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taking a listen

by Ryan Snyder

reviews of local & state music CDs

Joe Nichols Old Things New Something seems slightly awry with Joe Nichols’ (www.joenichols.com) sixth album Old Things New when the first single “Believers” is released to radio play six months before the album itself is on the shelves. It’s almost as if the label is bracing itself for a dud and hoping that enough time passes that listeners will disassociate as bad song from well, a bad album. Its pseudo-religious themes don’t exactly give it the makeup to be a summertime hit, it didn’t chart well at all (No. 53 country single) and it couldn’t be saved by harmonies from the golden-voiced Vince Gill. All things considered, it’s a pretty good representation of what is overall a weak effort from a guy who should have had plenty of time and motivation to put together a meaningful composition while he was checked into rehab only a month after getting married to his girlfriend of more than a decade. At only 10 tracks, all of them under four minutes in length, Old Things New comes across as a mostly disingenuous, mass-produced country throwaway, trudging by on tired subject matter (“Gimme That Girl”) and a vaguely beachy feel (“Man. Woman”). Even “The Shape I’m In” hints at the promise of a cover of the Band classic, but disappoints as a rehash of workingmanloses-woman-takes-vacation. The only allusion to Nichols’ battle against alcohol abuse is the album’s somber finale “An Old Friend of Mine,” which is also the album’s only vaguely likeable piece. “Today I did something I never thought I’d do,” Nichols says as he remembers fondly the substance that sent him to rehab in the first place. Yes, it seems a little backwards, but Old Things New isn’t exactly a step forward, either.

45/100

Jive Mother Mary All Fall Down There aren’t many instances in which minors can be tried as adults, but the court of music opinion is one of them and Burlington’s Jive Mother Mary (www.myspace.com/jivemothermary) endures judgment as well as any of their elders. This power trio of hell-raising 17-year-olds is a true rock throwback, steeped in the early British blues-rock of Eric Clapton and the ’90s Southern rock of the Black Crowes, and their debut album All Fall Down runs the gamut of everything in between. The beyond-his-years voice of lead singer and guitarist Mason Keck can most accurately be described as a young Chris Robinson, while his guitar wails over the pounding rhythm section of bassist Nathan Coe and drummer Seth Aldridge. Keck displays command over so many styles, from funky blues (“Save Me”) to gospel-tinged slide (“Holy Roller”) and never repeats the same phrasings from song to song. Produced by John Custer (Corrosion of Conformity), All Fall Down is a subtle blend of the Crowes’ The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion and Silverchair’s Frogstomp, though it’s not quite as lyrically-driven as the Crowes’ and it’s more rugged than Silverchair’s offerings. Yet no matter how mature their sound, there is always going to be something just a little creepy about 17-year-olds singing about a girl with “Bedroom Eyes.” The songs are occasionally a tad formulaic and thematically narrow in scope, but for a first album by a group of teenagers, it’s as solid as they come.

70/100

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