New on CD: Zombie returns to ‘Hellbilly’ days
By the writers of Last Word Features
Rob Zombie: ‘Hellbilly Deluxe 2’
Coming in the wake of the demise of his band, White Zombie, the original “Hellbilly Deluxe” album showed that Rob Zombie was going to do just fine as a solo artist. Now, a dozen years after that 1998 solo debut for Zombie, comes the sequel, titled – what else? – “Hellbilly Deluxe 2.”
Zombie told this writer he had considered doing a second “Hellbilly Deluxe” album for years, but didn’t go into this project with the sequel in mind. Then he realized the songs were taking on a familiar “Hellbilly Deluxe” flavor. What that means is that even moreso than on his other solo discs, Zombie unleashes plenty of horror-esque lyrics (note songs like “Jesus Frankenstein” and “Werewolf, Baby!) and a particular heavy sound built around thick guitar chords that have a decidedly sinister quality.
What makes songs like “Sick Bubble Gum,” the aforementioned “Werewolf, Baby!” and “What?” work so well is that Zombie hasn’t forgotten to include the trademark catchy guitar riffs that have long sweetened his sound. So while Zombie revels in all sorts of campy horror motifs (and some suitably bloody artwork for the CD), “Hellbilly Deluxe 2” is mostly a fun, delightfully twisted and very listenable trip into the B-movie world that gives Zombie’s music such personality. – Alan Sculley
Buy if you like: Alice Cooper.
Allison Moorer: ‘Crows’
Allison Moorer has a beautifully nuanced voice capable of delivering both a sweet soprano and a dusky mid-range. But her songwriting is inconsistent, and the fact that she wrote 12 of “Crow’s” 13 cuts weakens the album.
It starts out promisingly enough with “Abalone Sky” and the jazzy “Goodbye to the Ground” (on which she sounds not unlike her sister, Shelby Lynne). But “Just Another Fool” has almost laughably bad lyrics, and on the ballad “Easy in the Summertime,” the line “they make me wanna rock ‘n’ roll” never sounded less, well, rock ‘n’ roll. “Like the Rain” is pretty and delicate, and she carries the jazz/blues ballad “Should I Be Concerned” well enough. But the poppy “The Broken Girl” seems awash in lost potential, like she’s trying to step out of herself but is unsure where to go.
Unlike the crows Moorer sings of, these songs rarely take full wing, so the album never soars. — Lynne Margolis
Buy if you like: Tift Merritt, Kim Richey
HIM: ‘Screamworks: Love In Theory and Practice’
Even before “Screamworks” debuts in the states, the album has generated a good deal of debate among fans who have heard the disc. The problem: the belief among some fans that HIM has betrayed the darkly hued sound (billed by the band as “love metal”) of its previous albums.
It is true that “Screamworks” has a poppier, more alt rock sound. A song like “Scared To Death,” with its almost tender pop melody, certainly is a move toward a goth-lite sound. But the spooky edge of HIM is not completely missing in action on the new CD. Songs like “Katherine Wheel,” “Heartkiller” and “Ode To Solitude” aren’t a far cry (or should I say far scream) from the band’s established sound.
What the debate about going pop also ignores is that many of the songs on “Screamworks” are plenty appealing. There’s no denying that “Heartkiller,” “Love The Hardest Way,” and “In Venere Veritas” are nicely crafted, strongly melodic songs. And if they aren’t quite a foreboding as some of HIM’s earlier music, dark overtones that characterized the band’s sound are still present.
Was HIM better in a heavier setting? Probably. But “Screamworks” isn’t the disaster some of the band’s passionate fans might suggest. — Alan Sculley
Buy if you like: My Chemical Romance, Evanescence
Gil Scott-Heron: ‘I’m New Here’
Gil Scott-Heron burst onto the scene in the 1970s as a master spoken word soul whose political and social activism was defined by the title of his best known and best album, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” But Scott Heron disappeared from sight amidst drug possession charges and personal problems.
He’s back with the ironically titled “I’m New Here,” his first record in 13 years. Here, the political has given way to the personal in the song-poems he recites or sings above beats structured by XL Recordings owner Richard Russell.
That is not to say that Scott-Heron still doesn’t speak his mind. That’s clear from the opening verse of “Coming From A Broken Home,” which looks back on his life and challenges conventional notions of what coming from a single parent household means. He’s just as personal on the dark “Me and the Devil” and his need to escape from the urban jungle is palpable on “New York is Killing Me.”
As always, Scott-Heron’s words are literate, intelligent and resonant. There wouldn’t be hip-hop without Scott-Heron and, once again, he’s showing the way forward.
— L. Kent Wolgamott
Buy if you like: The Watts Prophets, Public Enemy
Reckless Kelly: ‘Somewhere in Time’
Calling Reckless Kelly a country band is a misnomer; even the band members describe themselves as “a rock band with a fiddle.” On this nod to a major influence, Pinto Bennett and the Famous Motel Cowboys, Reckless Kelly is a rock band with a fiddle and pedal steel — and chimey guitars and Bennett’s country-leaning lyrics.
In Reckless Kelly’s hands, a Western swinger like “I’ve Done Everything I Could Do Wrong,” gets subtly funky, while guitars rip through “Pure Quill.” But their Bennett-based roots are exposed in the tremendous instrumentation throughout, and in tunes like “Best Forever Yet.”
Some of these songs are mini-gems, and Reckless Kelly’s effort to bring them to a new audience is admirable. The standout track, though, is “The Ballad of Elano DeLeon,” featuring another influence, Joe Ely, meshing vocals with Willy Braun’s.
— Lynne Margolis
Buy if you like: Joe Ely, the Jayhawks
Luther Allison: “Songs From The Road”
Blues guitarist Luther Allison passed away in 1997, just as his career was peaking for the second time after he picked up two consecutive W.C. Handy Awards for best entertainer.
Allison was at the peak of his form when he played the Montreal Jazz Festival on July 4 of that year. That show was recorded for television and is now being released in a CD/DVD package. The CD is a 10-song sample of Allison’s incendiary, biting guitar playing and heartfelt vocals backed by the James Solberg Band, his longtime collaborators. It’s the whole show he did at the festival — a truncated “greatest hits” version of the marathon, non-stop, four-hour performances that were his stock in trade.
The DVD contains seven of the same songs (the show was cut down to 56 minutes for Montreal television) and it captures the sweaty intensity and passion that Allison brought to the stage every night. Both discs are vivid reminders of what has been missed since Allison’s passing and are must-haves for his fans and for those who love the blues played with bite and bravado. — L. Kent Wolgamott
Buy if you like: Otis Rush, Buddy Guy