Debbie Davies, various artists' tribute to Gram Parsons, Jimmy Cliff 

CD Reviews

Debbie Davies, "Tales from the Austin Motel"Various Artists, "The Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram ParsonsJimmy Cliff, "Shout for Freedom"(Click on a CD title or cover to order that CD from Amazon.com)Play These Songs"Blue Indian""Surprise Valley""The Waker"

Real Audio Required -->Debbie Davies, "Tales from the Austin Motel" (Shanachie) — Davies' fifth solo album is a deeply grooved showcase for her rocking, yet tastefully restrained, blues guitar attack. Recorded in Austin and dedicated to mentors Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland and Stevie Ray Vaughan, Davies struts through tunes original and standard; she manages to breathe new life into Willie Dixon's "I Want to be Loved," "Walking By Myself," and even breaks sexy and bad on a horn-driven "I Just Want to Make Love to You." Backed by Vaughan's Double Trouble mates Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton, Davies' stinging guitar generally takes center stage and she shows why blues monster Collins added her to his road band in 1988. Her vocals aren't spectacular, but she sings with conviction and tries out her best Texas-size Lou Ann Barton twang on some cuts. Throughout "Tales" Davies swings with both an attitude and a funky shake of the hips that satisfies the soul.

— Ames Arnold

Play These Songs"Summertime""My Funny Valentine""All Soul"

Real Audio Required -->Various Artists, "The Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons" (Almo Sounds) — The story goes that Gram Parsons was so moved by George Jones that, when he put on Possum's LPs, he'd weep at the raw-boned beauty. The 13 artists on this CD, timed to the 25th anniversary of Parson's drug-overdose death at age 26, surely feel the same about country-rock's founding father.

How else to explain the depth — the connection — that is so apparent? More than spot-on tributes, many of these performances (The Cowboy Junkies' "Ooh Las Vegas") rate among the best the assembled here have ever given.

That there's not a false note is more remarkable given the breadth of the roster (The Mavericks, Elvis Costello, Whiskeytown, Gillian Welch) and material (G.P.'s work with The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers and his two solo albums). Credit Emmylou Harris, Parsons' soulmate: Not only does she join the Pretenders, Beck and Sheryl Crow for gorgeous readings of "She," "Sin City" and "Juanita," her guiding hand is at work throughout.

Best track? Unfair question. "Return of the Grievous Angel" (Lucinda Williams and David Crosby) gets a nod. Then so do "One Hundred Years From Now" (Wilco), "High Fashion Queen" (Chris Hillman and Steve Earle) and "In My Hour of Darkness" (Buddy and Julie Miller, Victoria Williams, Mark Olson and Jim Lauderdale going by The Rolling Creekdippers).

Call it a 13-way tie. More than a tribute, "Return of the Grievous Angel" is a celebration.

— C.A. Shapiro, The Virginian-Pilot

Play These Songs"Grapefruit Diet""Pretty Fly For A Rabbi""The Saga Begins"

Real Audio Required -->Jimmy Cliff, "Shout for Freedom" (Milan) — Jimmy Cliff was arguably reggae's first real superstar. He starred in "The Harder They Come," the first feature film devoted to the genre, and his honeyed voice was heard ("Many Rivers to Cross," "You Can Get It If You Really Want') on the soundtrack.

But Cliff's star would be eclipsed by the late Bob Marley and others whose music had a harder edge.

"Shout for Freedom," his first U.S. release in two years, teams Cliff with Orchestra Ok Jazz, the former band of the late African artist Franco; Afrisa International; and Grand Zaiko Wawa. The result: His sweet voice floats over the eight-minute anthem "Shout for Freedom," with OK Jazz providing soukous, the dance music of Zaire as a backdrop.

Other tracks, such as "Love Me," possess a hot Latinlike beat. Indeed, the entire production is a melding of reggae, Latin and African rhythms.

— Marvin Lake, The Virginian-Pilot

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