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Sound Bites: May music from Frampton, Fleetwood & Friends, Thomas Rhett

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Here’s a good problem to have: so much new music, so little time to absorb it all. I’ve chosen five titles worthy of your consideration in rock, blues, country, and folk-pop released within the last two weeks.

Peter Frampton – “Frampton Forgets The Words” (UMe)

Frampton follows his 2019 chart-topper “All Blues” with a not-so-obvious instrumental album of cover songs recorded in his Nashville studio. The guitar great made a list of songs that he loves, some with a personal connection, like George Harrison’s “Isn’t it a Pity” (from “All Things Must Pass,” a record that featured the 20-year-old Frampton on acoustic guitar), and David Bowie’s “Loving the Alien,” which Frampton played to perfection as a member of Bowie’s band on the Glass Spider Tour. Other highlights include a slinky take on Sly and the Family Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay,” a Santana-esque version of Radiohead’s “Reckoner,” and bluesy readings of Marvin Gaye’s “One More Heartache” and Stevie Wonder’s “I Don’t Know Why.” Frampton performs with impeccable tone on some of the tastiest playing of his career. Diagnosed with the degenerative muscle disease IBM in 2015, Frampton set out to record as much music as possible while he can still play. This album is a loving and inspiring nod of thanks and celebration of some of his favorite music.

Mick Fleetwood & Friends – “…Celebrate the Music of Peter Green and the Early Years of Fleetwood Mac” (BMG)

More than a decade before Lindsay and Stevie crashed the party, Fleetwood Mac was Britain’s premiere blues band fronted by guitarist and songwriter Peter Green, for whom blues was a religion. Green took the Mac to the top of the U.K. charts with a string of emotion-fueled singles and albums before bowing out in 1970. Green died last July, five months after Fleetwood staged this concert tribute featuring Green’s peers and disciples, including Jeremy Spencer, David Gilmour, Pete Townshend, Billy Gibbons, Neil Finn, Bill Wyman, Kirk Hammett, Steven Tyler, Rick Vito and Johnny Lang. Highlights include Gilmour’s masterful take on Green’s haunting “Albatross,” Finn’s treatment of the achingly beautiful “Man of the World,” and Gibbons and Hammett’s thrashing of “The Green Manalishi.” There’s a reason why Fleetwood has always considered Green’s era of Fleetwood Mac to be the band’s most vital.

Thomas Rhett – “Country Again, Side A” (The Valory Music Co./Big Machine)

Rhett goes back to basics on his fine fifth album, his follow-up to 2019’s chart-topping “Center Point Road.” Rhett told The Tennessean: “This is the new path. I don’t know if it’s right. I don’t know if anyone’s going to like it. But this is where I’m at as an artist right now.” Rhett sings stories of reconnected lost loves (“Want it Again”), adulting (“Growing Up”) the good old days (“Where We Grew Up”) and coming home (“What’s Your Country Song,” “Country Again”) on the first of two companion LPs containing some of the 200-something new songs he says he’s written or co-written since 2019. The biggest complaint most country music fans have about their favorite genre these days is that isn’t country enough. Rhett is on the right path here but he could go even deeper for “Side B.”

Bowerbirds – “Becalmyounglovers” (Psychic Hotline)

If you’re into melodic indie-folk-pop in the vein of The Shins or some of Jeff Tweedy’s poppier Wilco music, you might latch onto this record like an old friend. Raleigh, North Carolina’s Bowerbirds were a trio led by Phil Moore and his ex-partner, Beth Tacular. Some of these songs (all of them?) deal with that breakup but that’s not to say this is a downer. Judged solely on the sound of the music, it’s an uplifting listen buoyed by Moore’s gift for crafting little sonic gems, most of them powered with simple acoustic guitar, bass, drums, and double-tracked vocals. “Show me more,” Moore sings on the hopeful “Seems Impossible,” featuring one of the record’s more elaborate arrangements. The simply gorgeous “Moon Phase” possesses some of the darkest lyrics on the record but the structure, arrangement and instrumentation (man, that pedal steel solo is tasty) lift the curtain to let in just enough light.

The Coral – “Coral Island” (Modern Sky)

Releasing a double LP concept record about a mythical British seaside resort is about the most unfashionable thing a band could do in 2021, but who cares when it’s this great? The Coral have been creating psych-pop masterpieces for nearly 20 years and this might be their best collection of songs to date. This album’s first half conjures a resort town bustling with energy and prosperity in the summer months while its second reveals how desperately eerie the place becomes for native residents in the off-season. Like The Small Faces’ “Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake,” “Coral Island” features a series of narrated link tracks (the voice of Ian Murrary – grandfather of band brothers James and Ian Skelly) that provide surreal context to a truly inspired collection of concise, genre-shifting songs. It’s a little early to pick album of the year, but this will be a contender for sure.

Last modified on Wednesday, 05 May 2021 06:13

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