Sound & Fury 3-30-06

Heavy Metal Harmonica Heavy Metal Harmonica (Self-produced; January 2006)

Unfortunately, this album by harmonica master Nick Shane and his rhythm guitar playing buddy Sam Kelly is worse than it sounds. Sure, the harmonica playing is at times impressive and ridiculously fast, but the songs — lyrics, singing, beats, etc. — sound like bad remakes of strategically unreleased material from heavy metal’s mid-’80s heyday. It’s hard to listen to an entire song — whether it’s the ode to gridlock, “L.A. Traffic,” or the Hell’s Angel-aimed “Ironwolves” — but these guys would probably be funny to see live. Hopefully, this album was just a way to launder some hard-earned drug money. — Matt Kettmann

Cat Power The Greatest (Matador Records; January 2006)

A far cry from the almost unbearable intensity of Chan Marshall’s previous work, this album is pleasant, with all the negativity and positivity the word implies. She returned to her Southern roots to record this one, and the album is both the better and the worse for the Memphis influence. Marshall’s sensuous voice becomes downright sexy backed by soul legends Leroy and Mabon Hodges, but the cathartic intimacy of her lyrics is stifled. Sophisticated string arrangements and bluesy horns mute Marshall’s characteristic melancholy — you actually have to pay attention to realize she’s singing of suicide fantasies and doomed love. While old fans will find much to miss, this album promises Cat Power lots of new ones. — Hannah Tennant-Moore

Clark Here Comes Tomorrow (Silent Film Records; February 2006)

Lompoc’s band Clark crafts songs that are like lullabies for grownups, except they’re too enjoyable to just fall asleep to. A collection of personal (yet accessible) tales of love, loss, and rebirth, they bring to mind Elliott Smith’s quieter moments while giving more than a nod to Nick Drake, especially on the gorgeous, xylophone-punctuated “Headphone Day.” And if you’ve ever felt loss (and who hasn’t?) the haunting title track might just make you cry. This isn’t just a great album “for a local band” — it’s a great album period. Buy it at — Brier Random

Bonnie Raitt Souls Alike (Capitol Records; 2005)

Bonnie Raitt’s self-produced Souls Alike warmly invites you to enjoy every heartfelt note. The pop surface joins confidently with the blues soul of the album, bringing out all of Raitt’s strengths. Rocking out on guitar, she sings with passion and precision, bringing just the right touch to each song. The opening track “I Will Not Be Broken” sets the album’s confident tone and the defiant Raitt once again provides her audience with a cohesive collection of intelligent and enjoyable rock ’n’ roll. Santa Barbara was blessed with hearing these songs live when she played the Arlington on Valentine’s Day. — Will Engel

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