A Random History of the Avant-Groove
From the capital of the Confederacy comes a quartet of white boys named Hotel X, venturing forth into the realm of cool jazz that goes with late nights and cigarettes like braces go with crooked teeth. A Random History is a fantastic collection of music: rarely covered tunes by Coltrane (his "India" is particularly inspired), Mingus and guitar-noise genius Sonny Sharrock, alongside strong Hotel originals like "Ocean Floor," which sounds like a soundtrack for a camel walking underwater, and the bitchy, sax-trombone conversation of "Jake."
You'll catch touches of Sun Ra, early-Sixties Miles, warped blues and percussive Cu-bop throughout the release--elements reminiscent of territory covered by John Lurie's late Lounge Lizards--but it's the two-bass sound that keeps Hotel X intriguing. With both fretted and fretless, the instruments tease and meander between themselves constantly without becoming overbearing. You don't have to be a jazz head to appreciate this history.--Peter Gilstrap
Lee Roy Parnell
On the Road
Former Texas Jew Boy to Kinky Friedman, longtime Nashville sideman Parnell has a justifiably highly regarded rep for his electric guitar/slide work. It's just been in the last few years that he's let his fine voice out of that studio corral and gone it alone. Thanks, Lee Roy.
Packed with a passel of shuffle-friendly tunes, On the Road is a solid, if generally unspectacular, piece of work. Parnell's smoky-smooth baritone lends itself especially well to the pickup-truck blues of "Straight Shooter" and "Country Down to My Soul." The title track, a Bob McGill-inked gem, has spent a spell on the charts, but Parnell's take on Fred Rose and Hy Heath's 1952 classic "Take These Chains From My Heart (and Set Me Free)," with vocal help from Ronnie Dunn (of Brooks and Dunn fame), is downright swell. While this is a slick, Nashville product, Parnell does get the opportunity to display his superb slide work on the rollicking "Fresh Coat of Paint." Why producer Scott Hendricks didn't allow Parnell to show off his stringsmithery more often herein, however, is a tad tough to fathom.
Well, maybe next time. We will be listening.--Larry Crowley
Sometimes it can be really cool to play the same two or three distorted chords over a plodding beat, not really be able to sing, and to choose a funny/stoopid band name that might offend, oh, someone's great aunt.
But it didn't work for Piss Factory. The music put out by this band is just plain boring. Not scary, not wicked. Boring. It sounds like some record exec ordered this one up thinking the nihilistic youth of today would swallow it whole. Factory sounds like a million videos you've seen before. Do yourself a favor, go buy a White Zombie album or something.--Peter Gilstrap
Some plumb-lucky George Strait concertgoers already have an inside track on this sultry-voiced newcomer, who has set the stage for Ol' Possum Eyes on a number of occasions. But if there is a God--or a smart Music City suit with a soft spot for old-fashioned country music--Bobbie Cryner should soon be the last act out.
This ballad-rich inaugural effort is that good. From the spooky opening, "He Feels Guilty," through the Cryner-penned "You Could Steal Me"--complete with vocal and mandolin help from country songwriting-singing legend Carl Jackson (who also co-produced)--Cryner's low-pitched complaints and effortless vocal acrobatics might remind one of Jessi Colter, Wynonna Judd and--no foolin'--George Jones.
"Too Many Tears Too Late," with its righteous fiddle preamble and Emmylou Harris' gorgeous background goose, exemplifies the general theme of a woman's self-sufficiency and personal power, while the album's finest cut, "I Think It's All Over Now"--rendered even more soul-searing thanks to master dobroist Jerry Douglas' finger work--is simply slow-dance heaven. Betcha can't cling close enough.--Larry Crowley
From Monday to Sunday
Why you shouldn't like it:
1) Nick Heyward was the idea man behind early-Eighties Brit-pop band Haircut 100, short-haired, cardigan-clad preppies who made the New Christy Minstrels look subversive.
2) The words "ordinary" and "plain" creep up enough times in Heyward's lyrics to make you think you're listening to Paul McCartney trying to be down-to-earth again. Worse, Heyward's likely to draw kudos from your mom with lines like "Love's a better place with all the dishes put away."
3) The Tom Petty theft evident in "Mr. Plain," in which naughty Nick appropriates the three-note piano hook of "A Face in the Crowd," as well as the swiping of Jeff Lynne's signature slide-guitar sound.
Why you should buy it, anyway:
1) "Kite," the shimmering single, evokes the childlike splendor you only thought Kate Bush pulled off convincingly by singing three keys too high.