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Reviews of CDs by Chris Thomas King, Barenaked Ladies, Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang and Mollie O'Brien 

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Chris Thomas King, "Me, My Guitar and the Blues," (Blind Pig) — King has re-invented himself a few times, and the most recent incarnation finds the New Orleans-based musician in fine form playing all the instruments and penning nine of the CD's 11 cuts. King has also never been a slave to traditional blues, so it comes as no surprise when his latest release mines a number of styles. The set starts with three slide-dobro cuts and on "Like Father, Like Son" he tells his story of growing up and learning the music as the son of bluesman Tabby Thomas. "Cain" is also a slide showcase but lyrically and rhythmically it shifts gears into a light rap against cocaine. "Stay Just as You Are" follows with a '70s soul vibe and gives King a chance to show more vocal versatility. Booker T.'s "Born Under a Bad Sign" is reinterpreted as electric blues with a hip-hop twist before the multi-instrumentalist offers the title tune as a gentle gut-string ballad. "Bourbon Street Blues" is slide-country blues with a big beat, while Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway" remains firmly rooted in the Delta. The project closes with the soft soul of "You Are My Heaven." "My Guitar" falls into a general "blues" category but it's far more stylistically varied than most. While it won't rock anyone's world, King's latest should appeal to blues fans open to many interpretations of the genre.

— Ames Arnold



Barenaked Ladies, "Maroon" (Reprise) — Those Canuck cutups with the goofy name and sometimes goofy songs are back with the follow-up to 1998's highly successful "Stunt." With tongue waaaay back in cheek, they took the title for the new CD from a 1966 poem that contemplates how many words can be rhymed with "maroon."

That cheekiness doesn't stop at the title. BNL again offer a full course of adolescent humor, wry observations and musical jokes cloaked in seductive, hummable power-pop.

But there's a slight change and, dare we say it, a slight maturation. Some tunes address fidelity, corporate greed and self-doubt. And they've enlisted wonder producer Don Was (Rolling Stones, Bonnie Raitt, Iggy Pop) to man the controls. Was gooses the Ladies' sound, giving the arrangements a crystal clarity, rock-hard veneer and fat bottom.

Mainly, it works. Yes, the boys still stumble over their own cleverness and some songs, such as the overproduced "Sell, Sell, Sell," collapse under their own bombast. But you've got to hand it to BNL: They know their way around a pop song, they can harmonize as well as any Mersey band and, with Was on board, have the power to kick it all in the pants.

— Eric Feber, The Virginian-Pilot



Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang, "Live at the Time Out Pub" — Shaw and his sax jump right into the party for this project and a listener knows from the top why Eddie and his group have stayed busy on the blues circuit since the mid-'70s. Mixing original horn-driven tunes with a couple of songs by his former bosses, Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters, Shaw and the Wolfgang wail through 10 cuts of Chicago party blues for this live show recorded in Maine last year. Eddie's raw voice and screeching sax powers a simmering "Fanny Mae Jones" before the band pushes the limits on "Howlin' For My Darling" and "Got No Where to Go." Eddie's guitar-monster son Vann is along for the ride as usual, and his lightning-fast solos add fuel to an already-raging fire. When Shaw and the band played Jumpin' this past summer, I was disappointed that the elder Shaw featured his vocals more than his horn. But both horn and voice tear up the house here. This brand of blues will be too close to rock for some. But for those who think of fast-and-hard blues as the key to the party, Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang have got it going on.

— A.A.



Mollie O'Brien, "Things I Gave Away," (Sugar Hill) — This is one of those great-sounding CDs made for a night of hanging around at home with no agenda and someone friendly. Gentle and engaging, O'Brien soothingly paces her way through a set of languid, sparsely arranged songs, and she interprets these songs with a soft, supple alto that coaxes rather than strangles the notes. Most of the cuts were written by Nashville talent, although she also covers Percy Mayfield's suicide song "River's Invitation" and gives Lennon-McCartney's "You Won't See Me" a new rhythmic and melodic heartbeat. Her clarity and taste create magic throughout the 10 songs, but numbers such as "Train Time" and "The House, the Boat, the Lovers" particularly stand out. She also breaks a little funky with a nice turn on "The Right Thing," a song by former Subdude John Magnie, until "When I've Got the Moon" wraps everything up with a warm and mellow touch. Not exactly a folk recording and not exactly a jazz CD or a blues project, "Things" is simply a musical treat

— A.A.

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