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Album Reviews – Lucero, James, and more!

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SHARK SANDWICH – Fast Album Reviews for Those on the Go

August 3, 2018 – Vol. 81

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Music reviews come in all sizes, but you’re busy and do not have time for flowery language… or sentences, really.

Spinal Tap gave the world the greatest album review of all time:

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Welcome to our “Shark Sandwich” — razor-sharp reviews that sum up an album in five sentences or less.

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Shemekia Copeland – America’s Child

“One more moment, is a moment too late. We ain’t got time to hate,” sings Shemekia Copeland on the opening track of her fearless new album, America’s Child. Gospel, country, blues, soul, and rock and roll rub elbows with Copeland’s lyrical observations, and sometimes it gets downright uncomfortable. In the end, though, this is a celebration of this country’s contradictions, and a clear call to our better angels. Oh, the album also rocks hard, and it goes down easily like iced tea after mowing the yard in August. The good, the bad, and the ugly are explored here, and everyone, everyone should listen, but not explicitly as a lesson, but instead because you need this driving rootsy rocker in your hi fi.

Rating: 4 out of 5 whistles

Best Song: “Wrong Idea”

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Lucero – Among the Ghosts

Largely downbeat, and without any of the honky tonk of recent Lucero music, Among the Ghosts plays at the fringes of consciousness and spins its Southern gothic tales confidently and without pretention. In fact, the pall does not lift, really, until the final track, the joyous rip roaring “For the Lonely Ones.” The relative quiet of the album serves to highlight Ben Nichols’ tortured vocals, and they affect the mood of the album brilliantly. In between darkness and light, sleep and waking, good and evil, Lucero’s characters and music exist to tug at you long after the final note.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 whistles

Best Song: “Cover Me”

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The Love Language – Baby Grand

Joyous, dense, fizzy, and poptastic, The Love Language wins the (late) summer with Baby Grand. It’s not that you can’t listen to this album in the dead of winter, but it just wouldn’t have felt right if it was released in January. Tracks like “New Amsterdam” and “Castle in the Sky” explode champagne on the sand. It’s like that. Even the quieter moments have a natural effervescence that La Croix should just drop everything and bottle for us.

Rating: 4 out of 5 whistles

Best Song: “Castle in the Sky”

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James – Living in Extraordinary Times

If you only know James by “Laid” from 20+ years ago, you have missed a shittonne of music from this British institution. This is a band that understands dynamics, and how make a song engaging, so they are already better than many of the other pretenders out there. Oftentimes, anger spills out of the pop on this album, but it doesn’t feel out of place at all. We are living in extraordinary times, after all, and it is up to the artists to document it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 whistles

Best Song: “Leviathan”

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Amanda Shires – To the Sunset

Amanda Shires challenges your idea of “country,” “Americana,” or “Alt whatever.” She has the classic voice of Dolly and Loretta, but this member of Jason Isbell’s band, the 400 Unit, blurs pop, humor, and kick ass songwriting chops in with any Nashville leanings. Sometimes the slightly twangy sounds play like 90’s indie rock on “Eve’s Daughter” and “Break Out the Champagne,” but Shires knows how to play straight pop, too, like on “Leave it Alone.” Leave your expectations at the door, and just enjoy the ride.

Rating: 4 out of 5 whistles

Best Song: “Take on the Dark”

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All artists are available on iTunesAmazonGooglePlay, and wherever else better music is sold, streamed, downloaded, or performed on tour.

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NewsWhistle music contributor Chad Werner is “ahead of the curve, behind the times.” You can contact this rock n’ roll sphinx at chad@newswhistle.com (e-mail) or @scooternotmoped (Twitter).

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Lead-In Image – Composite

  • Album and sleeve – Courtesy of  imagefactory / Shutterstock.com
  • Main album cover – Courtesy of Blablo101 / Shutterstock.com
  • Album collage – Shemekia Copeland – Alligator Records; Lucero – Liberty & Lament; The Love Language – Merge Records; James – Infectious Music; and Amanda Shires – Silver Knife Records.