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The Early Bird: Top New Releases 2-28-20 – 3-5-20 Reviewed

Lady Gaga has been in the wilderness of rock nyc opinion post Artpop where, if nothing else, the album made her realize how fleeting stardom might be. She responded well though I was far from convinced with the Tony Bennett standards album and the a star is born this way dilution of 70s country. Her first single since the latter is the phenomenal disco back to the future “Stupid Love” absolute proof that easy, you know, does it, and a straightforward disco banger is everything we want in this shuddering, jumping, hand clapping  best song in years (and years, and years) (Grade: A).

Some weeks are about albums, some weeks the action is in the singles. This week the action is in the singles. Featuring three (count em) country superstars in succession, old(ish) school true. Keith Urban has been balancing between pop and country for a coupla years now and “God Whispered Your Name” is a hint of the place where he may finally get to a middle ground between the two, though mostly it gives him something to sing during the CMA’s in April, a not really clicking soul country pop mix and match (Grade: B-). Kenny Chesney is readying for his annual shed and arena tour and so drops a pretty good country banger on “Here And Now” -a perfect first song of the show if it hits big (Grade: B). There is a lot of backstory to Steve Earle’s  “Devil Put The Coal In The Ground,” the first song off the upcoming album Ghosts of West Virginia  and the musical theatre experience where he has written the music about the 2010 Upper Big Branch disaster in West Virginia, which killed 29 men. A country blues rocker that makes its point fine (Grade: B). More folk-Americana-pop than anything human is Phoebe Bridgers, where I had to tear up my pan after hearing her perform “Garden Song” at the Tibet House benefit on Wednesday (here), softly whispered heartbreaker nostalgic tug with a hint of synth and on stage it is both gentle and humorous and the hook I couldn’t hear on record, I guess I mean the melody, comes through (Grade: B). Rufus Wainwright’s been off his tuck since 2010’s death album All Days Are Night, he seems incapable of anything as straightforward as “Martha” or as pop glorious as the much earlier “Poses,” “Damsel In Distress” isn’t a return entirely but as a pop move might go it is certainly better than 2012’s last attempt at pure pop for now people (Grade: B).

Over at albums, everybody who heard the three songs that introduced James Taylor’s  American Standard knew it was gonna kill and it kills, and from the opening, seldom performed, introduction to “My Blue Heaven”  to the closing Oklahoma “Surrey With The Fringe On To,” Taylor takes us for a 45 minute trip to a place where the dystopian present day can still find a safeplace of joy and make us feel happy, as though, you know we’re Americans so it might still all work out (Grade: A). Atlanta’s Young Thug buddy Lil Baby got beaten to the punch out by daBaby though My Turn should turn the tide towards him, with two features by Lil Uzi Vert, a Gunna (man, he has a voice) track, a strong Future feature, Lil Wayne and Young Thug himself, as clear a pop rap album as you will ever hear (Grade: B+). According to Ben Kaye of Consequence Of Sound  the Allman Brothers’ Trouble No More: 50th Anniversary Collection “…will be arranged chronologically and thematically, highlighting each of the band’s baker’s dozen lineups through five distinct eras of their career. Amongst the live recordings, classic studio tracks, and rarities will be seven previously unreleased songs — including The Allman Brothers’ first-ever recording, a demo of Muddy Waters’ “Trouble No More”.” The greatest jam band of all time representing for sure (Grade: A). You have to see Five Finger Death Punch to be really blown away by them, till then they sounded like a less death punch and more slappy happy, but they are so powerful on stage you forget it all and while F8 has the usual problems of, not restraint but an ear for the underlying possibility of popness, it isn’t called in despite being their 8th album, and you just know it will make sense when you see em on tour (Grade: B-). Give Real Estate this, they’re consistently soft wall of ambient sound beautifulness remains intact on The Main Thing, boring but intact (Grade: B-).

One more than all on board for the weekly round up in a coupla days. Neither of Kelsea Ballerini’s first two albums quite clicked, clever, maybe too clever, twang with a pop sheen but not much more. But the first two songs off the upcoming third album have been pretty good and “la” (the third) was great, and her newest effort, “Hole In The Bottle” is a terrific drinking where she is not willing to cry because she doesn’t wanna dilute the wine she is drinking (Grade: B+)

F8 – Five Finger Death Punch – B

American Standard – James Taylor – A

God Whispered Your Name – Keith Urban – B-

hole in the bottle – Kelsea Ballerini – B+

Here And Now – Kenny Chesney – B

Stupid Love – Lady Gaga – A

My Turn – Lil Baby – B+

Garden Song – Phoebe Bridgers – B

The Main Thing – Real Estate – B-

Damsel In Distress – Rufus Wainwright – B

Devil Put the Coal in the Ground – Steve Earle –  B

Trouble No More: 50th Anniversary Collection – The Allman Brothers Band – A

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