Reviews of the latest CDs by Melissa Etheridge, Nine Inch Nails and local musicians 

CD Reviews

Melissa Etheridge, "Breakdown"Various artists, "Among Friends 1999"Nine Inch Nails, "The Fragile"
Play These Songs
"Why Didn't You Call Me""Do Something""Caligula"

Real Audio Required -->Melissa Etheridge, "Breakdown" (The Island Def Jam Music Group) — With her first release in nearly four years, Melissa Etheridge comes to a window near you and proves she's still heavy on the pop rock scene. And this time around, she seems to have chilled out a bit — letting other handpicked musicians like co-producer and long-time touring guitarist John Shanks do some of the work — and here, that's a good thing.

The result is an adventurous mix of signature Etheridge sound — barreling acoustic guitar meets alto crescendo — plus the bang of a tight band that includes some fancy mandolin and dulcimer handiwork.

The second track "Angels Would Fall" already is enjoying much air play and the title track "Breakdown" likely will follow. And in "Scarecrow," a tribute to Matthew Shepard, the young gay man whose brutal murder in Wyoming last year became a national story, Etheridge makes us remember the pain and preventability of hate-inspired suffering.

Themes of love and loss and survival still abound as does Etheridge's constant vocal yearning for something more. And with this sixth release spanning an 11-year career, she sure tries to give it to us here.

— Brandon Walters

Various artists, "Among Friends 1999" (GNT) — This two-CD project features a local band of musicians who play and sing from the heart for the sheer love of the song. The music in this eclectic, two-hour live set is rooted in a straight-ahead folk style but the diversity of the players' talents creates a wide-ranging variety in the performances.

It's tough to pick favorites but it's easy to love George Turman's gorgeous take on "Something in the Way She Moves," Jackie Frost's thoughtful reading of "High Sierra," Chris Fuller's driving yet easygoing vocals on the "Pickin' Party" jam and Daniel Clarke's piano throughout. Libby Dunton, Frank Coleman, Richard Ward, Sheryl Warner, Billy Lux and Danny Hughes all contribute their estimable instrumental and vocal talents and also receive well-deserved featured moments. "Among Friends 1999" captures a refreshing communal musical spirit where competitive egos are checked backstage and the song is the star of the show. Support your local musicians and seek this one out by calling 730-9345.

— Ames Arnold

Play These Songs
"Why Didn't You Call Me""Do Something""Caligula"

Real Audio Required -->Nine Inch Nails, "The Fragile" (Nothing/Interscope) — Pink Floyd gave the Western World two masterpieces with "Dark Side of the Moon" and "The Wall." Nine Inch Nails' "The Fragile" is the '90s equivalent.

The 23 songs, spanning two CDs, are mesmerizing. Trent Reznor — the great innovator — creates an incredible wall of sound that is unlike anything else. It's simply a must-hear, especially for those who think music is dead these days.

Each track takes time to develop, and then bleeds into the next. The premium is on dynamics, making every song rich in moodiness. This uniqueness brings excitement to the entire set.

Reznor incorporates a fair amount of electronic industrial sounds, layers of heavy guitar and unusual beats on "Somewhat Damaged." But he also ventures into a more glam-rock mode on "The Day the World Went Away." The short instrumental "The Frail" is compelling, as well.

Be prepared to be blown away.

— Jeff Maisey, The Virginian-Pilot

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