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New works by Willie Nelson, Starsailor and The Boggs


Kasey Chambers -- Barricades & Brickwalls (Warner Bros.)

Kasey Chambers' much anticipated sophomore release is an inconsistent hodgepodge of riveting country-rockers, unconvincing honky-tonkers and middle-of-the-road, sensitive singer/songwriter fare. Chambers' older brother Nash provides taut production throughout -- making the muscular rockers crackle and the hardcore country tunes sizzle as if emanating straight from a smoky roadhouse. The problems lie within Chambers' lyrical content and vocal sensibilities. Her fragile, gooey tenor just doesn't possess the emotional depth to make lines like "I'm gonna drink you out of my head" ("A Little Bit Lonesome") or "I still cry for Baby Jesus" ("I Still Pray") sound anything but silly. Chambers excels when surrounded by crashing guitars, spitting out lines such as "I'll be damned if you're not my man/ By the time the sun goes down." The autobiographical "Nullarbor Song" finds the Australian songstress replacing cliches -- which pop up annoyingly throughout the disc -- with striking details that allow her tender vocals to shine. Chambers' latest effort is far from junk, but neither is it the juggernaut that would turn Nashville upside down. -- Wade Tatangelo

Stanton Moore -- Flyin' the Koop (Blue Thumb,

This is jazz with bad manners. This is jazz that'll point at your chest and then flick your nose. This is not, however, jazz that's a rhythm-less, skronkin' cacophony. Moore, the drummer for New Orleans funk stalwarts Galactic, has assembled an ace ensemble for his second solo disc: bassist Chris Wood (of Medeski Martin and Wood), saxophonists Karl Denson and Sherik, and guitarist Brian Seeger (on four of the 12 numbers). Calling on Moore's Crescent City roots, the group pummels their way through a variety of funky, riffy tunes, with stellar results. Several of the selections, most notably "Fallin' Off the Floor" (with guest vocal chant by the Wild Magnolias) are like Mardi Gras parade music with chops and intellect. Others are ruder: "Launcho Diablo" and "Things Fall Apart" showcase Sherik on saxophonics -- his tenor played through effects board, making it sound like a searing acid guitar. Rhythm reigns supreme. Moore's muscular, fluid stickwork, which is prominent in the mix, meshes perfectly with Wood's vigorous attack on acoustic and electric bass; the horn players get right in lockstep, spewing jagged lines and joining together for infectious, bluesy licks. Flyin' the Koop is the first great groove-jazz disc of the year. --Eric Snider

Willie Nelson -- The Great Divide (Lost Highway)

The Great Divide offers listeners a solid glimpse of Willie Nelson's many sides. On songs such as "Maria (Shut Up and Kiss Me)," written by Matchbox 20 front man Rob Thomas, Nelson proves that even when encased in a 3-foot-thick wall of sound, he can still shine through with the same force as he does on the sparsely produced, self-penned title track. On "Time After Time," Nelson gives the Cyndi Lauper gem the same tender treatment that propelled his reading of the Elvis Presley standard "Always on My Mind" to the top of the charts 20 years ago. Nelson's star-studded -- everyone from Bonnie Rait to Kid Rock offer vocal harmonies -- debut for Lost Highway is a far cry from outlaw masterpieces of yesteryear like Red Headed Stranger and Shotgun Willie, and it bears little resemblance to the Bing Crosby-inspired Stardust that notched multiplatinum sales in the late 70s. But, hell, what's wrong with a country boy making a smart pop album for the new millennium? -- Wade Tatangelo

Snowdogs -- Animal Farm (Victory Records)

Animal Farm is a collection of well-penned power-pop songs from two Fins and one Georgian (the US state, not the region in Eastern Europe) living in London, released on American metalcore label Victory Records. All of which means nothing, really, save the surety that most of Victory's loyal followers will hand it off to their most mainstream friend after enduring, say, about a third of its tracks. Fortunately for the mainstream friends, Animal Farm is excellent, blending superior American pop-punk's meaty edge with a uniquely British combination of flamboyance and genre-ignorance. Snowdogs is obviously a band intent on entertaining --shades of Cheap Trick, Kiss, Slade, Placebo and Green Day color every track here. Sure, those groups have influenced just about everything that's come along since, but some songwriting quirks and loads of personality elevate the trio far above your average three-chord hack act. Plus, rock-solid tunes like "Right At You," "User Friendly" and "Are You With Missy?" are so good, they'd probably still sound great coming from a shitty band. --Scott Harrell

Starsailor -- Love Is Here (Capitol)

Will the procession of sensitive bardic musicians from England never end? Ever since Thom York and Co. decided to stop writing twee songs of longing and regret and start futzing with computers, there's been a procession of bands vying to fill the position of Sensitive Men In A Band Loved By The Critics. Coldplay and Travis have entered that sweepstakes with some success, and now Starsailor (who just played at Tremont last weekend) jumps into the fray with Love Is Here. Granted, only certain people can stand to listen to nothing but songs of lost love that are sung and/or yelped in near-falsetto over washes of guitar and gentle keyboards. But even if the melancholia at first is a turn-off, give Starsailor a couple of listens. The album grows as gently as it plays, and the subtleties of lyrics and instrumentation reveal themselves once the listener decides to soak in the record rather than resist. And it's not all shoegazing: Most of the songs build and build until frontman James Walsh breaks and begins to holler and the rest of the band follows musical suit. The record really hits its stride with the title track, a gorgeous, fragile ballad that could serve as a manifesto for the love-stricken of both genders. Lyrics are really the showpiece of this album, and the title song's unabashed sentimentality and sweetness hit an emotional chord that either endears with its honesty or annoys with its open-wound vulnerability. -- Quincey D. Vierling

The Boggs -- We Are The Boggs We Are (Arena Rock)

The unexpectedly Brooklyn-based quartet known as The Boggs blends a bevy of old-music styles, including Leadbelly-style blues, folk, Americana and bluegrass. Up until recently, the young guys busked on the streets until they began booking indoor shows at NYC bars, including the popular Mercury Lounge. Perhaps The Boggs' humble beginnings informed their sound, intentionally recorded to come off as lo-fi and delivered by way of acoustic slide guitar, mandolin, banjo, harmonica and accordion. The lyrics seem to be born of the late, great Woody Guthrie himself, paying homage to whiskey drinkin' and broken hearts. Though there are some stirring slow tunes, a slew of upbeat numbers gets this album rockin' in a "keep your hand on that plow" kind of way. Whether you're a folkie or not, We Are Boggs We Are is highly recommended. It makes a body wish for simpler times. -- Lee Devanas *

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