Tales from the Heartland
Most of what’s left to sort through is hip-hop, with a little bit of country thrown in for good measure. Probably won’t have my list done until mid-January, around the time Pazz & Jop drops, and after that time I’ll probably spend a month or so reviewing old albums from 2014 on back to, oh, maybe 2011? Reason being that the beginning of the year is often slow, and I’ve been putting off reviewing albums I said I would for far too long.
HARD WORKING AMERICANS – The First Waltz (Melvin): Todd Snider and crew’s rough-riding live debut, recorded December 2013. Eight of the twelve-and-a-half covers come from their studio album released in January. Not much to say unless you enjoy your Southern-fried rock extra crunchy—plenty of jams n’ solos, overlong but not overwrought. I’ll take the safety of studio over their excesses here, but I won’t deny the cool renditions of “Blackland Farmer” and “The Mountain Song.” B PLUS (**)
TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS – Hypnotic Eye (Reprise): 100% American old timer who never had a political thought in his life, a guitar player (not guitarist) with a faux-rebellious Midwestern fashion sense and plugged-nose, guttural delivery, Petty’s so inoffensive that he was one of the few Superbowl Halftime Show choices that actually made sense. But now in his old age he’s interested in politics and makes a move we might call “going Springsteen.” The darker tone and more aggressive approach do him no favors, though, and largely this sounds like Petty’s attempt at a comeback as a serious album artist, which he really needn’t do. B PLUS (*)