This week’s picks include fresh takes on Southern rock, an old English folksong and on an even older French composer.
The Unthanks - Here’s The Tender Coming (Rough Trade)
British folk music is timeless. It’s partly because the songs talk about universal themes of love, death, and the like. But it’s mostly because of bands like The Unthanks, who find incisive, contemporary ways of presenting old songs. Whether it’s the shimmering minimalist piano of “Lucky Gilchrist,” or the tremulous chamber music of “Living By the Water,” they keep you guessing without resorting to rocked out electronics. Formerly known as Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, the Unthanks feature the haunting vocals of sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, and an assortment of sad tales from the darker corners of north England. The album is called Here’s the Tender Coming. --Picked by John Schaefer [Amazon]
Robert Sadin - Art of Love (Music of Machaut)
This is a producer’s album, in a way. Robert Sadin is a producer who has worked with people like pop star Sting and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. Then one day we went all the way back to the year 1300, into the music of French composer and poet Guillaume de Machaut with the song “Douce Dame.” The record, called Art of Love, features several voices, from the Morrocan singer, Hassan Hakmoun, to French singer Madeleine Peyroux, to Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento. The result is an eclectic and poetic collection of voices and sounds, beautifully waved together. --Picked by Gisele Regatao [Amazon]
Drive-By Truckers - The Big To-Do (ATO)
The past year has been memorable for the Southern rock group Drive-By Truckers. They were the backing band on a Grammy winning album from soul legend Booker T. Jones. The group’s frontman, Patterson Hood, gained a newborn son, which inspired the song “Daddy Learned to Fly.” So, yes, 2009 was a good year for the Truckers – but a bad one for many American workers as is evidenced by one particular song that shall remain nameless on the air. Let’s just say it’s something along the lines of “This Frustrating, Very Low-Paying, Disappointing Job.” We can thank Court TV for the song “The Wig He Made Her Wear,“ which features a song that was inspired by the real-life trial of a Tennessee woman accused of murdering her husband. Their new album is called The Big To-Do. --Picked by Joel Meyer [Amazon]