Photo: Andy Tennillee
This week we reviewed three new albums from completely different artists: Drive-By Truckers front man, Patterson Hood, Calexico, and DMX.
Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
From the opening drum beat and somber guitar strumming of “12:01,” Patterson Hood’s new album goes down like a shot of whiskey; rough but warming to the insides. On Heat Lightning the Drive-By Truckers front man tells tales of love, despair, and drinking in an almost modern Southern gothic tone that solidifies him as the musical equivalent of the great Mississippi writer Larry Brown. Much like Brown’s writing, Patterson Hood’s songs are like three-minute vignettes of the sometimes troubled lives of Southern men.
If there’s one thing to take away from the album it’s the consistency of Hood who, whether on solo or DBT albums, has managed to put out one of the most solid and prolific catalogues of music from any singer/songwriter working today. The songwriting on the new album isn't vastly different from anything else Hood has done, and the musicianship isn’t especially complex, but it doesn’t need to be, because Heat Lightning is damn good.
Patterson Hood and the Downtown Rumblers play the Cactus Café October 10-11 and ACL Festival on October 12.
Calexico’s newest album was recorded in a converted church on the edge of the historic New Orleans neighborhood for which the album is named. The album is a tribute to the city and the neighborhood, yet manages to avoid the stereotypical NOLA sounds that often come with albums produced there. Instead, Algiers stays closer to the Calexico sound, with surf guitars and haunting yet upbeat trumpets. The lyrics on the other hand, spin tales of a darkly beautiful place full of romance and danger. The album conveys the sense that the band is channeling a mood as opposed to a certain sound. Joey Burns’ distinctly hushed vocals bring out the meaning in each song and give the music a rich potency that few vocalists can achieve. Whether you’re a die hard Calexico fan (guilty) or a casual listener, Algiers is undoubtedly pleasing.
I’ve always maintained a strong belief that, besides his lyrical talents, DMX has the power of metamorphosis. If you listen to any DMX album closely, almost every song has at least five references to being or becoming a dog, as well as an average of about ten barks per song. The infamous rapper’s new album is no exception, as we are greeted with an almost wolf-like growl in the very first seconds of the intro. In the song “Frankenstein” the first line is DMX claiming he “started off as a dog.” At times the album shares the same intenstiy and streetwise grittiness you might find pit bulls fight in a crack den, and I mean that in a good way. Lately his criminal record has been more illustrious than his career, but DMX spends much of the album assuring listeners that he’s back (mostly through barks of course).
Undistputed may not be the best album DMX has ever put out, but in the age of rap music that sounds more like Lady Gaga than music of the streets, DMX is undisputedly a badass who refuses to bend over for record execs looking to put out poppy trash. He even mocks the current E.D.M. trend with “I Don’t Dance,” a techno beat-laden rap that calls out all of the fakes for “lookin’ for fame” while DMX is “livin’ the streets.” So what if he can't get on stage without starting a fight or stabbing someone? I'd still pay good money to see DMX.
Roll up a blunt, sprinkle some crack on it, and throw on this album. The dog don’t disappoint.