New Music Monday: Heart, Van Morrison, Charlie Hunter, Donny McCaslin, Diana Krall, Grateful Dead

New Music Monday finds a couple of old-line favorites returning in Heart and Van Morrison, another terrific Grateful Dead reissue in the Dick’s Picks series, and two cool left turns from Diana Krall and Charlie Hunter.

Diana Krall has a gutsy project on tap, one that melds forgotten pre-war gems with a handful of newer songs in the latest T Bone Burnett production that we’ve gone berserk over. Charlie Hunter, meanwhile, has the blues — done his own special way, of course.

As for Heart, their upcoming recording — the Ben Mink-helmed Fanatic — may just be the heaviest thing they’ve ever done. Van Morrison, on the other hand, is back on Blue Note, and sounding jazzier at times than ever.

The Grateful Dead reissue focuses on the group’s final touring band, which then featured former Tubes keyboardist Vince Welnick taking over for Bruce Hornsby.

Elsewhere, there’s a folkier turn from Beth Orton, another thrilling musical statement from saxophonist Donny McCaslin, cool tribute albums to both the Who and the Band, and — of course — much, much more.


Blake SheltonCheers, It’s Christmas (Country)

BETH ORTON – SUGARING SEASONS (FOLK): Her first recording six years finds Orton continuing her journey away from the trip-folktronica which helped establish her underground cred (see 1993′s SuperPinkyMandy with then-boyfriend William Orbit) into the more delicate, folky atmospheres found on the transitional Comfort of Strangers from 2006. This time, she got it completely right. A series of guitar lessons from the late Bert Jansch, plus the sure hand of producer Tucker Martine combine to give Seasons a new sense of direction, and the time away provided Orton an opportunity to construct her best songs in ages. — Nick DeRiso

CHARLIE HUNTER – NOT GETTING BEHIND IS THE NEW GETTING AHEAD (JAZZ): Inspired, it’s said, by Hunter’s passion for ragtime-based pre-war blues guitarist Blind Blake, this album’s lead single “Blind Arthur” couldn’t fit any more perfectly into its title theme. There’s less jazz on Hunter’s new collaboration with drummer Scott Amendola than blues, less swinging improvisation than hurt and dark passion. It’s part of an all-original album — the guitarist’s first in three years — that’s being touted as being among his most heartfelt ever. Recorded live, together in a room and straight to tape, the songs reflect the narratives Hunter has absorbed while touring around the nation during these difficult economic times. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Charlie PeacockNo Man’s Land (Jazz)
Chris ReneI’m Right Here (R&B)
Clarence ‘Frogman’ HenryGreatest Hits (R&B)

Cody SimpsonParadise (Pop/Rock)
David CassidyRomance (Pop/Rock)

DIANA KRALL – GLAD RAG DOLL (JAZZ): Cue up this T Bone Burnett production, and you’ll find a drum-tight band featuring guitarist Marc Ribot that combines to produce some sassy solos and sensitive interplay, all in front of vocals that scald and coo. The inventive track listing moves from forgotten gems from the 1920s and ’30s (including “There Ain’t No Sweet Man,” a Tin Pan Alley romp by Fred Fisher, and Gene Austin’s “Let It Rain”) through to more contemporary sounds like Doc Pomus’ “Lonely Avenue,” and Buddy and Julie Miller’s “Wide River To Cross.” But you’ll also hear something else: Somebody saying screw convention. Good for Diana Krall. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

DionThe Complete Laurie Singles (Pop/Rock)

DONNY McCASLIN – CASTING FOR GRAVITY (JAZZ): A significant statement from an artist who makes a statement with each release. Yes, the music is contemporary — there’s plenty of modern funk rhythms and prominent synthesizers — but McCaslin never loosened his grip on jazz, either. There’s plenty of the improvisation, immediacy and knotty-ness of jazz, and at the center there’s remains the saxophone nurtured by Sonny Stitt, Sonny Rollins and Michael Brecker; a unique full toned, limber dialect that knows when to take chances and when to play it cool. (More here.) — S. Victor Aaron

Eric GalesLive (Blues)
Faith EvansR&B Divas (R&B)

GARTH HUDSON, WITH VARIOUS ARTISTS – A CANADIAN CELEBRATION OF THE BAND (POP/ROCK) Produced by Band cofounder Garth Hudson and Peter J. Moore (Cowboy Junkies, Lucinda Williams), this new collection features a number of songs Hudson says are his favorites from the group’s live repertoire — including familiar moments like “The Shape I’m In,” Dylan’s “Clothes Line Saga” from The Basement Tapes, and even a deep cut from post-Robbie Robertson era, “Move To Japan.” Hudson appears on every track. Guest artists include Cowboy Junkies, Bruce Cockburn and Blue Rodeo, but none match the power and fury of “This Wheel’s on Fire,” which is set ablaze by Neil Young, the Sadies and Hudson. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

