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Notable recent releases

Notable recent releases

Chuck

Chuck Berry

A bawdy hard-drive pun in “3/4 Time (Enchiladas)” brings Berry into the Computer Age, and the opening riffs of “Big Boys” and “Lady B. Goode” tether him to his roots. But it’s the advice that he dispenses in the spoken “Eyes of Man”—about those ignorant of their ignorance, those aware of their ignorance, those ignorant of their awareness, and those aware of their awareness—that comes closest to justifying the 37 years of intermittent effort that went into the making of this 35-minute farewell.

Looking Forward: The Roots of Big Star

Various artists

The late Chris Bell gets top billing because he’s the only participant who appears on every song and because, as Alex Chilton’s foil in Big Star, he’s the biggest star. The real star, though, is the late John Fry, whose generosity in lending Ardent Studios to the lads essentially allowed them to invent power-pop. Four of the six previously unreleaseds are backing tracks only. But unless you have the five albums from which the other 16 are culled, this disc is the place to make their acquaintance.

South Texas Suite

Whitney Rose

With a voice approximating a honky-tonk angel’s and a pen approximating Harlan Howard’s, Whitney Rose used her first two recordings to establish herself as a formidable up-and-comer on the neo-traditional country scene. That this effort is an EP and that other artists wrote two of the three classic-approximating songs might mean that she’s running low on ideas nowadays. Or, as seems more likely given the uninterrupted enjoyability that the program provides, maybe she’s just honing in on getting that quantity-quality balance just right.

Northern Passages

The Sadies

These Canadians function like an artfully wrought Aeolian folk-rock harp through which blow winds generated by the Byrds and those of their feather. The melancholy ghostliness of the lead track, “Riverview Fog” (which borrows the title of a similarly melancholy and ghostly Eric Clapton hit for its first line) sets the mood, although jagged-edged garage rock pops up now and then. The only dud is the Christian-baiting “God Bless the Infidels,” which is stupider than it is foolish and more confusing than it is stupid.

Kenneth C. Zirkel

Mark Heard (Kenneth C. Zirkel)

ENCORE

From his emergence in the late 1970s to his death at 40 in 1992, Mark Heard earned a reputation as one of Contemporary Christian Music’s finest songwriters—so fine, in fact, that even now musicians both inside and outside CCM record his material. On Storm Weathered Records’ new tribute album Treasure of the Broken Land: The Songs of Mark Heard, 18 such performers tackle one Heard composition apiece, filtering them through acoustic, Americana-styled grids of varying emotional and spiritual permeability.

One reason that the project coheres is that its producer, Phil Madeira, recorded most of the songs with a first-class “house band” (Chris Donohue, Bryan Owings, Will Kimbrough, John Mark Painter, David Mansfield). Another is the singularity of Heard’s faith-enriched, doubt-bedeviled way of looking at the world and Everyman’s place in it. Mainly, though, the performers really deliver—especially Sierra Hull (“Strong Hand of Love”), Humming People (“Nobody’s Looking”), and Lily & Madeleine (“What Kind of Friend”). —A.O.