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Sound Bites: New LPs and good vibes from Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne, Mike Campbell

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Maybe it’s my imagination but it appears that a number of albums being released these days refer in some way to the fact that we’re all way overdue for some good old-fashioned fun. With that spirit, let’s take a listen to some of this month’s most anticipated album releases.

Bryan Adams – “So Happy It Hurts” (Badams Music/BMG)

Adams sounds positively upbeat on his 15th album, but it could be a case of him reading the room. He’s beaming on the title opener as he sings “Driving down Trans-Canada One, top down, I got the radio on, alright.” It’s a record packed with potential Adams crowd-pleasers, songs designed for sing-alongs and lighters held aloft. Maybe he genuinely wants to spread joy throughout the land or maybe he just knows how to give the people what they want. Either way, an overtly positive record is a smart move right now and this one is destined to come alive in concert.

Mike Campbell & The Dirty Knobs – “External Combustion” (BMG)

Just when I thought Mike Campbell couldn’t get any cooler comes this superb album. The Dirty Knobs emerged as Campbell’s side project from Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers more than a decade ago but didn’t issue their first full-length until 2020’s excellent “Wreckless Abandon.” “External Combustion” is an even more impressive and diverse record packed with catchy riff-heavy tunes (“Wicked Mind,” “Dirty Job,” featuring Ian Hunter, “Cheap Talk”), blues rock (“Brigitte Bardot,” “Electric Gypsy”) and ballads (“State of Mind,” featuring Margo Price, “In This Lifetime”). Not that there was any doubt that Campbell is one of rock’s MVPs, but this record is a winning reminder.

Avril Lavigne – “Love Sux” (DTA/Atlantic)

By the sounds of “Love Sux,” it would appear that some guy managed to seriously piss off Avril Lavigne, but she’s found a healthy outlet on “Love Sux,” a return to the pop-punk sound of her early days. The explosive “Cannonball” had to be the album opener as Lavigne runs down a litany of reasons why the guy who did her wrong should be full of regret, assuming she hasn’t actually killed him yet. The record has a natural Blink 182 vibe thanks to powerhouse drummer Travis Barker who also co-produced. Blink bassist and vocalist Mark Hoppus guests on the duet “All I Wanted” while Machine Gun Kelly joins in on “Bois Lie.” A little more musical variety might have broken up the similitude a bit, but the songs are concise, infectious and crackling with energy.

The Infamous Stringdusters – “Toward the Fray” (Americana Vibes/Regime Music Group)

Thanks to Joel Raymond for introducing me to The Infamous Stringdusters. Raymond brought this powerhouse progressive bluegrass group to Blue Hill for the Shangri La Music Festival in the summer of 2008 and I was smitten from the start. “Toward the Fray,” the quintet’s 12th release, showcases the strengths of each member. The subject matter reflects our culture’s present divisiveness but offers hope for resolution. The opening “Hard Line” addresses fractured friendships but suggests a solution before it all comes crashing down, a theme shared by a number of these songs, including “Means to an End” and “I Didn’t Know.” First listen standouts include the elegantly constructed “Pearl of Carolina,” the exciting instrumental “Revolution,” “How Do You Know?,” a rumination on love, and the metaphorical “Down From the Mountain.” Freaky apocalyptic cover art aside, “Toward the Fray” is a thought-provoking delight.

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 March 2022 06:42

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