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Roots & Country

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Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free (Thirty Tigers Records, $13.98) – One of the best albums of the year so far. Jason Isbell’s songs are tuneful and catchy, yet the words can portray a life in just a few lines, full of telling details, and he sprinkles clever, poetic couplets in every tune. Isbell’s guitar playing and his band provide beautiful accompaniment. Highly recommended.

NOTE: Jason Isbell will be opening for My Morning Jacket at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sunday, July 26.

Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City (Sony Legacy, 2 CDs, $16.98) – In the 1960s, rock and folk musicians discovered the fantastic session musicians in Nashville, and some splendid sessions and songs were the result. Bob Dylan recorded most of Blonde on Blonde in early 1966, and collaborated with Johnny Cash on Nashville Skyline. Sessions by the Byrds, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Neil Young, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band followed. The 2-CD set is a splendid audio companion to the exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, continuing through December, 2016.

Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams (Red House Records, $17.98) – The husband-and-wife team of multi-instrumentalist and producer Larry Campbell (well known in the bands of Bob Dylan and Levon Helm) and Teresa Campbell release their first album—with original songs and sweet harmonies.

Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material (Mercury Nashville, $13.98) – The Nashville singer and songwriter follows up her breakthrough 2013 album, Same Trailer Different Park.


Miles box set

CD CoverMiles Davis, Miles Davis at Newport 1955 – 1975: The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Columbia/Legacy, 4 CDs, $44.98) – Featuring over four hours of previously released material, Miles Davis at Newport shows the dynamic shifts in Miles’s music as he recruited the best players to his groups. The 4-CD set starts with the celebrated 1955 jam session on “Hackensack” and “’Round Midnight” with Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan. Then, two of Miles’s most powerful groups are highlighted: the Kind of Blue sextet (featuring John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb) in a 1958 set, and the 1960s quintet (with Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams) in two sets. Three years later, Miles was experimenting with larger groups featuring Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette, then went even further in his percussive, groove-led sound just before his “hiatus” in 1975. Another treasure box of Miles Davis from the vaults!


Tributes: Nina Simone & Gil Scott-Heron

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Nina Revisited…A Tribute to Nina Simone (RCA Records, $12.98) – The recent documentary, What Happened Miss Simone?, brought new attention to the “High Priestess of Soul.” Nina Simone’s powerful performances still resonate, and it’s no surprise that younger singers have studied the variety of her stylistic and song choices, and her ability to turn pop songs into political anthems. Nina Revisited features 11 vocalists; highlights include Ms. Lauryn Hill (who sings six songs) on “Feeling Good” and “Black is the Color of  My True Love’s Hair,” Gregory Porter working out on a rousing “Sinnerman,” Mary J. Blige’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” and Jazmine Sullivan’s reggae take on “Baltimore.” The album ends with Nina Simone herself—singing her iconic version of Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.”

Charenee Wade, Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson (Motema Records, $14.98) – Vocalist Charenee Wade reclaims the jazz side of Gil Scott-Heron and his musical partner Brian Jackson with a new take on such songs as “Ain’t No Such Thing As Superman,” “Home is Where the Hatred Is,” and “Peace Go With You Brother.” Stefon Harris on vibes is the featured player in the group including piano, guitar, bass, and drums. Two songs harken back to Gil’s own recordings with recitations by Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Christian McBride.