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Reviewed this week: A Tribute to Kris Kristofferson, Tomahawk and Midas Fall

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Various Artists

The Rising Cost of Livin’ High and Lovin’ Hard: A Tribute to Kris Kristofferson

(PIAPTK)

Though perhaps not as celebrated as his fellow “Highwaymen” Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson has led the life of an outlaw country star for most of his career. On this indie rock tribute album, he gets a wide-ranging salute worthy of his diverse discography. Featuring artists like Great Lakes, Wooden Wand, Good Saints and more, the record makes a strong case for Kristofferson as a master storyteller, regardless of genre. For example, “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” as performed by the dadaist punks of Wckr Spgt, retains its aura as one of the greatest hangover songs ever written. And elsewhere, a take on “Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down” by the psych-pop act Amo Joy still sounds hopeful, even with horns and quivering saw. One quibble, no “Me and Bobby McGehee.” But with 28 total tracks, little else is missed. -- Michael Cimaomo

*

Tomahawk

Oddfellows

(Ipecac)

Mike Patton (Faith No More, Fantomas), Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard), John Stanier (Helmet) and Trevor “field mouse” Dunn (Mr. Bungle) all descend from riff-sludge and drama rock bands that date back at least as far as similar West Coast contemporaries like Tool, Kyuss, Primus or Alice in Chains. Patton (who runs the Ipecac label with Alternative Tentacles veteran Greg Werckman) keeps a fair amount of bizarre demon jazz in the mix, and odd phrasings and time signatures prevail. Experimental guitar and bass dissonance and insane-sounding vocal utterances maintain an unapologetically non-commercial style, and at times the compositions build into relentless, brutal sonic assaults. Gothic church bell tracks and all, Oddfellows is either totally, intensely immersed in its own heady creative stew or a comic mockery of itself, though knowing these guys, it’s probably both. Only in California. -- Tom Sturm

*

Midas Fall

Wilderness

(Monotreme)

This U.K. band accomplishes a nifty trick: its music exists in a strange region between genres, instantly recognizable, but not quite easy to pin down. At its best, Midas Fall brings to life intriguing textures of electronica, echoing guitar and high, slow female vocals. It’s almost, but not quite, pop. When the formula works, songs unfold with a dramatic sense of growing excitement. The album is hit or miss, unfortunately. Many tunes offer melodies that don’t stick in the head, don’t go to interesting places, but instead float along aimlessly. Lead singer Elizabeth Heaton’s voice can grate and whine in its higher register, alternating with a lower set of tones that makes for a more hypnotic brand of melodizing. Despite the album’s spotty nature, Midas Fall’s nice moments of high drama may portend an interesting evolution. -- James Heflin

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