New Releases: June 13


Western Stars is a dream come true for Springsteen

Springsteen is long overdue a majestic record. "Western Stars" is like that moment when you are about to watch a movie, and they move all the curtains to make the screen as large as possible.

String-laden, thoroughly modern and elegantly written, "Western Stars" is Springsteen in brilliant Technicolor.

The beautiful "There Goes My Miracle" pays tribute to Roy Orbison as Springsteen's vibrato soars higher. "Tucson Train" works with the same theme adding twangy guitars, while "Hello Sunshine" floats on buoyant piano chords and a haunting steel guitar. "Western Stars" feels unreal and slightly ethereal. Guess it should; after all, it is Springsteen's dream come true.


Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest

(LP/CD)(Drag City)

The mellifluous Mr.Callahan is best known for winding remembrances and songs that roam without conclusion. "Shepherd" is his most stream-of-consciousness and present-day writing.

Like classics "Sycamore" and "The Well," these are lengthy, pastoral jams where the repetition of phrases (or ideas) are there to frame his work. If 2013's "Dream River" was poetry, "Shepherd" compiles the best pages of his six years of journals.

Now a father, Callahan resists the urge to describe his new role in any terms used before. "747" canonizes "flies on a mule" as Callahan speaks prophetically about new life. "Morning Is My Godmother" is a meditation and for the first time Callahan tackles death on "Circles" and the centerpiece "The Beast."

With its very minimal instrumentation (think Leonard Cohen in front of Van Morrison's band circa "Astral Weeks"), "Shepherd" simply must be allowed to uncoil. After declaring "that it is good to be writing again" (on the apropos "Writing"), Callahan carefully removes each layer of mystery and the hints of his life slowly begin come into focus. "Shepherd" is first a celebration of being lost ("The past never gave me anything but the blues" on "Young Icarus"), then on second, third, fourth listen being found.


Turn Off the News (Build A Garden

(Build A Garden )(Fantasy)

Hot off of his stint co-writing songs for "A Star Is Born" and continuing their run as Neil Young's backing band, Nelson and his group have gelled and want to make that big, soaring ROCK record.

The Tom Petty-ish "Bad Case" wields a fantastic chorus and a guitar-laden coda that could go on forever. Aided by Kesha, the stop-time "Save A Little Heartache" introduces a new flavor into their palette. "Turn Off The News" finds the band growing more accessible at just the right moment in their career.


The Book of Traps and Lessons

(CD/LP forthcoming)(American)

British poet Tempest has been writing fiercely since she was just 16. After making a splash with her own Tiny Desk Concert and a startling appearance on The Comet Is Coming's "Blood of the Past" earlier this year, Tempest is finally ready for her opening salvo.

"The Book of Traps and Lessons" is a doozy. Rick Rubin and Dan Carey provide beautiful shifting musical accompaniment that accentuates the raw emotion within Tempest's very melodic poetry.

As a poet, Tempest is out to shake things up blending the personal with the prophetic. With that, I could only withdraw a few heroic couplets that encapsulate her power.

Definitely one of the best of the year.

1. "If I am in pieces, is it easier to see?" - "I Trap You"

2. "Our leaders aren't even pretending not to be demons." - "Three Sided Coin"

3. "We are online renting our outrage, teaching the future that is performance and vanity." - "All Humans Too Late"

4.  "Know the wolves that haunt you. In time, they will be the dogs that bring your slippers." - "Hold Your Own"

5. "Our lessons will come again tomorrow because they weren't learned today." - "Lessons"