Deer Tick--Divine Providence (Partisan): John McCauley's latest under the Deer Tick moniker might be his best effort yet, with a loose but propulsive sound that's kind of
like alt country-meets-the Replacements. It's crude, lyrically nasty, drunken and even nasal (in a good way), which appeals to to me, because I love kind of stupid stuff like the U.K. band the Vibrators from thirty years ago. Real rock'n'roll isn't so easy to track down these days, and Divine Providence has the important elements.
Fiona Boyes--Blues for Hard Times (Vizztone): Skillful Australian singer-guitarist who's been at it for twenty years and has been making records in Austin for awhile now. Boyes' singing is passionate, sometimes gutteral and often funny, while her guitar playing is clean and first rate. Her sense of history doesn't start with Chicago blues, either (although Blues for Hard Times contains a Muddy Waters tribute), as she's adept at Reverend Gary Davis-style finger picking, too. "Drink to Your Health" features one of those perfect rock and blues followup lines--"until I ruin my own"--but practically every track on this entire largely-acoustic outing has much to offer.
The Best of Leon Russell (Capitol): A really welcome single disc collection that covers most of Leon's solo highlights while representing his collaborations with Marc Benno (as the Asylum Choir) and last year's Elton John pairing. A lack of liner notes and track annotation really hurts the packaging, but on the plus side, Best Of includes Leon's still-remarkable "Jumpin' Jack Flash/Young Blood" medley from The Concert for Bangladesh. It runs about 66 minutes, and if my CD burner hadn't died recently, there would have been room to add three of my favorites that were left off this fun yet flawed anthology: "Roll Away the Stone," "Of Thee I Sing" and "Magic Mirror" (I used to hear the latter on WCAR/Detroit, an AM station that played album cuts because many people didn't have an FM radio in their vehicles in 1972) from Leon's first three and finest albums. Makes a good gift.