New CD releases this month feature acts that are a li'l bit country.
The Little Willies
The Little Willies' second album "For The Good Times" features Richard Julian (who does a mean Lyle Lovett), Jim Campilongo, Lee Alexander and Dan Rieser. Not quite insurgent, it casts a respectful net over a set of comfy, twangy tunes. Ralph Stanley's "I Worship You," Loretta Lynn's "Fist City," Willie Nelson's "Permanently Lonely," Johnny Cash's "Wide Open Road," Kris Kristofferson's "For The Good Times" and Dolly Parton's "Jolene" all sparkle anew on this disc. The Little Willies' rendition of "Foul Owl on the Prowl" (from the movie "In The Heat of the Night") is a flight of delight.
Mount Moriah, a duo consisting of out lesbian Heather McEntire and Jenks Miller, makes a stunning impression on the new self-titled CD/DVD. Backed by a stellar cast of hipster musicians, the pair creates boot-gazing glory on tracks such as "Only Way Out" and "Plane." On the other hand, you may find yourself wiping away eyes on "Old Gowns" and "Honey, We Don't Need That Much." The DVD consists of must-see videos for "The Letting Go," "Lament" and "Old Gowns."
The double-disc, 40th-anniversary edition of Elvis Presley's "Elvis Country," aka "I'm 10,000 Years Old," includes 1971's "Love Letters from Elvis," as well as six bonus tracks. Looking south, Elvis covers country as only he can, remaking the Anne Murray hit "Snowbird," repossessing Jerry Lee Lewis' "Whole Lot-ta Shakin' Goin' On," having the time of his life with Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away" and breaking our hearts on "There Goes My Everything." With Presley in fine form, "Elvis Country" is a place worth visiting and setting a spell.
My Morning Jacket
Like it or not, My Morning Jacket is the face of 21st-century Southern rock. But that doesn't mean Charlie Daniels Band 2.0 (or 2.1). Instead, on "Circuital," MMJ embraces its Southern soul and gently steers it toward the future on cuts such as the title track, "Victory Dance," "Outta My System" and "You Wanna Freak Out." The real pleasure of "Circuital," however, occurs on spectrum stretchers such as "The Day Is Coming" and "Holdin' on to Black Metal," indicating that these jacket pockets contain surprises.
Jody Miller is perhaps best known for the novelty hit answer song "Queen of the House" (the video on You Tube is priceless). A campy response to Roger Miller's "King of the Road," it was clearly a song of its day – 1965. Miller released a series of country albums during the early to mid-1970s on which she performed Nashville-style versions of hits by others ("He's So Fine," "Baby, I'm Yours," "Natural Woman") as well as songs by Billy Sherrill and other country songwriters of the day. The album "Complete Epic Hits" compiles 25 of Miller's hits from the period on a single disc.
The Low Anthem
The Low Anthem, My Morning Jacket's Yankee country cousins, puts their fondness for unusual and vintage instrumentation to good use on "Smart Flesh." The numbered first edition of the Rhode Island-based band's album featured a bonus CD containing "three passable strays that missed the cut." Closer in spirit to the insurgent country scene, "Smart Flesh" is simply stunning from start to finish, especially such songs as "Apothecary Love," "Love and Altar," "Ghost Woman Blues," the 9/11 heartbreaker "Boeing 737," and the exceptional "Hey, All You Hippies!." The Low Anthem hits the heights on "Smart Flesh."
Jim White stirs in a folksy flavor to the 11 alt-country songs on "Where It Hits You." Beginning with the acoustic flair of "Chase The Dark Away," White brightens "Sunday's Refrain" with brass, brings a banjo to "The Way of Alone" and turns on the waterworks for the tragic tale of "My Brother's Keeper." But when he cuts loose on more experimental songs such as "What Rocks Will Never Know" and "Here We Go!," he knows exactly where to hit us.