JUST LIKE MEDICINE
A.J. Croce (Compass Records)
From the moment blues pianist A.J. Croce starts boppin’ on the keyboard with the opening number, “Gotta Get Outta My Head,” this disc is set up to be something special.
What follows is a great song Croce co-wrote with the late Leon Russell, “The Heart That Makes Me Whole,” featuring guitarist Steve Cropper, and a song Croce’s father, the late folk-pop singer Jim Croce, wrote but never released, “Name of the Game,” featuring Vince Gill.
Croce — whose past work has run the gamut from New Orleans-style jazz to blues to rock and even some country — goes heavy into soul for this delightful, nourishing collection of feel-good, heartfelt, and introspective songs. The album gets its title from a song called “Cures Just Like Medicine.”
This disc has a passionate enough vibe to cure what ails you. Also featured are the McCrary Sisters and others on this, Croce’s ninth studio album.
— TOM HENRY, The Blade
LUKAS NELSON & PROMISE OF THE REAL
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real (Fantasy Records)
First, let’s just get this out there: Lukas Nelson sounds a lot like his famous dad, the red-headed stranger better known as Willie Nelson.
Secondly, don’t let the striking similarities in their vocal styles and deliveries cloud your judgment of the younger Nelson. At 28, he is the real deal and deserves to be treated seriously independent of his father’s legacy.
On his latest self-titled release with his six-piece band Promise of the Real, Lukas Nelson delivers a haunting collection of 12 songs that’s steeped in musical influences from his dad to recently departed Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings, and Neil Young — whom Promise of the Real has backed.
Lady Gaga appears on a couple tracks and vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Lessig of the indie-pop group Lucius back Nelson on the opening, and best, tune “Set Me Down on a Cloud.” Nelson's quivering vocals over more than 7-minute country-rock ballad, accented by his lilting guitar and Lucius’ singing, is enough to give you goosebumps.
“Set me down on a cloud, with my soul turned inside out,” Nelson sings in the song he’s said is about a friend whose child died in an accident. He delivers it so convincingly, you know exactly how he feels.
It’s a bold and inspired choice to open the record and sets the tone for the entire soulful collection that should make his dad proud.
— SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press
Tom Brosseau (Crossbill)
A character in a Tom Brosseau song doesn’t just cry — he wipes his eyes with his tie. Such details magnify the beauty in Brosseau’s precise performing style.
The wonderfully quirky North Dakota singer-songwriter goes live on Treasures Untold, and the show’s pace is unhurried from the start, with lengthy silence between songs contributing to the reflective mood. The recording opens not with the swell of a cheering crowd, but the sound of coins dribbling on a table in an otherwise quiet room.
Next there’s a lengthy, typically eclectic acoustic guitar intro. The set showcases Brosseau’s spartan, deceptively accomplished playing.
Then comes his high tenor, an intimate and inviting instrument that makes a listener lean forward. At times Brosseau sings a cappella, or accompanies himself with a single plucked string, and he has a first-class hum.
Original tunes are mixed with well-chosen covers by such heavyweights as Hank Williams, A.P. Carter, and Jimmie Rodgers. Brosseau sings of misplaced trust, eternal damnation, and love at first sight. There’s also a nod to Indian food.
The album was recorded in Cologne, Germany, of all places. “I had a mind for rambling, so far away from home,” Brosseau sings. When the spectators applaud, it sounds as if there are a couple of dozen people present. They’re lucky to be.
— STEVEN WINE, Associated Press
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