Keeping it simple
Taking One For The Team
SIMPLE Plan’s latest release sticks to the kind of music fans have come to know and love since the band made its debut nearly 15 years ago.
Taking One For The Team is proof that the band has still got it when it comes to formulating infectious pop- punk sounds.
Although it’s the band’s first album in almost five years, the opening track Opinion Overload makes it seem like hardly any time has past, as it launches into a catchy chorus about shutting down the opinions of the bullies and the naysayers.
I Refuse is another earworm with a similar message about refusing to compromise on one’s identity to gain the approval of another. Then there’s the excitement that comes with falling in love in Kiss Me Like Nobody’s Watching and Boom! followed by the usual angsty break- up songs like P. S. I Hate You.
And of course, Simple Plan wouldn’t be Simple Plan without its signature emo tunes. One of the album’s most memorable moments arrives with Problem Child, a song about working through one’s flaws in order to please our parents or anyone we love. It’s impossible to go through the song without getting a little misty- eyed.
What’s amazing is after all these years, the band members, who are all in their 30s now, are still able to tackle these themes and capture the same sense of youthful exuberance they’re known for.
Part of it has to do with 36- yearold lead vocalist Pierre Bouvier, who sounds exactly the same. Vocally- speaking, he has not aged at all!
But the album also brings something new to the table. Singing In The Rain, for example, sees the band joining forces with R. City, throwing a little reggae into the mix to surprisingly positive results.
As a whole, Taking One For The Team gives listeners more of the good old Simple Plan and that is quite a good plan. – Kenneth Chaw
Universal IF you’ve always wanted to hear more of Lady Antebellum’s male vocalist, then rejoice. Charles
Kelley is branching out on his own with the release of his debut solo album` The Driver.
With the country pop group, I’ve always loved how Kelley’s rugged and raspy voice melds beautifully with fellow lead vocalist Hillary Scott’s sweeter, honeyed vocals, which begs the question: can he still hold his own without Scott?
The answer is yes. Away from Lady Antebellum, Kelley comes off sounding like a whole other artiste who has his own stories to tell and different ways of telling them.
The title track lead single, for instance, is a touching tribute to those working behind the scenes in the music industry. The song explores the point of view of a driver ferrying artistes and their crew who are on a tour.
And delivered with the help of country singers Eric Paslay and Dierks Bentley, the result is an emotional, hair- raising performance. So much so, it earned a nomination for Best Country Duo/ Group Performance at the recent Grammys.
Leaving Nashville is another stripped down, emotional ballad that captures the highs and lows of musicians reaching for their dreams in the country music capital. Kelley’s heartfelt delivery suggests he is all too familiar with the notion himself.
It’s obvious I have a thing for the album’s slower numbers but Kelley has got some strong uptempo and midtempo tracks such as the rock- infused Your Love and the funky Lonely Girl.
Musically, The Driver still sees Kelley in country territory, but with Lady Antebellum’s pop leanings stripped off.
And unlike the country group, Kelley’s songs don’t strike listeners as immediate earworms.
They’re not necessarily radio friendly but they have a lot of heart. – KC
Oil & Water
FOLK has always been a part of Lee DeWyze’s music, especially evident in his independent releases before his American Idol days. His post- Idol debut studio album
Live It Up, however, which pro- duced two singles Sweet Serendipity and Beautiful Like You in 2010, had stronger pop leanings.
Sophomore effort Frames and now, his latest release Oil & Water, sees the season nine Idol winner drawing closer to his folk roots once again.
The 10- track release feels like a collection of tender and intimate songs – right from the start, with album opener Again, DeWyze invites listeners to a place of personal vulnerabilities.
Accompanied by an acoustic guitar, he reveals his feelings of loneliness, aching to return home to the arms of a loved one, a sentiment he repeats in West.
Elsewhere, he is faced with moments of indecision in Learn To Fall and Way Too Long.
The songs on Oil & Water are driven mostly by just a guitar, and subtle melodies and sentimentality. As the instruments are kept to a minimum, DeWyze’s gravelly vocals are front and centre in the album, shining brightest on the title track and Stone. The latter especially has a great, simple hook which will do well on the radio. –
LORETTA Lynn goes back to her roots on her new album Full Circle, revisiting some of her earliest work and some of her country classics.
The concept is interesting, especially when you throw in producers – Patsy Lynn Russell, her daughter, and John Carter Cash, son of Johnny Cash – who know her catalogue so well and know that a stripped- down, focused style suits her well.
But what takes it to the next level, of course, is the distinctive voice of Lynn, still going strong at 83, and how well she deploys it now.
Somehow, Lynn makes her new version of Fist City sound even fiercer, menacingly declaring, “You better close your face and stay out of my way if you don’t want to go to Fist City” while maintaining her manners.
There’s an elegance to her version of Secret Love, created by her more melancholy take on the Calamity Jane song and the classy, jazzy guitar flourishes.
The command she holds over the classic Always On My Mind feels even stronger thanks to the gorgeous arrangement that starts with a simple piano and grows warmer as the string sections arrive.
Unlike her stunning Van Lear Rose album in 2004, where Lynn teamed up with Jack White to amplify her feisty persona and bring it to a new generation of fans, Full Circle isn’t trying to redefine anything.
Even on Everything It Takes, a new duet with Elvis Costello, Lynn is simply putting her new material in context with her entire career. The way she refocuses Whispering Sea, the first song Lynn ever wrote more than five decades ago, shows how timeless her songwriting has always been.
In case there was any question if Lynn is still “The Queen Of Country Music,” Full Circle makes it clear that her hold on her throne is even stronger.
– Glenn Gamboa/ Newsday/ Tribune News Service