CD Reviews

Electric Folk

Richard Thompson Dream Attic (Shout! Factory)

Richard Thompson - Dream Attic

In a perfect world, British singer, songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson would be selling out arenas and Eric Clapton would be shining shoes. His pyrotechnical six-string work is revered by musicians and still sells copies of Guitar Player magazine, but his songwriting is actually better. With Dream Attic, his 14th album of original material, Thompson made the choice to record the new songs live, performances culled from three shows at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco with minimal rehearsals beforehand. The musicianship is incredible, the energy raucous—from the stomping, sax-fueled (courtesy of Pete Zorn) Wall Street takedown of “The Money Shuffle” to the bluesy, bittersweet, greasy-fretboard strut of “Demons in Her Dancing Shoes.” There are ballads, too, such as “A Brother Slips Away,” which contains Thompson’s best solo and lyrics to date: “That old poet’s vision still coursing through your veins/It breaks my heart to know/I’ll never see your face again.” Dream Attic is crammed full of musical treasures. ★★★★★

Late-Night Indie

Kelli Scarr Piece (Silence Breaks)

Kelli Scarr - Piece

Moonraker guitarist, Moby collaborator and Emmy-nominated HBO documentary composer Kelli Scarr specializes in lush yet intimate indie-pop arrangements that fall somewhere between Cat Power and New Buffalo, but with more of a late-night/early-morning ambient eeriness. Much as I don’t have time for what currently seems like a deluge of quiet indie-folk, Scarr’s full-length debut shouldn’t be glossed over. “Salt to the Sea,” with its simple, majestic piano chords and Scarr’s layered, wordless vocal harmonies are borderline psychedelic and will compel you to step outside after dark and stare up at the stars, pondering your insignificance. The jaunty, mandolin-strummed march of “Driftwood” floats dangerously and delightfully close to the children’s music genre, while “The Wonder,” a song about Scarr’s baby son sleeping and waking in his crib, tugs at the heartstrings. Spare without being minimalist, Piece is content to let the mysteries of life be, and to instead cherish its beautiful incompleteness. ★★★★☆


David Dondero #Zero With a Bullet (Team Love)

David Dondero - Zero With a Bullet

Rowdy, ragged, literate, punk-tinged alt-country rock sounds a helluva easier than it is, because so few bands get it right. For every Lucero, there’s a whole parade of flawed impostors, but not Austin, Texas’ David Dondero. His latest album revels in loose, upbeat, guitar-strummed rock with an outlaw bent. “Neighborhood’s cleaning up/I guess that means the rent’s on the rise,” he sings in the anti-gentrification anthem “Just a Baby in Your Momma’s Eyes,” full of downtrodden characters increasingly pushed to the margins of the American dream. “Jesus From 12 to 6” sketches the desperate existence of a junkie clawing his way toward salvation or oblivion or both. The only weak moment here is the too-personal (yet very funny upon first listen) country-sounding indie-rock lament of the title track, which bemoans the impossible existence of a music man in today’s pernicious industry, a song so miserable it almost sounds like a veiled suicide threat. Stay strong, Dondero. Your gorgeous songs will save you in the end. ★★★☆☆

Suggested Next Read

Neon Reverb DJ selects seven acts that could be next year’s Best Band

Neon Reverb DJ selects seven acts that could be next year’s Best Band

Donald Hickey, better known as “The Donald,” is the pervasive voice behind Neon Reverb Radio 91.5 KUNV. The full-time airline pilot started hosting the weekly show to bring “modern, left-of-the-dial music to Las Vegas.” The longtime Las Vegan’s Saturday show features independent artists from across the nation mixed side-by-side with local artists, making him the right guy to spot the Valley’s finest locally grown bands.