This week’s picks include a new take on old string band music, a new song cycle with an indie rock accent, and a pianist fondly bidding adieu.
Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig (Nonesuch)
Forget Americana as you know it. The Carolina Chocolate Drops is a group of three young, African-American musicians who make old-time music into something of their own. Their debut album is called Genuine Negro Jig and it features original compositions and unconventional covers, like “Hit ‘Em Up Style” by R&B singer Blu Cantrell and “Trampled Rose” by Tom Waits. -- Gisele Regatao (Buy it on Amazon.com)
Clogs – The Creatures In The Garden of Lady Walton (Brassland)
The quartet known as Clogs is a kind of sister group to the top-shelf indie-rock band The National, since guitarist Bryce Dessner plays in both. But Clogs is also an award-winning chamber ensemble. Their new album blurs the distinction even more. It’s a song cycle, written by violinist and singer Padma Newsome, and it features some of indie rock’s brightest voices, like Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, and some of its darkest, like Matt Berninger from The National. Clog’s blend of modern classical composition with the immediacy of rock and folk feels completely organic, making this their most ambitious and affecting album yet. Written during a residency on the island estate of the late British composer Sir William Walton, the project is called The Creatures In the Garden of Lady Walton. -- John Schaefer (Buy it on Amazon.com)
Alfred Brendel: The Farewell Concerts - with Vienna Philharmonic, Sir Charles Mackerras (Decca)
Alfred Brendel knew how to quit while he was ahead. One of the world's most thoughtful pianists, Brendel had a long, distinguished career that stretched from the 1940s until his official retirement in 2008. A new two-album set of his farewell concerts in Germany and Austria contains music for which he was particularly identified, including Beethoven's Sonata No. 13 in E-flat. Selecting music for your farewell concerts has got to be a difficult task but Alfred Brendel knew just the right tone to strike: the performances here are deliberately un-virtuosic. They capture a mix of intellect and inward emotion, as in his version of Schubert's Sonata No. 21 in B-flat major. Alfred Brendel’s Farewell Concerts are his swan song but also a fine introduction to this pianist’s artistry. --Brian Wise (Buy it on Amazon.com)