Staff Picks: Music

The T-Bone Burnett Touch

Does any modern recording producer capture the deep, lush resonance of a plucked double bass any better than T-Bone Burnett? I don't think so. Though the list of artists he's produced is diverse, running the gamut from Cassandra Wilson to Counting Crows to the surprise duo of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, the sound of his productions is singular. While emphasizing acoustic instrumentation rooted in American folk traditions, his productions never sound like museum pieces - they're very much of their time (his influence on the Americana genre can't be overestimated), yet remain ageless.

Burnett can now add John Mellencamp's Life, Death, Love, and Freedom to his growing list of evocative production work. Co-produced with Mellencamp (no slouch as a producer himself), the album, described by JM as a collection of "modern electric folk songs", is the very best record made by a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in the year in which they were inducted. The meditations on mortality and making ends meet in tough times are classic Mellencamp themes, but the intimacy with which the disc is recorded puts the listener in the middle of the songs - there's little question to which times this new masterpiece speaks. As long as you expect Mellencamp in a deeply ruminative mood, musically and lyrically, you'll find yourself listening to the very best disc he's ever made... so far.


Life, Death, Love, and Freedom

The Avett Brothers - Alt Country's Finest!

One of the best concerts I attended last year was The Avett Brothers show at The Ark in Ann Arbor. This trio performs a unique blend of country/rock/folk, which some critics have called "cowpunk." Their most recent CD, Emotionalism is a slight departure from their previous efforts and is filled with tracks that tend to move away from the "punk" and more towards the folk. I was blown away at the band's ability to elicit a vast array of emotions from a banjo, guitar and stand-up bass. The crowd at the concert rarely sat down. The Avett Brothers are one of the finest alternative country acts touring today. If you have an opportunity to see a show, do not pass it up.


Kevin King