IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Juliana Hatfield, Staind have new CDs

Also, new releases from Toadies, George Jones, Jerry Douglas
/ Source: Billboard

Juliana Hatfield, “How to Walk Away”
Juliana Hatfield is well within her comfort zone on “How to Walk Away.” The 10 tracks hit an enjoyable middle ground between the squeaky-clean sound of 2004’s “In Exile Deo” and rough and grungy 2005 set “Made in China.” After so much practice (nine solo albums over the past 16 years), Hatfield does her moody, catchy indie-pop to near perfection. Entertaining examples abound here, from uplifting first single “Shining On” to the rugged, jangly “This Lonely Love,” which features backing vocals by the Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler. Less scintillating is the murky “Just Lust,” which couples a laid-back guitar riff with simplistic lyrics. But breezy closer “Law of Nature” and the gentle heartbreaker “My Baby” pleasantly bring to mind the youthful, exuberant sound of Hatfield’s 1995 album “Only Everything.”

George Jones, “Burn Your House Down”This collection of previously unreleased duets is a must-have for George Jones fans in particular, and pure country fans in general. “Rockin’ Years,” a No. 1 hit for Dolly Parton and Ricky Van Shelton in 1991, takes on a new life when Parton pairs with the Possum, and Keith Richards sounds more hillbilly than rock star on the album’s title cut. “Selfishness in Man,” with Vince Gill, would be an instant radio classic if it were released 25 years ago. Likewise, “I Always Get It Right With You” with Shelby Lynne is best appreciated with a straight shot of nostalgia, and hearing Jones and Tammy Wynette together again on “Lovin’ You, Lovin’ Me” is pure heaven. If there’s any downside here, it’s that we had to wait so long for these masterpieces.

Staind, “The Illusion of Progress”The title of Staind’s sixth album is a bit of a misnomer, but there are a few new stylistic directions here. A gospel choir backs Aaron Lewis’ soulful vocals on “The Corner,” while Eastern guitar flavors and drum loops swirl through “Breakaway.” “All I Want” and lead single “Believe” are not only as poppy as Staind has ever gotten but are also among the most positive and optimistic lyrics Lewis has penned, while “Tangled Up in You” is an unapologetic love song built on acoustic guitar and strings. The set is bookended by the out-and-out rockers “This Is It,” “The Way I Am” and the album-closing “Rainy Day Parade,” but Staind’s stock in trade is still the midtempo arrangement with the laid-back verse swelling into a big, anthemic chorus.

Toadies, “No Deliverance”
After seven years of side projects, ’90s radio conquerors the Toadies return with just their third album in 14 years, and the Toadies’ vibe hasn’t changed much at all. The band is most known for its enigmatic smash hit “Possum Kingdom,” but the bulk of its songs are harder-edged, with glass-shattering rhythm guitar riffs and pounding rhythms. This is especially true of “No Deliverance” — the band seems to be taking huge delight in reuniting, and its triumphant attitude shows in every riff and holler. It’s also nice to hear that frontman Todd Lewis hasn’t lost his lip, as such tracks as the grisly “Hell in High Water,” the aptly named breakup ditty “Song I Hate” and the title track spit and bite with a gleeful fury.

Jerry Douglas, “Glide”On his 12th outing, Jerry Douglas once again proves his mettle as the world’s master of the dobro, offering a dazzling display of nine instrumentals and two vocal gems featuring Travis Tritt and Rodney Crowell. Douglas delightfully defies preconceptions about the dobro — and bluegrass itself — on a letter-perfect New Orleans funeral march (“Sway Sur La Rue Royale”), the cool, jazzy “Bounce” and turbo-charged tradition — featuring Earl Scruggs and Tony Rice — on “Home Sweet Home.” Tritt and Crowell turn in great moments of their own. From regal restraint to reckless abandon, Douglas is never anything less than astonishing.

The Walkmen, “You & Me”If the Walkmen’s last proper album, “A Hundred Miles Off,” was a desperately rousing affair, “You & Me” is simply a desperate one — and that’s no snub. Singer Hamilton Leithauser’s chief concerns have always been loss, regret and the way life can unravel so slowly we hardly notice, but a fight-it-at-all-costs grit and thrilling vocals preserved the silver lining. Here, refracted through the lens of a lasting but troubled relationship, these themes become staggeringly heavy; the endless ebb and flow of the tide is a recurring lyrical motif reflected in the music, the band circling around Leithauser until he sounds as if he’s drowning. It’s muted but intoxicating stuff.