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Album reviews for Aug. 28, 2014

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Gazette wire services
August 28, 2014

Brad Paisley, “Moonshine In The Trunk”

Brad Paisley backs away from social issues and strikes up a party on his 10th studio album, “Moonshine In The Trunk.” However, that doesn't mean he suddenly starts to play it safe.

Musically, Paisley's arrangements continue to emphasize intricate musicianship and turn-on-a-dime ensemble play, while his lyrics use witty wordplay to explore the many ways people try to escape their problems and improve their lives.

The veteran country star's knack for tongue-in-cheek fun comes through on the funky “River Bank,” the fist-pumping “Crushin' It” and the high-speed hijinks of the title song. Paisley also touts American pride throughout, whether he's name-checking sports teams and muscle cars on “Country Nation” or toasting the land of opportunity on “American Flag on the Moon.”

As in the past, his ambitious reach sometimes gets the best of him. On the traditional country tune “4WP,” for example, Paisley jams the gears by racing through too many musical ideas too quickly.

Still, 15 years into his career, Paisley is the country singer most likely to crack jokes about a hillbilly family getting rich (“High Life”) or write a sensitive power ballad about a woman breaking through the good-old-boy corporate network (“Shattered Glass”). Which also makes him the country star most likely to make fans smile—and to make them think.

—Michael McCall, Associated Press

Dr. John, “Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch”

Always an enthusiastic ambassador for the music of his native New Orleans, Dr. John here pays tribute to the Crescent City's greatest, Louis Armstrong, with a bevy of guests.

As “the spirit of” in the title suggests, this is no hidebound salute, but a chance for Dr. John to interpret in his own freewheeling fashion songs associated with Satchmo.

That's evident right off the bat. “What a Wonderful World” is faster and more ebullient than the somber Satchmo take, further animated by the vocals of the Blind Boys of Alabama and a Nicholas Payton trumpet solo, while “Mack the Knife” is given a funky Big Easy R&B makeover with a rap interlude by Mike Ladd.

Some of the selections take a more vintage approach, as in the finger-popping swing of “I've Got the World on a String” with Bonnie Raitt or the supper-club elegance of “Memories of You.” Fittingly, however, the set concludes with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band joining in on a rambunctious romp through “When You're Smiling (the Whole World Smiles With You).”

—Nick Cristiano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Amy Grant, “In Motion—The Remixes”

Amy Grant never has shied away from experimentation and change. Having transformed herself from devout singer-songwriter to upbeat pop star more than 20 years ago, she now leaps from the reflective tone of recent work to the electronic dance music beat of “In Motion—The Remixes,” which gives a glow-stick tweak to her catalog of hits.

A Christian music star who balances sensitive reflection with positive celebration, Grant might seem a tad wholesome for dance music's hedonistic culture. But “In Motion” proves that positive lyrics set to a wicked beat can provide the juice to quench a raver's thirst.

Some of Grant's repertoire easily adapts to the re-mix concept: Dave Aude's ramped up “Baby Baby” capitalizes on the sunny energy of the 1991 hit. Similarly, “Every Heartbeat” lends itself well to the hyper-drive of electronic duo Moto Blanco.

But other cuts required more ingenuity. Tony Moran and Warren Rigg are surprisingly sublime in retooling the emotionally layered “Stay For Awhile.” The same goes for probing Grant gems such as “That's What Love Is For” (by producer Chris Cox) and the more recent “Better Than A Hallelujah,” which doesn't lose its tender message amid the inventive production of DJ Mark Picchiotti.

Grant has never taken the expected path—and once again creates an unexpected triumph.

—Michael McCall, Associated Press



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