Shane Gilchrist continues his rummage through his album
collection for 2012. Today he moves from lament to soul licks
to tempestuous lyricism.
Leonard Cohen. Old Ideas
In a recent acceptance speech for a Spanish literature prize,
Leonard Cohen expressed a calling to ''never lament
casually''. Old Ideas, his first studio album in eight
years, is proof of this personal mandate. Where others would
use a broad brush, Cohen wields a scalpel to examine some of
humanity's more profound experiences (including death, life,
love, spirituality and sexuality). That he chooses to adorn
such themes in the beauty of female backing harmonies, warm
organ, piano and acoustic guitar comes as no surprise, yet
despite his relaxed, almost spoken-word, delivery, Cohen
imparts an urgency to each of the 10 tracks, aided by a range
of musicians whose playing is both tasteful and sublime.
For those who like: Nick Cave, Randy Newman.
Bobby Womack. The Bravest Man In The
Soul legend Womack lets off some high-pressured steam on his
first original album since 1994's Resurrection.
Rubbing shoulders with Gorillaz kingpin Damon Albarn and
increasingly influential XL Recordings boss Richard Russell,
who share production duties here, Womack mixes occasional
trip-hop textures and oh-so-funky synthesiser syncopation to
a set of pipes that, though coarser than the velvet croon he
employed on classic Across 110th Street, still force
you to sway and swoon. Man, what a voice: from gutter gravel
to falsetto heaven in a heartbeat.
For those who like: Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield.
Bob Dylan. Tempest.
The follow-up to 2009 effort Together Through Life
signals a continuation of the back-to-basics, rootsy approach
that a revitalised Dylan brought to 1997's Time Out of
Mind, 2001's Love and Theft and 2006's Modern
Times. Less a roaring storm than non-stop rain on the
roof, Tempest forces the listener to hunker down and
listen closely as the 71-year-old again, via a wide cast of
characters, takes aim at an increasingly dangerous world
(''Narrow Way'') or rues lost connections (''Long And Wasted
Years''). Words aside, Tempest's ability to bubbly and
boil lies in a band whose exceptional abilities turn mere
nuances into hooks.
For those who like: Tom Waits.
Jerry Douglas. Traveler.
Regarded as a ''musician's musician'', Jerry Douglas has laid
down Dobro slide guitar licks on more than 2000 recordings,
notwithstanding those by his prominent bluegrass-roots outfit
Union Station, whose members include Alison Krauss. With his
dazzling technique and consummate ear offering a mix of both
the playful and laid-back, Douglas explores a range of covers
here, some of which are elevated (the Leadbelly classic ''On
A Monday''; ''The Boxer'', featuring Paul Simon alongside
Mumford and Sons), while others (''Gone To Fortingall'') seem
a little underdone, given Douglas' grasp of harmonic
phrasing. Still, there's no shortage of energy, an attribute
helped by the contributions of Dr John, Keb Mo' and Eric
For those who like: Ry Cooder.