Clearing Out The Mailroom: Monday, December 13, 2010

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We've got quite a backlog of CDs we've never gotten around to, so we're going to try to chip away at the pile with this regular feature. The plan: to take a few at a time and play each CD for as long as I can stand it.

Various Artists
Imus Ranch Record II (New West)

With tunes from Jamey Johnson, Sam Moore, Adam Duritz (Counting Crows), Elizabeth Cook, Cheap Trick and The Blind Boys of Alabama, among other notables, this album is as cohesively collated as Imus' wiry coif. There's Texas country and old-school soul, mixed with a couple of tunes that are hard to pin down from a stylistic perspective. Luckily for the cause involved, The Imus Ranch for children, a sonically similar collection isn't needed in order to provide a quality fundraiser. Simply put: This is an album worthy of a consumer's money, regardless of where there cash is going after the purchase. Sure, fans of Texas country and blues may yawn a tad when the original version of Charlie Robison's "My Hometown" or Dlebert McClinton's "Lone Star Blues" comes up, but they're still both quality songs regardless. Of course, old tunes with new presentations make this album really worthwhile: Warren Zevon's "Carmelita" from Adam Duritz and Roger Miller's "King of the Road" performed by Hayes Carll both provide a tip of the hat to the beloved originals while radiating fresh breath.
I made it: all the way through (13 songs).

Huey Lewis & The News (San Francisco, CA)
Soulsville (W.O.W. Records)

Let's be honest: There are some records we really want to like, but no matter how hard we may try, certain records that we're rooting for just don't earn it. It's not that we've ever been massive fans of Huey Lewis & The News, but, golly, if these geezers are going to continue to put out albums, it's nice that they're at least trying to give something else a shot, even if the tunes themselves aren't exactly new. In this case, Lewis and his News give the timeless catalog of Stax Records a shot, only to end up sounding, you know, exactly like they did in the 1890s, err, 1980s. Sure, they plug in a few  allegedly soulful back-up singers and plant a few robust horns where they may not have put them in a couple of decades ago, but it amounts to little more than an old guy managing to sound even older.
I made it to: track No. 4, "Respect Yourself."

Annie Lennox (Aberdeen, Scotland)
A Christmas Cornucopia (Decca)

Who buys all of the Christmas records? For baby Jesus' sake, the proliferation of the Christmas album as an accepted, annual right of commercial passage has become not only alarming, but an all-out epidemic to which there seems to be no real cure. Geez, people! As for this record: Have you heard any other Christmas album, ever in your life? Good! Then you've heard this one too, even if you didn't know it at the time. Not that the generally inventive Lennox doesn't give this tired format a decent attempt at revitalization -- but even the geographically and historically interesting middle-eastern accents on "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" can't save this record from the 99 cent bin, once December 26 arrives.
I made it to: track No. 3, "See Amid Winter's Snow."

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