Live Meat and Potatoes
Chad Smith's Bombastic Meatbats' base of operations is a Los Angeles jazz club named the Baked Potato, and the players are led by Chad Smith, drummer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Meatbats appear to draw from several musical spheres; silky jazz and rocking tunes combine, producing a funky sound that speaks to the soul. Pianist Ed Roth brings out jazz flavors as guitarist Kevin Brown of Cosmosquad and bassist Kevin Chown of Uncle Kracker and Tarja Turunen rock out on their instruments. Chad Smith ties it all together, at times leading and at others supporting the songs with complex drum beats. The album clocks in at roughly two hours of music, and sticks with the jazz funk theme. After a time each song seems to blend into the next, but the album remains engaging and fun to listen to. It feels like one long jam session, over too soon.
Caroline Herring sings with a clear voice and vibrato that makes her the Joan Baez of country music; she's on a list of the top 50 Texas singers of all time. Why isn't she a household name? Maybe it's her determination to take on the big issues that modern country music buries under nostrums and slick production. Camilla is largely a theme album that touches the third rail of Southern politics: civil rights. The opening track is musically catchy, but its content is about one black woman's determination to stand up to Georgian injustice no matter the cost. She returns to such themes on "White Dress," and again on "Maiden Voyage," a song that deflates redneck patriotism á la Woody Guthrie. Smart stuff, amazing voice, and superb backup from folks such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Aoife O'Donovan and Kathryn Roberts. Give this a listen; if you're not already a Herring fan, you will be.
Though Jarrett Killen's music fits comfortably in the "Americana" pigeonhole, the delicate, hair-trigger timbre of his voice bleeds into something like alternative radio pop. The production on Paper Anchors (Killen, Matt Smith and Danny Malone) combines crisp, modern audio fidelity with a nostalgic affection for vintage technology ("Dear Jeanine" replicates the pops and scratches of a vinyl record), and the melodies and guitar/piano/harmonica arrangements attempt to resurrect that lonely, desperate Elliot Smith vibe that many of us miss so much. Killen's version of heartbreak is a bit more twangy and vaguely Southern or Midwestern (he's done some time in Austin, Tex.), and less anguished, though he definitely pours real emotion into the tunes, even if the lyrics feel a trifle contrived at times. Nothing groundbreaking here, but eminently listenable.