HEART – FANATIC (POP/ROCK): Recorded in hotel rooms and studios up and down the West Coast, this new project finds Grammy-winning producer Ben Mink back at the helm, as the Wilson sisters draw from their own lives and personal experiences as inspiration for their music. Highlights include “Dear Old America,” which comes from memories of a military household and is written from the point of view of their father, a Marine Corps officer, returning from war; “Rock Deep (Vancouver),” which hearkens back to the city where Dreamboat Annie was written; and “Walkin’ Good,” a duet with Vancouver resident Sarah McLachlan that captures the joy of finding new life in a new love. These 10 new songs are Heart’s first since 2010′s Red Velvet Car had its Top 10 debut in 2010. (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

Iris DementSing The Delta (Folk)
Luther VandrossThe Classic Christmas Album (Pop/Rock)
Marc AntoineGuitar Destiny (Jazz)
MuseThe 2nd Law (Pop/Rock)

Nik Bärtsch’s RoninLive (Jazz)
Papa RoachThe Connection (Pop/Rock)
Sandy DennyThe Notes & The Words (Pop/Rock)
Saul ZonanaFix the Broken (Pop/Rock)
Shoes35 Years: The Definitive Shoes Collection 1977-2012 (Pop/Rock)

THE GRATEFUL DEAD – DICK’S PICKS VOL. 27: OAKLAND COLISEUM 12/16/92 (POP/ROCK): The only Dick’s Picks volume to feature the final Dead line-up, with Vince Welnick assuming all keyboard duties after the departure of Bruce Hornsby — and, fittingly enough, it provides a nice showcase for the ex-Tubes keyboardist on unexpected covers of the Who’s “Baba O’Riley” and the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Those are two of the four bonus songs taken from the next night’s show at the same venue; the rest of this 3-CD set presents the complete December 16, 1992 concert in Oakland. Highlights include a rare (albeit abbreviated) 1990s reading of “Dark Star,” a rendition of “Good Lovin’” in tribute to the late Pigpen, Bob Weir’s reading of Willie Dixon’s “The Same Thing” and an exploratory reading of “Playing in the Band/Drums/Space.”

The Mountain GoatsTranscendental Youth (Pop/Rock)
The Tragically HipNow For Plan A (Pop/Rock)
The VaccinesThe Vaccines Come Of Age (Pop/Rock)

THE WALLFLOWERS – GLAD ALL OVER (POP/ROCK): The Wallflowers, who rose to fame with the four-time platinum smash Bringing Down The Horse (featuring the hits “6th Avenue Heartache” and “One Headlight”), return with a new project recorded at the Nashville studio of the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. Some of his flinty passion of older sounds must have rubbed off, because the Wallflowers’ lead single “Reboot the Mission” not only sounds like the Clash, it actually features Mick Jones on vocals and guitar. Original members Jakob Dylan (yep, Bob’s son), Greg Richling and Rami Jaffee are joined by Stuart Mathis and Jack Irons for this one.

Three Days GraceTransit of Venus (Pop/Rock)
Tim MaiaWorld Psychedelic Classics 4: Nobody Can Live (Pop/Rock)
Tori AmosGold Dust (Pop/Rock)

VAN MORRISON – BORN TO SING: NO PLAN B (POP/ROCK): Recorded live in the studio with a core six-piece band, Morrison’s 34th album — and his return to Blue Note — perhaps unsurprisingly has a jazzier atmosphere than his most recent studio effort, 2008′s Keep It Simple. Heck, Morrison even plays sax. All welcome news. But after the soulful rumble of its opening track “Open Your Heart (To Your Heart),” and a pretty good first half (highlighted by the eight-minute organ-driven sizzle of “Goin’ Down to Monte Carlo”), Born to Sing begins to wear down into cliche. Maybe a better title would have been No Side B.Nick DeRiso

VARIOUS ARTISTS – WHO ARE YOU: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE TO THE WHO (POP/ROCK): The intrigue of compilations like this is when seemingly incongruent artists successfully combine, or when somebody turns a familiar tune inside out. Who Are You offers its share of both — from John Wetton, who always sings like his life is in the balance, tearing into the 1982 Who track “Eminence Front”; to Mark Lindsey of Paul Revere and the Raiders joining Wayne Kramer from the legendary Detroit punk group MC5 on “I Can See For Miles”; to Sweet, as always, running roughshod over things with a blissfully wild take on “Won’t Get Fooled Again”; to Pat Travers turning “Behind Blue Eyes” into a dark blues-rock rumination; to Peter Noone of Herman and the Hermits fame combining with Yes alum Peter Banks and Cream’s Ginger Baker for “Magic Bus”; to Iggy Pop — maybe the very best of all — going completely balls-out on “I Can’t Explain.” (More here.) — Nick DeRiso

ZacherleMonster Mash/Scary Tales (Pop/Rock)


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