the third track, the slinking "I Remember These," which wouldn't sound out of place in some high-budget romantic comedy (you know, during one of those token falling-in-love-at-some-random-big-city-café's-sidewalk-table scenes...) -- not even for a second: This is a classy joint.
Other equally enjoyable numbers, particularly "Everything and More" and the live-in-the-studio "Don't Ask Me" (featuring the impressive Lance Rhicard), quickly help listeners forget about Thomsen's bumpy start.
A release concert for "Everything Changes" will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 at Marshall School's Fregeau Auditorium. Cost is $12 ($10 advance). Thomsen said a majority of the album's players will be on hand for the performance that night. For details, visit www.sarathomsen.com .
"Mother." is a simple title for a complex man.
I hate to get all Winston Churchill on you, but, as far as indie rockers go, Drew Danburry is best described as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
First off, he seemingly came out of nowhere.
I mean, I know he's from Utah, but it wasn't until I was a measly A&E writer at my college newspaper and his first record, "An Introduction to Sex Rock,"* landed in my lap that I first became aware of his genius.
My thoughts then -- and to this day: How could someone with such immense talent be so far under the radar?
Is it because he's quirky? (Over the years, Danburry's description of his music has evolved from said "Sex Rock" to "Kickass Kindergarten Folk Pop Sing Along Music.")
Or is it because his great sense of humor might lead some to believe he's less than serious about his craft? (Let's see, where to begin ... one of the best items ever listed on his merch page was a Drew Danburry fanny pack; his hometown on MySpace is listed as "The City Where I Was Born and Raised In, California" or, as just one example of his uncanny knack for titling things, the album for his first group, the Danburrys, was called "All the Good Ones Go for Jerks.")
Wrong and wrong.
Case in point: Beck.
Before Mr. Hansen became another braindead Scientology zombie, his rise to fame included records that redefined "quirky" and fun songs about Mountain Dew and/or getting stoned on truck fumes.
The question isn't whether or not Danburry is as talented as Hansen (there's no question); it's when in the world is the rest of the world going to wake up and smell the talent?
While the "Mother." EP comes up short on material (it is an EP, after all), there's no shortage of the heartfelt warmth that Danburry delivered on his first two LPs (and one live record).
True to its form, the best song is actually its shortest. "Tonight I Was Trying to Read and Everyone was Watching TV of Some Sort and I Realized..., Pt.1"** is, hands down, Danburry's most triumphant composition yet.
It's a mellow, lo-fi gem that sparkles via its warm, like-it's-coming-from-one-of-the-first-car-radios sounds.
Way to go, Drew.
Now everyone else with ears just needs to give it a spin.
*No joke on the title.
**The full song name goes on for the length of this entire review -- told you he was a joker, didn't I? -- so I am forced to abbreviate.
The "Mother." EP is available now. For ordering information, visit www.drewdanburry.com .