The Decemberists, Gregg Allman, Dolorean.

The new year in music got off to a promising start with albums from a favourite band, a blues legend and a great new find (for me at least)…

The King is Dead – The Decemberists

The Decemberists’ sixth album is a classy collection of indie rock songs. Full of hooks, melodies and jangley guitars, it’s their most straightforward and accessible record to date.  Perhaps as a result, it’s also become their biggest commercial success, giving them their first US No. 1.

For all its polish though, there’s something missing. In choosing a more mainstream approach, they seem to have left out the element of strangeness that made previous Decemberists’ collections so compelling. I missed the over-ambitious big concept, the weird cast of characters and the folk inspired musical flourishes of old. ‘The King is Dead’ it’s a more than decent album, but let’s hope some of the madness returns next time around.

Low Country Blues – Gregg Allman

Gregg Allman helped make one of the best albums of all time – ‘The Allman Brothers; At Fillmore East‘. 40 years later he’s just made another terrific blues album and what may be the best solo album of his career.

Produced by T-Bone Burnett and featuring a cast of high quality blues players, including Jay Bellerose on drums and Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack on piano, Low Country Blues is a collection of little known songs written by a some of the delta blues legends Mr Allman grew up listening to.

He may be 63 years old now but Gregg is more than capable of doing his icons justice. Whether being driven along by brassy horns or nudged on by a shuffling bass and the brush of drums, it’s his voice that provides the real magic here – world-weary, but still full of soul and life. Great blues music.

This album’s also a great reminder of all the wonderful old stuff that’s already out there. Perhaps, like me, a few listeners will be encouraged to seek out the original works of  these great names who inspired Allman all those years ago; Sleepy John Estes, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Skip James, Junior Wells etc.

The Unfazed – Dolorean

‘The Unfazed’ is Dolorean’s fourth album but it’s the first I’ve had the pleasure of hearing.

According to Jim Fusilli, writing in the Wall Street Journal, ”The Unfazed’ continues Dolorean’s tradition of very fine song-centric folk-rock albums. In a just world, the release would bring the group the kind of widespread fan support and critical acclaim it has been denied thus far. ‘

I couldn’t agree more, songs like the title track and ‘Thinskinned’ are just lovely and deserve a much wider audience. You can get a taste here but do dive deeper, I’ve already got my hands on their debut too! Like the man says ‘we’ve got nothing to lose, nothing to lose…’