Elmore James Jr. - Daddy Gave me the Blues (JSP, 2008)
Billing himself as the "undisputed son of the legendary blues great", Junior proves that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree with a rousing album of traditional electric blues, that is rooted in the past without being an exercise in sheer nostalgia. While James Jr. plays guitar and sings like his famous father, neither of those aspects share the heart on sleeve emotionalism of the older man, but rather the deep, hearty music of the Chicago tradition. This is by no means a knock, as the younger man makes consistently excellent music throughout this disc. The opener "Don't Get Mad" and the shuffle "Steppin' With Elmo" sound like they would be right at home in the Chicago taverns James calls home. This is a very fine blues album, and while James Jr. may have impossibly large shoes to fill, he's well on his way to cutting his own niche in the contemporary blues scene.
The Dirtbombs - We Have You Surrounded (In the Red, 2008)
This band may be the best project of musical polymath Mick Collins, the hardest working man in Detroit rock 'n' roll. Previous Dirtbombs albums have focused on garage rock and soul music, but this album expands that palette even more with varied songwriting and music. Unadorned rock 'n' roll is the basis of their sound and it is what they do best as can be heard on the blasting "Ever Lovin' Man" and the pumping dirty bass that prods through "Wreck My Flow." Things take an even more interesting turn with the amazing song "Leapordman at C&A" apparently written for an Alan Moore comic. It's ominous thump, and lyrics about a post-technology civilization is the most ambitious song the band has ever performed and it succeeds gloriously. "Sherlock Holmes" which re-imagines the detective as a dancing lothario, and "Fire in the Western World" also expand the band's vision, proving them much more than a one-trick pony. The only experiment that overstays its welcome is the instrumental freakout "Race to the Bottom" which becomes a little monotonous while stretching out past the eight minute mark. Regardless, this is The Dirtbombs most varied and confident album, and their mix of slashing guitars and sly humor is highly recommended.
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