[Sidebar] The Worcester Phoenix
May 8 - 15, 1998


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by Brian Goslow

There's no better example of a rock and roller growing old gracefully than Ray Davies. He's not only managed to reinvent himself (and his band) endless times but never failed to understand there's no better music in the world than that which he made with the early Kinks. His new CD, The Storyteller (Konk), mixes acoustic versions of Kinks songs (which you may have seen on VH-1) with new studio material, which is being featured by Nick DiBiasio on Against the Grain every Saturday evening from 8 p.m. to midnight on WICN (90.5 FM).

"He [Davies] originally did it [the live shows] to promote his book [X-Ray], but they went so well, especially around here, he kept doing them," says DiBiasio, who especially likes the title track and "London Song." He also loves the soundtrack to Robert Redford's new movie, The Horse Whisperer (MCA). "There's a brand new song by Lucinda Williams, `Still I Long for Your Kiss,' which is also slated to be on her new CD, due out in late summer, and Emmylou Harris does a cover of a Chris Smither's song, `Slow Surprise.'" Gillian Welch, Steve Earle, the Mavericks, and Flatlanders are also featured.

When you compare someone to one of the greats, you're asking for it. "The High Llamas' Cold and Bouncy (V2) is reminiscent of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds." How close? "Pretty close," DiBiasio says confidently. "It has the harmonies, the music, and lots of instrumentals." He's also pleased with Bonnie Raitt's Fundamental (Capitol), which features a great cover of Willie Dixon's "Round and Round." "It has a more modern sound than her past three or four albums, which all sounded the same. Producer Mitchell Froom, who adds his own distinct sound in the same way Daniel Lanois does, also worked on the most recent releases by Los Lobos, whose guitarist, David Hidalgo, plays and contributes backing vocals and cowrote `Cure for Love.'"

Nick Lowe returns with Dig My Mood (Upstart). "He's really toned down from his basher days. Now, he's more of a country gentleman, with the corny backing vocals and strings reminiscent of 1960s Nashville," says DiBiasio, who's also been airing Ramblin' Jack Elliott's Friends of Mine (High Tone), which features duets with Jerry Jeff Walker, Emmylou Harris, and Bob Weir. Weir helps bring the Grateful Dead's "Friend of the Devil" back to life. Jules Shear's Between Us (High Street) includes musical collaborations with Roseanne Cash, Ron Sexsmith, Susan Cowsill, and Margo Timmins of the Cowboy Junkies. Chris Knight's self-titled Decca debut "has that really Americana sound similar to Steve Earle's," while Loudon Wainwright III's Little Shop (Virgin) was produced by John Leventhal, who also produced Shawn Colvin's A Few Small Repairs.

Greg Garing, who Mojo magazine calls, "Hank Williams on Acid," takes some chances on Alone (Paladin). "He was originally from Philadelphia, but he spent some time in Bristol, England, where he was heavily influenced by the trip-hop sound there. He plays country ballads with an almost electronic sounding background." The Hellecasters' Hell III: New Axes To Grind features John Jorgenson (who's worked with Michael Nesmith and Elton John), Will Ray, and Terry Donahue playing Telecaster guitars. "It's almost a Western surf sound." "Jesus and Tomatoes" is a seasonal treat from Kate Campbell's Visions of Plenty (Compass).

DiBiasio now presents an hour of blues at 10 p.m., mixing the old and the new from Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters to John Hammond's Long as I Have You (Point Blank) and Jamie Hartford's What About Yes? (Paladin).

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