Colin Hay – “American Sunshine”Compass Records-due out Aug 18 The opener to Hay’s tenth solo album is a placid, someone stagnant celebration of his home state in his adopted country. “California,” like other pieces in this album, just seems to lack a real excitement, and don’t evince that necessary freshness that art is supposed to bring to its subject. The following “Prison Time” is a well-crafted, somewhat sunshiny feel-good track, and this is how this album stumbles, with one good, and one limp leg. Hay’s laid-back, home-country groove seems to be either on or off, making for an uneven album. Hay’s fans should find enoughRead More →

Terence Blanchard – “Choices”Concord Jazz-due out Aug 18 If you’re unfamiliar with Blanchard’s work, simply sit back and enjoy the unexpected twists and snakes of “Byus,” the first track to his latest album. “Choices” is interspersed with spoken vocals by Dr. Cornel West about the choices people make in life: whether to go to school, whether to be a musician, whether to be good or not. This conversational tone to the album spices it up a bit and gives it a second voice; one that it can use, because it doesn’t quite have the sweetness and light of his 2003 “Bounce,” or the thunder ofRead More →

Catie Curtis – “Hello Stranger”Compass Records-out now Ms. Curtis’ authenticity as a country voice is difficult to question in her tenth album. The Boston-based singer and guitarist has an excellent bluesgrass instrumentation in the backing banjo, fiddle and dobro; the musicians here create a pleasant and enjoyable country ambience throughout the album, especially in the opener, “100 Miles,” and the Cat Stevens cover “Tuesday’s Dead.” The latter is upbeat and excellent, and a John Martyn cover “Don’t Want to Know (No Evil)” performes well also, seemingly creeping upon the listener. The album overall, however, is a different story, and much of “Hello, Stranger” feels aRead More →

Tommy Castro – “Hard Believer”Alligator Records-due out Aug. 11 My title means no offense to Mr. Castro, but in defense of it, a title’s got to be nimble, catchy, and good to grab your attention. While I purport to none of these, Castro’s eleventh album is all of these and more: his soulful album here does credit to blues jam with hard-knock vocals and lush big-band orchestration. Try out the well-paced opener, “Definition of Insanity,” and his cover of Dylan, “Gotta Serve Somebody”; if you don’t see yourself sipping Southern Comfort at a worn barstool under the spell of the band onstage, then just enjoyRead More →