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Heavy hitters lead the pack in new music

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The music biz seems to be quietly whistling past the graveyard with fingers crossed this summer as it looks ahead with hope that 2021 will see a widespread return of live concerts. Dozens of acts have already issued new records which would have been tied to their respective tours, while some have decided to hold titles back to see how things shake out.

This week sees a number of high-profile figures in rock and country hit the launch button on new albums, two of which were recorded after the outset of the pandemic.

Luke Bryan – “Born Here, Live Here, Die Here” (Capitol Nashville; out now)

Luke Bryan had planned to release his seventh LP in April with a tour to follow in May that would have included a stop at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion on August 14. Bryan’s latest kicks off with his springtime country chart-topper “Knockin’ Boots,” and continues with pretty much everything fans expect: songs about drinking, women, family and home. Most fans will drink it up, but I think the overuse of Auto-Tune on Bryan’s vocals makes him sound like a weird, creepy, country robot.

Mary Chapin Carpenter – “The Dirt and the Stars” (Lambent Light Records; out now)

Mary Chapin’s 15th studio album finds her in peak songwriting form. One of only 15 women inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Carpenter has crafted a record celebrating the wisdom, the passage of time, a special guitar, and squeezing the most out of life. This all-new project, her first in four years, was produced by Ethan Johns (Ray LaMontagne, Paul McCartney), and recorded entirely live at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Bath, England. “They (Johns and engineer Dom Monks) have this gift for setting up the room so we’re all playing together with no isolation booths; everything you hear is a full take,” Carpenter said of the location during a 2018 interview with The Maine Edge.

Deep Purple – “Woosh!” (earMUSIC; out now)

Deep Purple’s 21st studio album was produced by Bob Ezrin (Pink Floyd, Phish, Peter Gabriel) and it includes a number of classic Deep Purple touchstones: Heavy guitar, catchy riffs, thick Hammond organ and impassioned vocals from Ian Gillan. The songs themselves are pretty solid throughout but the heavy-handed use of compression, likely slathered on during both the mixing and mastering phases, has sucked up virtually all of the dynamic range in the music. When EVERYTHING IS LOUD ALL THE TIME it obliterates nuance and, ironically, power.

Trey Anastasio – “Lonely Trip” (Rubber Jungle Records; out now)

On the heels of the surprise April Fool’s Day appearance of Phish’s superb “Sigma Oasis,” the band’s lead guitarist and vocalist adopted the same release strategy for this record of home demos recorded in isolation at his New York City apartment between March and July of this year. The chronically creative Anastasio wrapped a productive songwriting session with longtime collaborators at the outset of the pandemic and then locked himself up with a minimal amount of gear and an 8-track recording deck. New songs and home videos began appearing almost daily on his Instagram page, 15 of which are represented on “Lonely Trip,” remixed by Bryce Goggin. It’s a fascinating, relatable and occasionally unnerving listen, as the ordinarily super-confident Anastasio sounds alternately upbeat, a bit anxious and a little worried, just like the rest of us.

Taylor Swift – “folklore” (Republic; out now)

Swift pulled a page from the Phish playbook by dropping her eighth record out of the blue with no advance hype. Even her label was in the dark about “folklore,” an unexpected stylistic departure and a substantial win for Swift in both songwriting and execution. Quieter than most fans expected (visually reflected in the stylized lowercase titles throughout) the songs were all apparently written and recorded after the pandemic began. Swift collaborated on the record’s 16 tracks remotely with Jack Antonoff (Fun, Bleachers), Aaron Dessner (The National), Bon Iver and a mysterious figure named William Bowery. The result is perhaps her most authentic and least fussed with music to date.

Last modified on Wednesday, 12 August 2020 11:47

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