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Culture Music

New or recent releases

New or recent releases

Evergreen

Audrey Assad

Evergreen comes as close to perfect as an album that contains a tonally discordant rap cameo (by Propaganda on “River”) can. The beauty of Assad’s soprano voice unfolds naturally rather than showily, its fluidity both a metaphor and a match for the numinous instrumentation and the even more numinous lyrics. Although she draws on Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Nehemiah, Amos, and the Song of Solomon, it’s what she makes of them while making them her own that gives her devotionally compressed language the force of prayer.

The Asylum Years

Chris Hillman

Slippin’ Away (1976) and Clear Sailin’ (1977) generated little interest when they first appeared, but their breezy mainstreaming of Hillman’s pedigree (bluegrass, Byrds, Burritos) sounds pretty good now, his liner-note demurring notwithstanding. “I wasn’t really that confident as a singer yet,” he says of Slippin’; of Sailin’, “I don’t think it has the feel that the first one had.” Note that he doesn’t knock the vocal harmonies. And for good reason. Whether supplied by Herb Pedersen, Rick Roberts, or moonlighting Eagles, they’re spot-on and airborne throughout.

Pilgrim

Janne Mark

Although it bears the imprint of the German jazz label ACT and gives the lighter-than-air Norwegian jazz trumpeter Arve Henriksen co-billing, Pilgrim is really a showcase for the hauntingly lovely contemporary Christian hymns of Janne Mark, a Copenhagen-based vocalist who sings only in Danish and for whom “jazz” is at best an approximate descriptor. The booklet includes English translations that confirm both her orthodoxy and her sincerity. The melodies, especially those of “Elsket Favnet, Husket Savnet” and “Julen I Hjertet (Bethlehem),” speak for themselves.

Alien Beans

Ty Tabor

Tabor originally intended this two-disc album to be a partially rerecorded, thoroughly remastered single disc of highlights from his non–King’s X efforts. Good for him (and his fans) that the project ended up inspiring 10 new songs: From their riffs to their lyrics, they outshine the older stuff. (Compare the new bad-faith-decrying “Somebody Lied” with the old bad-faith-decrying “Politician’s Creed”). Common to both halves are frontman-worthy vocals and guitars that seem less like heavy metal than like electrified steel wool. 

Handout

The Choir (Handout)

ENCORE

First things first: The Choir responsible for the latest gem to emerge from Omnivore Records’ archive-raiding ways, Artifact: The Unreleased Album (Omnivore), is not the Choir led by Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty. Rather, it’s a Cleveland band that over the course of 10 different lineups (including musicians who’d later seed the James Gang and the Raspberries) and the latter half of the 1960s wrote and performed the kind of British Invasion–influenced Midwest music that 10 years on would become known as “power pop.”

The Choir did not, however, record very much, a fact made all the more lamentable by the even more significant fact that Artifact’s 10 tracks (recorded in 1969 at the Cleveland Recording Company) display a rich fermentation from which—the Kinks cover “David Watts” and the Bee Gees soundalike “Have I No Love to Offer” aside—the group was clearly distilling its own sound. It’s as ripe for discovery now as it was then. —A.O.