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December 28, 2007

CD Reviews 01-02

Don’t Die YetSarah Elizabeth(SELF-RELEASED)The fourth self-released album from Sarah Elizabeth is an earthy, contemplative reflection on mortality, and features some choice original material coupled with several traditional favorites (“Motherless Child,” “Trouble of The World”).With roots in classic Americana (Appalachian country, gospel, folk and Native American accents flourish here), Elizabeth’s deeply spiritual outlook is at the forefront, and her convictions are evident. “Turquoise Sky” is a sedate paean to the acceptance of passing, and “Fortified Wine” might owe a little something to “Over Jordan,” at least in structure. Her reverential (and unnecessary) take on Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” is a sore spot, though it does illustrate Sarah’s diversity, proving she is as able to tackle a more rock-geared sound as she is doing the ethereal/spiritual thing.    The a cappella “Jesus Lover of My Soul” even takes on an almost Celtic inspiration — further evidence of her wide-ranging wellspring of influence. Sarah’s voice is potent, vulnerable and world-wise, and her gentle musical backing takes a back seat to her spirited vocal presence. Don’t Die Yet is a strong album of adult mood-pop with a deeper connection. —Todd ZachritzHawk MedicineLazarus(TEMPORARY RESIDENCE)Trevor Montgomery is a former member of the avant-rock iconoclasts Tarentel (and related act The Drift). His second solo album reflects a softer and more song-oriented world, where moments of tragic beauty lurk around every bend. Montgomery’s slurry, lethargic vocals are tough to stomach, though, and his overdramatic approach will undoubtedly leave some listeners cold and disinterested. Musically, the doomy, almost creepy guitars and reverb call to mind a goth-affected Red House Painters. There are some glimmers of hope, though. The lovely third track, “The Sky of the Tall Sun,” is an uplifting lament with the liltingly beautiful backing vocals by Kathryn Sechrist. The ironically titled “Disco” is a swaying keyboard/guitar instrumental and brings a measure of hopefulness, with its rising notes and gently tinkling bells that announce its conclusion. It’s back to the morose sorrow in “Hawks,” which ends itself with a repeating refrain of “love you” and “loving you” amidst a sea of droning guitar noise. Some may see this as an affirmation, but in this sound context, I see it as a lonely goodbye of sorts. Hawk Medicine is a flawed album, seeming a bit one-dimensional to my ears, but I can’t help but feel like there’s something here that may take some time and deeper listens to decipher. —Todd ZachritzSunday ValleySunday Valley(SELF-RELEASED)“God bless a country boy,” my Eastern Kentucky friends say to me every time they do something I consider a little less than genteel (these include: eating meats not found at an average butcher shop, going to a shooting range, wearing camo, etc.). It’s sort of a catch-all justification for them, excusing all back-country-influenced wrongdoing.     To me, Sunday Valley is the perfect soundtrack to their rural misadventures. The Lexington trio pride themselves on being a representation of “real” music, with “real,” presumably, meaning music that is likeably rough around the edges and strongly Southern in its roots. At its best, Sunday Valley is a fun, accessible band with just enough country to make them a guilty pleasure for city dwellers. At worst, they’re a little too honky-tonk for what I perceive as being their fan base. At all times, though, Sunday Valley is loyal to its goal: producing fun music that you can drive a truck with a gun rack to. —Kirsten SchofieldIntoxicationShaggy(VP MUSIC GROUP)Grab your loved ones, lock your doors, hold on to all that you feel is holy — Shaggy is back. Yes, he of “Boombastic” and “It Wasn’t Me” fame returns, now on the legendary reggae label VP Records. Unfortunately, the esteemed company of his label’s roster has not made an impression on Intoxication. If mediocrity was worthy of a prize, Shaggy would be on top of the world.    It’s not that the album is bad, per se. It’s more to do with the idea that Shaggy is merely making Shaggy © songs now. I really thought Shaggy had massive potential on his 1993 debut Pure Pleasure, and its Peter Gunn theme-sampling hit, “Oh Carolina.” Then “Boombastic” hit in 1995, and he has been on cruise control ever since. Maybe it has something to do with my years running mall record stores in the 1990s and the unending loop discs of Shaggy’s frog-in-throat vocal style that his music now causes a rise in my blood pressure.    Features include the ever-present Akon, Rayvon, frequent collaborator Rik Rok, and the excellent newcomer Na’sha. —Damien McPhersonSalsaVarious Artists(THINK GLOBAL FOUNDATION)You can thank the Think Global Foundation in advance for giving you the perfect background music for one of next summer’s Friday night fiestas.Just imagine what it will feel like to have that ice cold Corona with a lime as the sexy, sultry trumpets from the Spanish Harlem Orchestra combine on “Salsa Pa’l Bailador.”Although you may be like most Americans whose only spoken language is English, you won’t be able to dodge the heavy emotions Ricardo Lemvo and Makina Loca display over the bass-infused sound garden on “Kasongo Boogaloo.” Adriana Santana adds a little musical diversity on “Como Si Nada” as she works samplings from R&B and jazz into the very mellow and sexy affair.You can almost taste the ruby red strawberry margarita with the salty rimmed glass as David Cedeno teases you with a slight reggaeton flavor on “Salsa Na’ma.” This collection, much like your favorite dipping sauce, provides an abundance of ingredients that all meld together in a successful, tantalizing audio festivity. —Maurice WilliamsMen’s Needs, Women’s Needs, WhateverThe Cribs(WARNER BROS. / WEA)I think I woke up on the right side of the bed this morning, for I’m finding The Cribs’ debut, Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever, simply delightful! Shades of The Buzzcocks and Ratcat echo through my mind as the disc progresses. I feel like I’m in a really good teen movie listening to The Cribs. They may take the place in my heart that Blink 182 once held (though I’m not comparing the two musically).    Men’s Needs … definitely gets classified as one of the better records I’ve reviewed thus far for LEO. Each song is catchier than the next (standouts include “Our Bovine Public,” “Men’s Needs” and “I’ve Tried Everything”). This is actually a band I might want to see live (and that’s really saying something. I went to Lollapalooza and saw two bands over the entire festival. Neither of those being The Cribs, unfortunately).    Final analysis: If you want to remember what being young and free felt like (if you actually are young, even better), then The Cribs record is something I need, you need, whatever. —L. Park