Short cuts: Mark Lanegan, Martin Turner, Neil Finn + Paul Kelly

Box Set Review: Mark Lanegan – The One Way Street
Sub Pop Records
All Access Rating: A-

Mark Lanegan - One Way
Street 2015
Near and dear to Mark Lanegan's world-weary heart, the subject of loss often drops by to visit the writings of the former Screaming Trees' lead singer. Those affected by the prolonged absence of some of Lanegan's most cherished works might be tempted to buy a round for the house when they hear the news: Vinyl editions of Lanegan's first five solo albums on Sub Pop Records – some of previously out of print, others never-before-released via this medium – will be available, thanks to the release of The One Way Street, a new box set. That rich, weatherbeaten baritone of his, perfectly calibrated for boozy, late-night meditations on loneliness, sin and salvation, feels like a warm, if scratchy, wool blanket on recordings that till the fertile soil of traditional country, blues and folk. An outlier of sorts, but only because it's a covers LP, 1999's I'll Take Care of You finds Lanegan giving spare, haunting acoustic readings of Tim Hardin's "Shiloh Town" and The Gun Club's "Carry Home," while Brook Benton's "I'll Take Care of You," Overton Vertis Wright's "On Jesus' Program" and "Creeping Coastline of Lights" by Leaving Trains are awash in ominous noir atmospherics. Field Songs, Lanegan's fifth and final solo LP for Sub Pop, offers swirling psychedelia ("No Easy Action" (featuring Wendy Rae Fowler), a shimmering instrumental ("Blues for D") and confident country swing ("Don't Forget Me"), but it's the growing unease and thorny beauty of "Resurrection Songs" that creeps into your subconscious like a dangerous squatter. Making up a trilogy of sorts, 1990's The Winding Sheet, 1994's Whiskey For The Holy Ghost and 1998's Scraps at Midnight drives deep into the dark heart of Americana, as occasional angry, distorted outbursts such as "Borracho" and the agonized sawing of violins in "Carnival" break lush reveries of full, rich instrumentation and inky blackness of "Hotel," "Praying Ground," "The River Rise" and "Kingdoms of Rain" – just a few of the noteworthy tracks from an exhaustive collection. Much of this material was nearly lost to time, but it's been found. Some of the troubled souls in Lanegan's songs wish for a similar recovery.

CD Review: Martin Turner – Written In The Stars
Cherry Red Records
All Access Rating: A-

Martin Turner - Written in
The Stars 2015
Turning his gaze skyward for inspiration, Martin Turner – bassist, lead singer, main songwriter and co-founder of U.K. progressive-rock innovators Wishbone Ash – conjures Written In The Stars, a heavenly clutch of songs with diverse, celestial melodies and fresh uses for old, familiar tricks. Trotting out the curving twin-lead guitar forays on an urgent, pulsating title track and "The Lonely Star" that made Wishbone Ash a sensation in the early '70s, Turner creates tuneful passages with delightfully unexpected twists and turns in "Lovers" – a charming, romantic folk-pop ditty reminiscent of George Harrison and the Traveling Wilburys – and "Vapour Trail," with its bright, twinkling guitars. Nods to Turner's classical influences are found in the bombastic orchestral intro "The Big Bang (Overture)," the wondrous closer "Interstellar Rockstar" and "For My Lady," with its English folk traditions giving way to a crashing crescendo. Mixing acoustic and electric guitars to create starry harmonies in "Falling Sands," Turner also wanders the desert in the instrumental "The Beauty of Chaos," with its sweeping, Western soundscape. Written in the Stars is a spellbinding listen.

CD Review: Neil Finn and Paul Kelly – Goin' Your Way
Omnivore Records
All Access Rating: A

Neil Finn + Paul Kelly - Goin'
Your Way 2015
With Crowded House and Split Enz, New Zealand's Neil Finn earned critical adoration and worldwide fame for crafting elegant, dreamy pop-rock that's open-hearted and full of romantic insight. Known for his eclectic taste and poetic lyrics, Paul Kelly is one of Australia's greatest musical exports, an everyman and that rare breed of singer-songwriter that happens to be Finn's equal. Bound together by a mutual admiration, they toured Australia in 2013 with a band consisting of Kelly's nephew, Dan, on guitar and Finn's son, Elroy, on drums, as well as Zoe Hauptmann on bass. Their glorious performance at the Sydney Opera House was recorded and released Down Under that year, cracking the Top 5 on the charts on its way to becoming a gold record. Until now, the only way to get it outside of Australia or New Zealand was to buy it as a pricey import, but in December, it'll become available the world over, thanks to Omnivore Recordings. And what an absolute treasure it is, impeccably recorded with crystalline sound to bring out the glow and sparkle of these exquisite 29 tracks, as well as the cheery enthusiasm of a crowd that had clearly fallen in love with Finn and Kelly all over again. Cleaved into two discs, this impressive set, which mines both of their collective back catalogs, exudes charm, as the bright, buoyant "For The Ages," "Careless" and "Leaps and Bounds" step lively with tight hooks in hand around the flowing, stylish and darkly luxuriant rushes of "Four Seasons In One Day," "Winter Coat" and "Fall At Your Feet" – all of them not-so-distant cousins of the captivating Crowded House smash hit "Don't Dream It's Over," also beautifully rendered here. Strummed guitar harmonies, rolling piano and easy, melodic rhythms that never leave the pocket galvanize "Dumb Things," "Better Be Home Soon," "Before Too Long," "Distant Sun" and "To Her Door," as the wistful jangle of "Deeper Water" sighs with satisfaction. A summit of brilliant songwriters, Goin' Your Way finds two old friends who are fascinated with each other's songs, intent on discovering new and interesting things about them that they are eager to share with the rest of us. Hopefully, Finn and Kelly are Goin' Your Way. If so, catch a ride.
– Peter Lindblad

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