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RECORD RACK

A Haden Family outing

September 23, 2008|Randy Lewis; August Brown; Ann Powers

Charlie Haden

Rambling Boy

(Decca)

* * *

The disconnect between the worlds of jazz and country music was crystallized many years ago when celebrated drummer Buddy Rich was in the hospital. Just before going into surgery, Rich was asked by a nurse if he was allergic to anything. "Yes," Rich famously replied. "Country and western music."

Fortunately, not all jazz masters share his view. Renowned jazz bassist Charlie Haden comes by his affinity for country honestly. Before he joined saxophonist Ornette Coleman's quartet in the 1950s, Haden was the youngest member of the traveling Haden Family, which played country and bluegrass.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, September 24, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Charlie Haden album: In some copies of Tuesday's Calendar section, a review of the new album by Charlie Haden gave its title as "Family & Friends." The album by Charlie Haden Family & Friends is called "Rambling Boy."

At 71, Charlie Haden decided to convene a new-generation Haden Family act for this project, in stores today: his wife, Ruth, triplet daughters Petra, Rachel and Tanya, son Josh and son-in-law Jack Black invited friends, including Elvis Costello, Vince Gill, Pat Metheny, Ricky Skaggs, Rosanne Cash, Bruce Hornsby and Dan Tyminksi.

It's a truly heartwarming outing that, despite his jazz resume, sticks mostly to country tradition. The triplets harmonize exquisitely on the Carter Family chestnut that opens the album, "Single Girl, Married Girl," and Josh gets the spotlight on his own song, "Spiritual," which Johnny Cash sang so hauntingly on his "Unchained" album. Charlie closes things out with a rendition of the traditional "Oh Shenandoah," in a touching salute to his birthplace of Shenandoah, Iowa.

As far as we know, Buddy Rich never apologized for his jab at country music; Haden, thankfully, is more interested in building bridges than walls.

-- Randy Lewis

Kings of Leon make the leap

Kings of Leon

Only by the Night

(RCA)

* * 1/2

If it ever felt silly to still call Kings of Leon a "Southern rock band," the group's "Only by the Night" should do away with that tag entirely. Here the Kings are making a claim to join the upper echelons of arena-ready guitar bands, taking cues from Radiohead and onetime tourmates U2. It's a convincing fit for the extended Followill clan, whose salty earnestness grounds some epic production.

Caleb Followill's voice still sounds like a desperate ex-boyfriend yelling up to his lady's bedroom while her dad polishes the shotgun in the living room.

Yet on "Only by the Night," he's dipping a toe into some dicey Lothario terrain. "Sex on Fire" is a song title that should appear only on a Prince record, and while "17" tries to best Steely Dan in critiquing barely illegal youthful indiscretions, complimenting the "rolling of your Spanish tongue" should put the band on some kind of watch list.

But Kings of Leon don't play pickup lines for laughs -- the band's playing for lighters-up transcendence. In an age when overwhelming sonics are as accessible as a laptop, it's reassuring to see a band reach for them with conviction.

-- August Brown

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New territory for TVOTR

TV on the Radio

Dear Science

(DGC/Interscope Records)

* * * *

"Dear Science," the third album from the Brooklyn-based art rock band TV on the Radio, is a vivid, angry, sensual soundtrack to the haunted life. A leading cult band in the post-Radiohead era, TVOTR digs out some hooks from the deeply layered mulch of its sound on "Dear Science." The "ba ba ba" vocal line in "Halfway Home" and the electroclash beats and rap-punk ranting on "Dancing Choose" are two examples of the sunlight hitting the band's noise-collage grooves.

But TVOTR's take on pop is still highly intellectual. For this quintet, accessible songcraft isn't an end in itself as much as an entryway into new thematic territory. If past efforts found beauty in urban decay and post-millennial tension, "Dear Science" takes a risk on the opposite impulse: exploring how desire and the drive toward self-expression survive in an America that's falling apart.

Singer-songwriter Kyp Malone gets explicit on "Lover's Day," a heavy come-on that would be a dirty blues if not for its chamber-pop arrangement. Tunde Adebimpe, the band's other vocalist and main songwriter, gives his longing a more gentlemanly cast on "Family Tree," whose resonant string arrangement lends a Victorian sheen to a melancholy marriage proposal.

In the lyrics, Adebimpe refers to the "gallows of your family tree" -- an image that means more when considered in the light of an old folk song, "Gallows Tree," and the history of lynching that it invokes. Four of TVOTR's members are black, and more than ever on this funk-infected set, its music reflects the struggle to love, hope and speak truth that all compassionate people face in a society that hasn't outlived the legacy of those hangings.

-- Ann Powers

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