CD Shorts

Reviewed this week: Dirty Three; Bonnie Raitt; and Cathy Jordan

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Dirty Three
Toward the Low Son
(Drag City)

On their first full-length in seven years, the instrumental trio Dirty Three crafts an engaging mix of folk-inspired sounds and rock energy. Opening with the hard-charging "Furnace Skies," the album crashes into your speakers with the locomotive stick-pounding of drummer Jim White. While at times overpowering, White's frenetic style brings a welcome balance when he slows the beat down on tracks like "Moon on the Land" and the bucolic "Rain Song." The latter also provides a spotlight for the strong violin work of Warren Ellis, which gains surprising depth from its Celtic influence. Elsewhere, Ellis proves just as capable of going experimental, as he does on his distorted duet with guitarist Mick Turner on "That Was Was." Still, the real highlight may be the record's swan song "You Greet Her Ghost," a slow builder that peaks so subtly listeners will rush to play it again. —Michael Cimaomo


Bonnie Raitt

On the heels of the loss of Etta James earlier this year, Bonnie Raitt returns from a seven-year hiatus to remind us that the nation's reservoir of old-school blues talent is far from drained. Last we heard from Raitt, a newfound wider appeal had left her albums veering toward the Clapton side of the blues tracks—radio-safe, hook-laden stuff that packaged her edgy talents a little too neatly. Slipstream brings her back home to a sound that could be mistaken for her earliest raw, beer-soaked croonings, complete with her trademark wailing slide guitar and her smoky, sumptuous vocals. She only co-wrote one track on the album, but she makes them all hers—even two by Bob Dylan, another by Loudon Wainwright III, and Gerry Rafferty's AM radio classic "Right Down the Line." Whether she's tearing your heart out with a forlorn ballad or getting you dancing to one of her rockers, every song on Slipstream is a gem. —Mark Roessler


Cathy Jordan
All the Way Home
(Blix Street)

All the Way Home is the debut solo CD from singer Cathy Jordan of Irish band Dervish. Her voice is tough to describe, Blossom Dearie-girlish at times, yet vibrant and warm, and would provide sufficient intrigue on its own. Add to it an unusual take on traditional sounds, and the result is hard to resist. Outside of some nods in the direction of trad cliche, Jordan sets her tunes in an almost spacey mode that lends a wistful ache. Opener "The Bold Fenian Men" is an exercise in restraint. The tune is a story of Irish rebels, yet it's played not as a bombastic anthem, but as a melancholy meditation. Other tunes prominently feature the gorgeous tones of the cittern (something like an octave mandolin) and rely on reverb-drenched stringed-instrument rhythms to further the haunted mood. Yet others work in more conventional ways, but the album as a whole offers a pleasing array of styles that cements Jordan's place as an accomplished and engaging performer. —James Heflin




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