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4Play: Ron Sexsmith, Adele, The Jayhawks, Duffy

Kristi Kates - February 28th, 2011
Ron Sexsmith - Long Player, Late Bloomer - Thirty Tigers
Long underrated and often (unfortunately) unnoticed by U.S. audiences,
Canadian singer-songwriter Sexsmith nonetheless counts among his fans
everyone from Coldplay’s Chris Martin to Elvis Costello. Opening track
“Get in Line” is actually instantly reminiscent of Elvis Costello, right
down to the bobs and warbles at the end of the verse lines; other
highlights include “No Help at All” (on which he sounds a little like
Bruce Hornsby) and “Everytime I Follow,” with its off-beat acoustic and
heavier rhythms. This album full of quiet, stealthy hits closes with
“Nowadays,” prettily plucked on guitar and seasoned faintly with pedal
steel in the background.

Adele - 21 - Columbia
Neo-soul singer Adele is remarkable to listen to, combining as she does
her smoky, retro vocal sound with a very downtown-London-of-today
sensibility. “I’ll Be Waiting,” “He Won’t Go,” (surprisingly produced by
Red Hot Chili Peppers cohort Rick Rubin) and first on-the-edge single
“Rolling in the Deep” all showcase Adele’s voice, capable of large-scale
drama but always held in check by the singer’s own streetwise decorum. The
quietly-executed “Turning Tables” offers thoughtfulness, while “Don’t You
Remember,” by contrast, is more demanding in its requests for you to
listen; the balance of songs on the set is well-done, as is Adele’s own
performance.

The Jayhawks - Tomorrow the Green Grass (Legacy Edition) - Sony
Compiled by the band’s Mark Olsen and Gary Louris, this classic modern
folk album from their heyday is now back, remastered and bringing with it
a plethora of bonus tracks and collector-friendly audio surprises. Disc
one features the terrific original album itself, plus five bonus B-sides
and previously unreleased songs, while Disc two - dubbed “The Mystery
Demos” - showcases almost two dozen tracks recorded by Olsen and Louris
back in 1992. For those new to the band, you’ll want to start with the
most readily-accessible of their tracks - the uber-catchy “Blue” - and
then move on from there; for current fans, you’ll love this secondary
version of a favorite set.

Duffy - Endlessly - Mercury
Collaborating with songwriter Albert Hammond Sr. (The Hollies, Celine Dion
- and yes, he’s the father of Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.) Duffy
focused on more radio-friendly, sharp pop songs here than on her previous
effort. Not all of her fans were happy with this approach, as it veers
fairly far away from her sound on her hit debut set, Rockferry, but
they’re judging a little too harshly, as Duffy’s voice is still just as
strong and her compositions just as soulfully quirky as ever, especially
on tunes like “Well Well Well” and “Too Hurt to Dance.” Rumor has it that
Duffy is thinking of giving up on her music due to slow album sales -
let’s hope the talented singer doesn’t do so, since one uneven album does
not a career break.

 
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