Into the Well of Emotions (10/9/98)
Lisa Germano, Slide (4AD 1998) - On her fifth solo album, singer and performer Lisa Germano hits paydirt. Buoyed by producer Tchad Blake, Germano dips into her slinky emotional well to deliver an ever-changing musical tapestry.
Germano first made a name for herself as the fiddle player in John Mellencamp's band. In a strange twist, her 1994 album (Happiness) was released with two different mixes on two different major record labels.
Germano is nothing if not moody, yet claims, "It's funny, 'cause I'm often surprised when I think a song is mine is positive and someone else finds it sad or even upsetting."
Working with a solid studio band in Los Angeles, including Jerry Marotta on drums, Joe Gore on guitar, Jerry Scheff on bass, and Mitchell Froom on keyboards, Germano has created an emotional soundscape for the end of the decade.
Thus, songs like "If I Think of Love" (an unsettling spoken word piece), "Turning Into Betty" (written about Germano's mother) and "No Color Here" find Germano easily sliding along the experimental studio atmosphere created by Froom and Blake.
Indeed, Blake seems such a soulmate that perhaps Germano should marry him, just like walk-to-a-different-drummer folkie Suzanne Vega married Blake's partner, Mitch Froom.
Slide is one of the best albums of the year, and a pleasant reward for fans who have patiently followed Germano through the years. A rich tapestry, with unsettling emotional undercurrents, Slide should not be missed.
Randy Scruggs, Crown of Jewels (Reprise Nashville 1998) - After success as an award-winning producer, hit songwriter and distinguished session musician, Randy Scruggs has delivered his first solo album, Crown of Jewels. Featuring a host of talented guests, including Rosanne Cash, Bruce Hornsby, and Trisha Yearwood, the album lies somewhere in the crossroads of pop, new bluegrass and contemporary country.
At the core is Randy Scruggs, the son of the legendary banjo player, Earl Scruggs. (Earl is also featured on one of the tracks). The album includes a number of delightful songs, including "It's Only Love" (with vocals by Mary Chapin Carpenter), "Amie" (with vocals by Travis Tritt), and a rousing cover of "City of New Orleans" (with duet vocals by John Prine).
Also included is a duet with Joan Osborne on "Passin' Thru." "Passin' Thru"was co-written by Johnny Cash, and reflects Cash's Everyman sense of spirituality derived from life's experiences and honest introspection.
Crown of Jewels draws you gently into its circle. With repeated listenings, the album unfolds and reveals its pleasures. Give this understated charmer a chance.
P. A., Straight No Chase (Dreamworks 1998) - Straight No Chase is the sophomore release from P. A. ("Parental Advisory"). Consisting of Big Reese, K. P., and Mello, P. A. delivers a sample-free amalgam of rock, rap and soul that has elements of a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack.
Based in Atlanta, P. A. surfaced in 1992 with their first album, Ghetto Street Funk. Highlights on Straight No Chase include "The Lick," a bank robbery story, and the sultry, "China White," a dizzying production about addiction. Also making guest appearances are Gip from Goodie Mob and up-and-comers Young Bloods.
Says Reese, "It's time to get some of the parents to pay attention to this music." Adds K. P., "You ain't got to ride with it. The parents need to have stronger relationships with the kids, and they will be stronger when they recognize and accept that this music is what their kids relate to."
With its cinematic images, and absence of frequent rap themes of racial unrest and misogyny, Straight No Chase shows the inventive power of the genre. Give Straight No Chase a chance.
Hightone Records - Hightone Records is celebrating its 15th anniversary as one of America's leading independent labels. The label originally pioneered the Americana movement with such artists as Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Dave Alvin.
The album's current roster includes the Rev. Billy C. Wirtz, who delivers a come-to-Jesus, honky-tonk, piano-and-comedy session that must be heard to be believed.
In addition, the label is seeking to develop a West Coast rockabilly sound with such artists as Kim Lenz, Deke Dickerson, and Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys.
Hightone is a solid label (based in Oakland, California), and deserves your support.
- Randy Krbechek © 1998
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