Keep­ing it sim­ple

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Sim­ple Plan

Tak­ing One For The Team

Warner

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

Charles Kel­ley

The Driver

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

Lee Dewyze

Oil & Wa­ter

Shanachie

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. –

KC

Loretta Lynn

Full Cir­cle

Sony

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

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