Having won enough awards to keep his mantelpiece groaning for years for his 2007 collaboration with Alison Krauss, Robert Plant resists the temptation to repeat the Americana formula and give us Raising More Sand. Instead he invokes the name of Band of Joy, the psychedelic blues group he originally fronted before the birth of Led Zeppelin over four decades’ earlier, for an album of bounding energy and unexpected eclecticism.
Produced with formidable intensity and an impressive sonic feel by Nashville-based country stalwart Buddy Miller, it offers yet another indication of Plant’s commendably enduring desire to keep moving. Clearly neither advancing age nor years of unabated success have deprived Plant of either his constant appetite for challenge or his ability to deliver in a cogent, credible and thoroughly convincing fashion. – BBC
Anointed as Nashville’s new official outlaw after 2008’s breakthrough album That Lonesome Song, Jamey Johnson, with his motorcycle man demeanor and don’t-mess-with-me baritone, fits neatly into the role. Whatever this admitted partier does in his personal life, like his hero Willie Nelson, Johnson makes great music by being attentive to the rules, customizing time-tested musical structures and lyrical themes so they fit him like a custom leather jacket.
The Guitar Song is an homage to the clichés, craft and gut instinct involved in writing great country songs. It’s a double-disc set that refreshes the genre’s many commonplaces — adultery and alcoholism, Christian faith and familial love, working-class fatalism and nostalgia for “back home” — in 25 beautifully rendered little packages. At its center is the instant classic “That’s Why I Write Songs,” an ode to Johnson’s role models: songsmiths like Whitey Shafer and Bob McDill, who labored in the Music City trenches for decades and, as Johnson sings, “make you laugh or make you cry, might help you make it through a bad goodbye.” That art of expressing sentiments that people can grasp, not reaching either too high or two low, is what makes Johnson, so shaggy on the surface, special. — Los Angeles Times
The group’s signature noise – cheap organs, driving rhythms, guitars bathed in enough reverb to soak a blanket – is intact, and there are enough of their usual scowling nuggets (“The Sniper,” “Bad Vibrations”) to satisfy those looking for the same fix. But the Black Angels introduce just enough variation in their still-potent formula to show growth, even as they hold to their own tradition. That makes Phosphene Dream not just compelling, but damn near brilliant. – Austinist
Invented is inventive in the most unmistakably Jimmy Eat World of ways. The emotion behind every song is flawless, the lyrics and structures are varied and original and, as always, it’s difficult to find a fault in anything they do – minus the fact that it sounds like everything else they’ve done in the last 10 years.
Futures (2004), Chase this Light (2007) and their newest effort this year could certainly merge into one album. This, however, is where they succeed every time, as their current attitude to song writing cannot disappoint. — The New Current