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Music reviews for July 31, 2013

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July 25, 2013

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

'That's It!'

With high-profile collaborations at Bonnaroo (Jack Johnson) and the Grammys (The Black Keys), the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been reaching out to a wider audience.

"That's It!," co-produced by Jim James of the indie rock band My Morning Jacket, continues this trend as the first album of entirely new compositions in the band's 50-plus-year history.

Preservation Hall's original mission was to preserve the authentic sounds of New Orleans jazz by presenting musicians with direct links to jazz's founding fathers in the early 20th century. Now under the leadership of tuba player Ben Jaffe, whose parents founded the Hall, the band's current lineup is preserving New Orleans jazz in the 21st century with a fresh-sounding repertoire that keeps the brass-heavy acoustic instrumentation and rhythms from the past.

The title track gets things off to an exuberant start with blaring horn section blasts prefacing Mark Braud's blistering trumpet solo. Some tunes sound as if they were lifted from the band's standard repertoire, including the gospel-inspired "Dear Lord (Give Me the Strength)" and "Come With Me," a love song to the Crescent City sung by the band's oldest member, 81-year-old Charlie Gabriel.

The humorously spooky "Rattlin' Bones" with trombonist Freddie Lonzo's gravelly vocals evokes Dr. John's R&B style. "August Nights" is a smoky ballad with Clint Maedgen providing sultry vocals and Braud playing muted trumpet.

In the end, most of all what the band preserves is the infectious joy of New Orleans jazz.

-Charles J. Gans, Associated Press

Selena Gomez

'Stars Dance'

Selena Gomez has gone into a studio and recorded her new album "Stars Dance," which has 11 pop songs she didn't pen herself backed by instruments she isn't playing. It might be fun for the causal young summertime listener. The question is: Why bother?

Artistically, there's very little Selena Gomez here. This is merely the veneer of Selena Gomez, the look and feel of the pop starlet set atop a middling musical effort. There are lightly emotional lyrics that appear to reference her high-profile romance with ex Justin Bieber, but it is surface stuff and less than revealing.

Gomez's lead single and Billboard top 10 hit, the catchy "Come & Get It," is about the best offering here, thanks to Stargate's club-heavy beat. Songwriting and production assists from Ester Dean, The Cataracs, Rock Mafia and Desmond Child add polish, but it would be nice to unveil more of Gomez and less of the production team pros.

"Stars Dance" is the 21-year-old's first album without her band, The Scene. She sings the word "baby" 22 times and "dream" 27. She makes stars dance on, wait for it, "Stars Dance" and takes on a hokey, reggae-inflected tone on "Like a Champion." If the pace fuels your body with dancing energy then Gomez has, one can assume, done her job.

Indeed, this feels like a job. Gomez might be a talented and interesting person with much to offer artistically, but we'll never find out at this rate.

-Ron Harris, Associated Press



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