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While there's no denying that Heroes (Willie Nelson's first album back on Sony Music) and Let's Face The Music and Dance are very entertaining records, one has to wonder how long it will be before Willie Nelson – arguably one of the greatest, most celebrated and prolific songwriters in American music history – picks up a pen and starts writing again. The first criticism which could be made of Let's Face The Music and Dance, in fact, is that there...

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Tuesday, 30 April 2013
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If the measure of a songwriter's talent and influence can be found in the list of performers who agree to appear on a tribute album to him, then it's possible that John Denver might be the dark horse winner for being the most influential songwriter of his generation. The proof of possibility can be found on The Music Is You; not at all scavenging for talent (contributors include Evan Dando, My Morning Jacket, Dave Matthews, Lucinda Williams and J Mascis...

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Tuesday, 30 April 2013
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On Mosquito, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs seemed determined to tap into our deepest fears. Just a glance down the song titles reads like a list of phobias: “Sacrilege,” “Subway,” “Mosquito,” “Slave,” “Buried Alive,” “Despair.” You are already uneasy before you even hit play. "Sacrilege," a punk rock song with a gospel chorus, kicks things off right away by putting the fear of god into you, without ever letting you know just what (in the band's collective mind)...

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Monday, 29 April 2013
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I'm not much of a hip hop-head. Maybe I haven't given it enough of a shot, but most of it just doesn't connect with me. I'm not going to try to debate or explain that here, I just bring it up to point out that, while the name Dan the Automator does ring a bell, it doesn't mean a lot to me. In my mind, he's just another producer. On the other hand, I've been following Emily Wells since I...

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Monday, 29 April 2013
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The concept of “dance-punk" has always been a bit difficult for some punks to grasp/swallow. Some readers may scoff and say that's because those punks simply can't dance (this is possible), but think about it: one of the key elements of punk has always been its urgency. The urgency of punk has always been so potent that it has tended to override any movement as organized as the average dance step, hasn't it? That's why pogo-ing and moshing exist; neither...

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Saturday, 27 April 2013
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Anyone familiar with the history of musicians who try to make the transition from a punk label (like Epitaph or Fat Wreck Chords, for example) to a major conglomerate will understand why both Frank Turner's fans and the singer's critics are looking so awfully hard at Tape Deck Heart – his fifth album, but first for Interscope – and why they're watching every move that gets made around the record. Historically, the albums that punk acts release after they sign...

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Saturday, 27 April 2013
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As much as punk rock has polished up its image in recent years and no matter how many punk rockers aspire to be “artists” now in the twenty-first century, punk rock music still lives, breathes and thrives best in clubs in front of a live audience. Some punks have big names and reputations now? Big deal – if they can't make their music work for them outside of a safe and sterile recording studio, and if it doesn't sound as...

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Saturday, 27 April 2013
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In the early twentieth century, a few very bold writers (including Earnest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald) attempted to illustrate in their writing that there is no hell worse than the drudgery of modern life. It's easy to understand why those writers were preoccupied with such a bleak view; the sense of adventure which came with conquering the American frontier had faded because the North American interior had been settled and well-charted. As soon as that ground was tamed too,...

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Saturday, 27 April 2013
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These days, every musician over a certain age (and some well under it) seems to be writing their memoirs. But, if you're a musician, why write them? Why not sing them? James Cotton, a blues harp player who has been recording for over fifty years, has done just that on his new CD, Cotton Mouth Man. At least half the songs on this album are autobiographical. The title track is obvious. "Mississippi Mud" starts out telling about his youth working...

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Friday, 26 April 2013
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There is a recurring debate in the art world, especially in art criticism, about how important biography is to understanding a piece of artwork. Does knowing that Fitzgerald was unwilling to propose to Zelda until he felt financially secure help us understand The Great Gatsby? Does knowledge of Van Gogh's (supposed) madness help us appreciate "Starry Night," or does it color our interpretation too much? Does it force us to see the swirling colors as evidence of a swirling mind,...

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Friday, 26 April 2013