Len S.'s Reviews

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Son of novelist Larry McMurtry, James paints a vivid picture of recent affairs in the protest song "We Can't Make It Here Anymore". My favorite among this collection of heartfelt songs is "Childish Things", reminiscing about the days of simple youth and reflection on the things and mindsets that led the protagonist to where he is today.

Highly recommended.

Review Date: 9/4/2013
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Nothing could be worth this long a wait (15 years), but Axl has, at least, put together a GnR album that ranks right up there with their early work. The highlight of the CD for me is "Street of Dreams", it has the scope and feel of "November Rain" and the sure-to-be-classic line "What I thought was beautiful don't live inside of you anymore." That could be a line from Axl to his supermodel-ex, or just as appropriately TO Axl from legions of GnR fans.

I actually enjoyed listening to the guitarist de jour attempt to fill Slash's shoes... Buckethead comes close in a weird kind of way.

The CD will rock you and may cement some peoples notion of Axl as a musical genius.

Review Date: 6/28/2010
Title: Cotton
Artist: Sam Baker
Label: Music Road
Original Release Date: 1/1/2009
Date: 2/24/2011

Sam was a house painter in Texas until a vacation in South America ended with a terrorist's bomb on a train. The bomb killed the person sitting next to him and severely injured Mr. Baker. During his long rehab, he began writing songs about his experience and learned to play the guitar left-handed due to permanent injuries to his right hand.

His music is soulful, and at various times uplifting or sad. His voice is scratchy and unpolished. When I want to hear a great voice, I listen to someone like Florence and the Machine. When I want deep music that comes from a dark place--while still showing a light at the end of the tunnel--I put on Sam Baker.

If you're unsure about ordering this CD, go to Youtube and search for "Odessa by Sam Baker" to get a taste of his music.

Review Date: 2/24/2011

Having worked my way into the Drive By Truckers in a backwards fashion... John Prine to Jason Isbell to DBT, it's no surprise that I gravitated to the tracks "Decoration Day" and "Outfit"--two Isbell concert standards.

This was DBT's initial offering with Isbell in the band and the two previously mentioned songs surely opened many eyes to his songwriting talent. However, this CD was also Mike Cooley's time to shine. "Sounds Better In The Song" and "When The Pin Hits The Shell" are two masterfully written songs that fit Cooley's voice perfectly. There's plenty to enjoy from the band's fearless leader as well... Patterson Hood really stepped up his game when pulled by Isbell and Cooley.

Finally, Isbell fans will appreciate comparing his older tracks to modern-day renditions of the same songs. His leaving the bottle behind and getting in shape have clearly produced better lyrical pacing and much-improved lung power.

I highly recommend this CD.

Review Date: 5/30/2017

John's second release from 1972 is enjoyable from beginning to end... he opens with "Everybody", a catchy little tune where he offers to lend an ear to Jesus ("I said 'Jesus, you look tired.' He said 'Jesus! So do you!'").

"Souvenirs" is a brilliant Steve Goodman cover and "Sour Grapes" is a fabulous fable-turned-song that points out that we have every right to be upset when things don't go our way.

"Billy the Bum" is a dark tale, beautifully told, about finding joy in life's simple pleasures and not letting the jerks of the world get to you. "The Frying Pan" should be required listening for young men about to wed.

John shows that he's not through protesting Vietnam (yes, he served) with "Take the Star Out of the Window" and "The Great Compromise". The latter is slyly wrapped up as a love song with the good ole U.S. of A. playing the part of his "girl".

The CD ends with the title song, a Carter Family tune rendered a capella and if you listen closely at the end, you can hear producer Arif Mardin sum up the whole CD...

"Fantastic!"

Review Date: 10/12/2009

This masterpiece does not suffer from overblown production like most of TVZ's albums. Just the immense talents of one of our greatest singer/songwriters, his guitar and his off-beat sense of humor.

Townes' voice takes a little getting used to, but once you're hooked you'd rather hear him sing his own songs than the big stars who made them famous.

Review Date: 1/9/2012
Title: One Guitar, No Vocals
Artist: Leo Kottke
Label: RCA Victor
Original Release Date: 6/29/1999
Date: 9/21/2010

In my early days of learning to play guitar, I had read about Leo Kottke in several instructional texts as an example of who to listen to in order to become a better guitar player. It took me a while, but I'm glad I finally got around to listening to him.

This is a very relaxing CD, I often listen to it while falling asleep. If you're a guitar player, you'll appreciate the technical excellence. If not, you'll still enjoy the instrumentals at face value.

Review Date: 9/21/2010

The debut from this High Point, N.C. artist expresses familiar laments on life in a refreshing way. The collection feels a bit like looking back onto a period of depression with the sharpened tools of one who has survived and even flourished thanks to the lessons learned. That's not to say that this is a depressing CD, though some songs will definitely knock on that door. As a true representative of the Americana art form, Ken intersperses hopefulness and celebration on the roller-coaster of storytelling.

As far as similarities to known artists, Ken seems that he would feel right at home in the post-Haight-Asbury invasion that predated punk or the mid-80s return from Electronica. Bands like The Plimsouls and The Pixies come to mind.

Ken's voice melds perfectly with the tone and style of his music -- a deceptively low-priced ticket to join the ranks of Americana artists. Further releases will determine if he can build on a solid foundation with lyrics that touch us all. This debut is a fine start.

Review Date: 1/11/2017
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