Dr. John, “City That Care Forgot”There’s been no shortage of thoughtful musical responses to Hurricane Katrina, but this album-length elegy by one of the city’s foremost voices stands as something like the Mitchell Report of the bunch. “City That Care Forgot” is a righteous service indeed, all rage and soul and careful optimism, a place where the ballads drip and burn as much as the rockers, the barbs come quick and sharp (”Say it’s a job well done, then you giggled like a bitch, and hopped back on the Air Force One”), and the best prognosis that the doctor can muster is, “We’re getting there.” Dr. John has enlisted much help here, including that of Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson and Terence Blanchard, and his own Lower 911 band can churn up bayou funk at the snap of a finger. But though “City” is a vicious rebuke, its greater power comes from its being shot through with a deep love and a deeper sadness.
Motley Crue, “Saints of Los Angeles”As elder statesmen of hair metal, Motley Crue’s first full album with its original lineup in more than a decade could have been a sedate affair engineered to appeal to the 30- and 40-somethings who worshipped the band when it ruled the Sunset Strip. Instead, all guns are blazing on this ballad-free ninth album. The band’s signature blues/punk/glam blend remains intact, but the act sounds hungrier than it has since 1989’s “Dr. Feelgood.” Lyrically, the set serves as a soundtrack to autobiography “The Dirt,” with songs like “What’s It Gonna Take” and “Down at the Whiskey” chronicling Motley’s rise to the top and “Welcome to the Machine” voicing frustration once there. Not every song is a winner, but the title track and sleaze anthem “This Ain’t a Love Song” are standouts.
Dan Tyminski, “Wheels”Those who believe it’s been far too long since Alison Krauss + Union Station’s Dan Tyminski released his 2003 solo debut will be thrilled that his sophomore effort is at hand. Marked by the fine picking, strong vocals and well-chosen songs that AKUS fan have come to expect, “Wheels” is a stunning second effort. In true bluegrass tradition, “Some Early Morning” is a fine, haunting tale of a man wrongly accused, and “Making Hay” is a reminder that you can’t get above your raising. Tyminski ably handles AKUS bandmate Ron Block’s “It All Comes Down to You” and the Kitty Wells classic “Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On,” while “Who Showed Who” deals with the aftermath of a woman’s murder of her husband.
G. Love & Special Sauce, “Superhero Brother”When G. Love & Special Sauce released their self-titled debut in 1994, the Philadelphia trio created a distinctive new recipe for beat-driven summer chill-out music. “Superhero Brother” demonstrates further seasoning, as frontman/songwriter Garrett “G. Love” Dutton adds reflections on politics and fatherhood to his unique and variable hip-hop/blues formula that otherwise pays tribute to funk music, weed and blueberry pie. Bright guitar hooks, expansive piano and Jimi “Jazz” Prescott’s driving bass create tracks like “Wiggle Worm” and “Georgia Brown” that are as engrossing as they are stress-reducing. With only vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica, the title track shows off G. Love’s solo chops, as well as his fantasies to end wars and save whales. A choice cold beverage for a warm-weather buzz.
The Watson Twins, “Fire Song”After gaining recognition for backing Jenny Lewis on her 2006 solo debut, “Rabbit Fur Coat,” the Watson Twins make a move to the forefront with their first Vanguard album. The set follows in the same folksy vein as the Louisville, Ky., natives’ work with Lewis, touching on elements of country, folk and pop, and highlights the twin sisters’ warm, delicate harmonies and hooky choruses. The songs range from the playful guitar and piano of “How Am I to Be” to slow-burners like the countrified “Lady Love Me” and torch song “Only You.” Horn flourishes liven up “Map to Where You Are,” and the twangy, harmonica-laced cover of the Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” is gentle and intimate. “Fire Songs” proves the Watson Twins are a strong songwriting team, and one that has earned its time in the spotlight.
Homemade Jamz Blues Band, “Pay Me No Mind”A blues band featuring a 16-year-old lead guitarist/vocalist, a 13-year-old bassist and a 9-year-old drummer might well strike blues fans as little more than a novelty act. Indeed, Ryan Perry (the 16-year-old), his brother Kyle (bass) and sister Taya (drums) have a novel thing going on, but blues lovers will do well to listen to their debut disc before drawing any conclusions. This Tupelo, Miss., trio knocks down 11 solid tunes, 10 of which were penned by the kids’ father, Renaud Perry. “Right Thang Wrong Woman” is a great, original blues number. Ryan sings the hell out of the song, and he snaps off a couple of pretty crunchy guitar solos as well. “Blues Concerto” showcases Renaud working a fierce harmonica and more strong lead guitar from Ryan. The next generation of blues players sounds like they mean business.