Honkin' on Bobo 2 stars
On Aerosmith's new album Honkin' on Bobo, the five rockers take a positive new step -- the album doesn't sound exactly like the band's last few. However, this is also the downfall of the record. Steven Tyler and gang attempt the blues on their latest effort -- with limited success. Tyler tries to contort his voice into a less screeching form to better emulate the famous blues sound, but he falls short. The songs inevitably turn into a version of Tyler's, complete with earsplitting shrieks. In the group's remake of "Baby Please Don't Go," Aerosmith desecrates the Big Joe Williams original. The rest of the album sounds as though it has been done before -- but much better -- by other bands.
-- Alexis Nanovic
Jimmie's Chicken Shack
Re.present 1 star The last album from Jimmie's Chicken Shack -- 1999's Bring Your Own Stereo -- was a tremendous effort from the Annapolis, Maryland band. Gluing elements of hard rock, reggae and the occasional acoustic piece together with an extraordinary pop simplicity, the Shack appeared to be poised towards high-perching vistas. The band's newest LP, Re.present, is nearly a complete obliteration of that formula, replacing the hooks with churning, heavy guitars and spontaneous anger. Clearly influenced by hard rock bands like Staind (Aaron Lewis even appears on the album's first song), Jimmie's Chicken Shack has abandoned its unique sound in a truly disappointing metal cop-out.
-- Jim Newell
Impossible Dream 4 stars Patty Griffin is one of the best unheard artists of the last five years. Her most recent album, Impossible Dream, finds her sound more raw than a fall morning after the first frost. Griffin's voice is truly her finest instrument. It will cut your heart out with its anguished cries on "Useless Desires," then wrap you up in a goose down quilt and put you to bed on the tender "Mother of God." Her Americana influence rings true throughout the album but is set aside for some backwoods gospel blues on the standout "Don't Come Easy." With more music like this on the airwaves, we might all turn out just a little bit better.
-- Will Fenton
Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Funeral for a Friend
Hailing from the birthplace of jazz, the Dirty Dozen hit it off in '77 playing local gigs. Since then the band has produced 10 albums and performed with the likes of Miles Davis, Elvis Costello and Dave Matthews Band. The group incorporates R&B, funk and other genres into its distinctive New Orleans brass band sound.
Around the turn of the century, brass bands played funeral dirges. When they had done their duty and the mourners left them behind, they would break out into joyful noise and get strangers dancing in the streets. Funeral for a Friend, written in memory of the late band member Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen, brings that reverent jubilation back from the dead. From the slow instrumentals to the gospel songs, each track swings with a love of life.
-- Anne Henochowicz
Good News for People Who Love Bad News
This is the first new Modest Mouse album since 2000's standout The Moon & Antarctica, and while Good News isn't as solid as the previous album, standout tracks like "Bury Me With It" and "Bukowski" rival anything the band has ever done. While it's too scattered to be called a concept album, Good News sees singer Isaac Brock dealing with his own uncertainty and confusion: "If God controls the land and disease/ And keeps a watchful eye on me/ If He's really so damn important/ Well than my problem is I can't see/ Who would want to be such a control freak?" If only the last third of the album wasn't forgettable, Good News could have been spectacular instead of merely great.
-- Billy Beckerman
RBG: Revolutionary But Gangsta
The revolution is here. Despite a couple of years in label limbo, Dead Prez return with the incendiary bomb of an album, RGB : Revolutionary But Gangsta. Channeling Gil Scott-Heron and the Black Panthers, MC's Stic and M1 attack the system and damn the man. In a hip hop world oversaturated with "bling," their socially conscious message is welcome.
On standout tracks such as "Walk Like a Warrior," Dead Prez combines fiery lyrics with thumping beats. At other times, the music falls short of the message, making for sluggish results. Most striking about RGB are the ideological inconsistencies. On "Radio Freq," Dead Prez holler at the people to "Turn off the radio/ Turn off that bull." But a couple of tracks later, they're calling in Top 40 king Jay-Z to remix their single "Hell Yeah (Pimp the System)." But if selling more albums pays the rent, then Dead Prez are all for it, because "We all gotta hustle/ This is the way we survive."
-- Ross Clark