San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
Listen: Willie covers Sinatra, and more new tunes.
The Chronicle’s guide to notable new music.
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, “Way Down in the Rust Bucket” (Reprise): In November 1990, Neil Young and Crazy Horse came to the Catalyst in Santa Cruz for one of the first shows in support of their recently released album, “Ragged Glory.” Now the entire threehourplus set is being put out as a live album with an accompanying concert film in the deluxe box set edition. It wasn’t just that more than a halfdozen songs from “Ragged Glory” debuted to the 800 people at that show — Young also played “Danger Bird” from 1975’s album “Zuma” for the first time. More set highlights include an extended version of “Country Home” and an emotional rendition of “Cortez the Killer” as the set concludes, with Young at his absolute finest on the guitar.
Willie Nelson, “That’s Life” (Sony): Now on his second album of Frank Sinatra covers, the Red Headed Stranger is really starting to dig deep on standards made famous by Ol’ Blue Eyes. Nelson’s 2018 LP “My Way” earned him a Grammy Award for best traditional pop solo album, and “That’s Life” keeps honoring Sinatra’s rich vocal tradition. A ballroomready version of “I Won’t Dance With You” is the album’s lone duet (with Diana Krall), set to grand piano and classy horns. Nelson even tackles Cole Porter’s ubiquitous “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” popularized by Sinatra in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s and that Krall covered beautifully on her 2002 “Live in Paris” album. Recorded at both Capitol Studios in Hollywood — one of Sinatra’s old recording haunts — and at Nelson’s Pedernales Studio in Austin, Texas, “That’s Life” masterfully illuminates the best of both worlds from two undisputed legends.
Cloud Nothings, “The Shadow I Remember” (Carpark): Frontman Dylan Baldi has been one of the best pop songwriters in indie rock since his band’s prodigious debut album “Turning On” — recorded in his parents’ Cleveland basement when he was 19. Now on their ninth album, the Cloud Nothings have kept developing their highoctane sound alongside sticky melodies, wild guitar riffs and Baldi’s vocals ranging from screamo to heartthrob. But “The Shadow I Remember” has a deeper emphasis on backing vocals, including Ohmme’s Macie Stewart on the fantastic single “Nothing Without You.” Not that Baldi needs any help, as his limitless voice hasn’t abandoned him yet, and he keeps steadily screaming on our behalf when we need it most in 2021.
Julien Baker, “Little Oblivions” (Matador): The third album from the singersongwriter sees Baker expanding on the gentle yet emotionally riveting indie folk of her 2015 breakthrough debut “Sprained Ankle.” Recorded in her hometown of Memphis, “Little Oblivions’’ features richer productions with Baker playing nearly every instrument on the album, including guitar, piano, banjo, mandolin, synths and drums. On “Faith Healer,” she details the excruciating demons of substance abuse that will seemingly always haunt those who have been under its spell. “Oh, what I wouldn’t give if it would take away the sting a minute/ Everything I love, I’d trade it in to feel it rush into my chest,” she sings. Baker has never sugarcoated her words, and while her visceral lyrics on addiction and death can speak deeply to our (and her) vulnerabilities, it’s what has made her a vital voice.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Altin Gün, “Yol” (ATO): If you happened to walk past the Panhandle Stage on Saturday afternoon at the Outside Lands festival in 2019, you might have heard the explosive Turkish psychedelia of Altin Gün radiating through Speedway Meadow. The Amsterdam band makes Anatolian rock that fuses traditional Middle Eastern sounds with synthesizer funk and trippy guitars: a perfect retro fit for the Golden Gate Park days of yore. Following a Grammy nomination in the world music album category in 2019, their third album, “Yol,” is a collection of reinterpretations of ’60s and ’70s Turkish funk jams like the wahwahpedaldusted “Kara Toprak” and the kaleidoscopic disco rhythm of “Ordunun Dereleri.”
SONG OF THE MOMENT
Aloe Blacc and Leann Rimes, “I Do” (BMG): “I Do” first appeared on versatile pop vocalist Aloe Blacc’s 2020 album, “All Love Everything.”
But following his runnerup finish to country star LeAnn Rimes on the Fox TV show “The Masked Singer,” the pair linked up to release a duet version, and it’s the type of number that’s meant to keep the postValentine’s Day flame burning. “I Do” showcases two incredible pop vocal talents and will appear on both the March 12 deluxe version release of Blacc’s “All Love Everything” as well as on Rimes’ upcoming album “God’s Work,” out on May 14.
Ian Kelly, “Kells Is D.E.A.D.” (Jamla): Released in late January, the latest album from the Oakland rapper slipped through the cracks for us until now, but there’s some choice lyricism here to pair with throwback soul productions. Part of the East Bay’s Grand Nationxl hiphop crew, Kelly is on excellent North Carolina label Jamla’s roster, and “Kells Is D.E.A.D” features production from one of the most wellrespected beat minders in hiphop, Grammy winner 9th Wonder (produced for Rapsody, Beyoncé, etc.) and the Grammynominated Eric G. Standout track “Soul of a Man” is set to a James Brown sample as Kelly embarks on a lyrical maelstrom that pulls no punches: “Gentrification take all these buildings and then steady buy ’em/ Pushin’ out my loved ones, to them it’s just a daily triumph/ I say we buy the hood back and turn it into Zion.” This is impressive Oakland hiphop, and it says a lot about what Kelly is capable of that he’s been tapped by Jamla and these decorated producers.