Mel Tillis — Me and Pepper, Your Body Is an Outlaw, Southern Rain (Collectors’ Choice) :: Wherein we have three timely reissues of Mel’s 1979-1980 albums for Elektra. The first is a competent enough but slightly pop-skewed effort that’s for completists only. The second, recorded with his band the Statesiders, is a much rootsier move in the right direction. It’s the third, however, that hits all the right classic country notes from the record cover art right on down to the solid song selection. Now if only Collectors’ Choice would also reprint the full album credits instead of leaving them in illegible miniaturized form on the original back cover reproductions …
Ben Jelen — Ex-Sensitive (Custard) :: If this weepy boo-hoo chickfest is what not being sensitive sounds like, then I’d sure hate to hear how emasculated he gets in sundress sensitive mode. Ben Dover is more like it.
Black Francis — sv n f ng rs (Cooling Vinyl) :: Are you ready for the crossbreeding of insane John Cale and droll Kevin Ayers? Or is that wonky Todd Rundgren and rural Neil Young? Either way, I sure am!
JW Jones — Bluelisted (Northern Blues) :: Three reasons why this pic-a-nic basket fulla blues is smarter than the average bear: 1) It has a great title; 2) It has liner notes by Big House harpmeister Elwood Blues; and 3) The music actually lives up to both 1) and 2). In other words, it doesn’t make a single boo-boo.
SIZZLING PLATTER OF THE WEEK: Mike Garson — Conversations With my Family (Resonance) :: Most everyone’s introduction to Mike Garson was when they heard his still-stunning schizero piano solo on Bowie’s "Aladdin Sane," not to mention his subsequent noir noodlings on Mick Ronson’s vastly underrated Slaughter on Tenth Avenue album. And although those heady days are long gone, Garson continues to record with Bowie — that is, when he’s not busy flexing his ample jazzbo chops on thoughtful solo excursions like this new one of his which is alternately brassy and orchestral.