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Culture Notable CDs

Notable CDs

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Dan Hicks

Music

Notable CDs

Recent pop-rock albums

You don’t have to be a New Yorker to like the title cut, a brooding duet with Paul Simon, but you might have to be one to love it. Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Katie Mae” and Dion’s own “Ride with You” establish the electric blues–rock ’n’ roll parameters within which the nontitle cuts authoritatively resound. Six of them, incidentally, were co-composed by Mike Aquilina, a prolific author specializing in church history, proving yet again that you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

Gates of Gold

Los Lobos continue to do well everything they’ve ever done well: the blues (“Mis-Treater Boogie Blues”), Mexicana (“Poquito Para Aqui”), Mother Nature homages (“Song of the Sun”), heavenly hope against hellish odds (the title cut, maybe “Magdalena,” maybe Francisco Vidal’s “La Tumba Sera El Final”), and—especially—rock ’n’ roll (“Too Small Heart”). Then there’s the expert pacing, which could only have emerged from a siesta-centric culture. It’s almost as if Los Lobos care that they’re not yet in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Drones 

Had Roger Waters or Pete Townshend helmed this concept album about the horrors of the military-industrial complex, their fans would be proclaiming a comeback. But perhaps because Matthew Bellamy is perceived as a lightweight, his dystopian vision has garnered less traction (its Best Rock Album Grammy notwithstanding). A lightweight Bellamy might be, but he’s no dilettante, not if the rip-roaring dread that he and his band simulate on these dozen songs is any indication. As the saying goes, that he’s paranoid doesn’t mean nobody’s after him.

More Rain

Listeners who came to M. Ward via She & Him will be glad to know that Zooey Deschanel’s absence on this solo outing (Ward’s eighth) does not equal a decline in classic-pop songcraft. The most obvious proof is the creditable cover of The Beach Boys’ “You’re So Good to Me,” but it’s not the most undeniable. That would be “Girl from Conejo Valley.” Or maybe “Confession,” which along with “Temptation,” “Phenomenon,” and “I’m Going Higher,” gives the album as a whole an undeniable (if subtle) gospel arc.

Spotlight

The deaths of Glenn Frey and Maurice White generated more coverage, but for music fans in the know, the February death of Dan Hicks at 74 felt just as seismic. From 1969 to 1978, Hicks parlayed his consistently good-natured and frequently humorous blend of country-swing and gypsy jazz on major labels, becoming best known for the song “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?,” which squeezed his charms into a nutshell.

An anachronism (he would’ve flourished in the vaudeville era), Hicks never really caught on, and he took a lengthy hiatus interrupted briefly when his song “I Scare Myself” became a minor hit for Thomas Dolby in 1984. Hicks ended his self-imposed moratorium 10 years later, picking up exactly where he’d left off. The many live albums he went on to release suggest he also stayed where he left off. But owning only one is owning at least one too few. —A.O.