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Taking a Listen: Reviews of local and state music CDs

by Heather MacIntyre

Scarlett Johansson – Anywhere I Lay My Head

I don’t know how this announcement couldn’t have shocked anyone – or at least made you scoff at the idea. There are very few actresses-made-singers that are noteworthy when it comes to recording music, and showing talent over show. For some reason though, she just didn’t hit the target hard enough to blow me away. It was almost safe for her to hide behind the obscurity of Tom Waits, ignoring creativity or any option of songwriting herself. The arrangements seemed very heavily influenced by her backing band. A few to mention: Nick Skinny of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and a few members of TV on the Radio, and so on. We get it: You’re indie rock, Scarlett. Her vocals didn’t require training to explore the odd whisper and limited range of actual tone. Sometimes, it teetered a little on and off pitch. All in all, I wasn’t head over heels. But it wasn’t all ugly. You can’t put the album in, knowing the originals and being aware of her flawless face, and be completely disappointed. Though Waits didn’t really have what most would call “big hits” he did have tracks you would assume to be more obvious choices for covers, and Johansson strayed from them – but why? I have already heard in conversation that people were impressed with the less-known tunes she decided on, and I can only hope that impressed-critic reactions wasn’t her motivation with this. I can’t be a complete “hater” to someone for just wanting to follow in the steps of someone they admire to the degree she has exclaimed for Waits. Besides, I probably would do the same thing with Bonnie Raitt if I had the time, talent, money and press. I mean come on, it must get boring being a movie star, why not try music in your off time?

Myspace.com/scarlettalbum

Rating: 2.5 records (out of 5)

Tony Low – Time Across The Page

He’s one of the originals of New York’s garage-psychedelic pop band the Cheepskates – does that date his experience with music back far enough? Now, the folk-pop singer/songwriter resides in the heart of the Triad, writing music in Kernersville. The music is laid out in a very simplistic manner: The rhythm is poppy and enjoyable on a summer drive, or outside at a town festival, and the way he pronounces his lyrics is very specific, heavy on consonants and a little flat with some vowels. The overall product somehow works. His voice is still light and soothing, happy and smiley – a little like someone who maybe sang on a kids TV show for too long, like “Blues Clues,” and then decided one day to start a career. My favorite is the light touch of ’50s pop sound you get on a couple of the slower ballads. Musically, I enjoy the variety he chose with drums, keyboards, cello, recorder and trumpet on a few of the tracks. You might recognize some of the other NC inputs on the output of the album: Benjy Johnson, Scotty Irving, Melanie Tuttle and Virginia Keast. The album was record in its entirety in the Triad at Earthtones Recording in Greensboro (earthtonesrecording.com) with production help from Benjy Johnson – why does that name sound so familiar? Does Benj-o-matic ring a bell? It should, Greensboro’s own (myspace.com/benjomatic) definitely lent one of their members as a partner in crime with Low during the making of the record. Write in what you think of the few tracks he has up online, and you might win the album for free: heather@yesweekly.com.

Myspace.com/tonylowmusic

Rating: 3 records (out of 5)

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