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Folk - Released July 24, 2018 | Capitol Records

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Folk - Released July 24, 2018 | Capitol Records

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Country - Released January 1, 2013 | Capitol Records

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Country - Released January 1, 2012 | Capitol Records

Two years after The Reason Why, Little Big Town returned in 2012 with Tornado, their fifth album and, justifiably, perhaps their poppiest yet. Capitalizing on the success of The Reason Why -- it topped the Billboard country charts and generated the gold hit single "Little White Church," a song that expertly spliced their down-home inclinations and passion for '70s SoCal soft rock -- Little Big Town open up their sound, once again emphasizing harmonies and melodies, encasing them in a sleek, gleaming production that pushes them ever closer to the mainstream. Some hints of purer country remain but they're slight -- apart from a fairly insistent celebration of backwoods living, the insistent two-step opener "Pavement Ends" and the tongue-in-cheek hoe-down of "Front Porch Thing" is pretty much all there is -- and the strange thing is, the harder country isn't really missed. Little Big Town are so savvy in how they update and countrify Fleetwood Mac that it's easy to be oblivious to the receding down-home tide within their music. Nobody has been quite so deft at re-creating the nimble soft rock of the Mac's '80s peak -- "Leavin' in Your Eyes" could ease onto Mirage with no problem -- but Little Big Town isn't stuck there, they've freshened up the breezy melodics and silken settings, giving the music a true modern stomp at times (when they aim for the arena they have anthems that can fill it) but always keeping those gorgeous harmonies at the forefront. Forget the limiting rubric of country-pop: this is one of the best mainstream pop albums of 2012. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2012 | Capitol Records

There's a reason George Jones gets name-checked in so many country songs a dozen years into the 21st century -- he is, by many and most accounts, the best and finest pure country vocalist in the history of the genre. This brief ten-song set barely scratches the surface of that legacy, but it does include two of his biggest hits for United Artists Records, 1962's "She Thinks I Still Care," which hit number one on the country charts, and 1964's "The Race Is On," which rose to number three. © Steve Leggett /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2011 | Capitol Records

Now deleted, this 25-song collection is as close as Capitol has gotten so far to doing a definitive collection on one of the label's founding artists. Ritter spent 31 years on the label, with successful singles in each decade of his relationship with Capitol from 1942 until 1973, and one would think that Capitol could do someone with a record like that some justice. There are some classics here, including "Rye Whiskey" and "Blood on the Saddle," as well as the obligatory "High Noon," but, like the rest of the Capitol Collectors Series, this disc was unsatisfying to true fans, leaving out more than a few worthy album tracks, not to mention a single or two that should be represented, even as it was too ambitious for the casual listener. (Out of print.) © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2011 | Capitol Records

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Country - Released January 1, 2011 | Capitol Records

Desert Horizon is harmonica player Norton Buffalo's second solo album, although it might be more appropriate to borrow terminology from jazz and describe it as his second album "as a leader." Not that Desert Horizon is a jazz album -- actually, the musical style would best be described as country-flavored pop/rock -- but Buffalo, a long-time sideman, has gathered a studio full of notable musicians to join him, including Bill Champlin of the Sons of Champlin and Nicolette Larson on background vocals, Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead on percussion, and guitarist Greg Douglas and drummer Gary Mallaber, bandmates of Buffalo's in the Steve Miller Band. As some of these names suggest, the country inflections in the music derive not so much from Nashville as from Marin County, California. This is cosmic cowboy stuff, a kind of neo-Western swing, and to play it Buffalo has employed no less than three steel guitar players. He sings the songs in a clear, adenoidal tenor, often double-tracking the voice to give it body, and, as might be expected, he takes up much of the space with his harmonica solos, which are more country than bluesy, and certainly very smooth. Buffalo's solo work doesn't seem likely to lead to a big career as a leader, but it sounds like everybody had fun in the studio on Desert Horizon. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Country - Released September 18, 2009 | Capitol Records

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Blues - Released January 1, 2007 | Capitol Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Here's a very reasonable compromise between the pricey Mosaic box and EMI's incomplete single-disc treatment of Milburn's Aladdin legacy: a three-disc, 66-song package that's heavy on boogies and blues and slightly deficient in the ballad department (to that end, his smash "Bewildered" was left off). Everything that is aboard is top-drawer, though -- the booze odes, many a party rocker, and a plethora of the double-entendre blues that Milburn reveled in during his early years. The absent 1956 remake of "Chicken Shack Boogie" is a humongous omission, though. © Bill Dahl /TiVo
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Folk - Released January 1, 2007 | Capitol Records

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Country - Released January 1, 2006 | Capitol Records

In the 22 months that passed between the release of Rosanne Cash's wonderfully articulated Rules of Travel and Black Cadillac, she became an orphan. She lost her stepmother, June Carter Cash, in May of 2003; her father, Johnny, passed away in September of that same year; and in May of 2005, her mother, Vivian Liberto Cash Distin, left this world as well. According to Cash, she began writing the songs for Black Cadillac in spring 2003 and ended in spring 2005. She began recording in November 2004. In other words, the album is the aural documentation of a process of grief, loss, and acceptance. And though her family was not the typical American family, this set is universal in its concepts. Certainly, it is an elegy; her father's presence is everywhere here. It is also more than that; it is a reckoning, with memory, anger, love, joy, grief, pain, and resolve. The set opens with Johnny's disembodied voice calling her: "Rosanne, c'mon." And the title track kicks into gear with a rumbling bass, a drum kit, and guitars emerging sparsely, surrounding her voice as she sings, "It was a black Cadillac/That drove you away...Now one of us gets to go to heaven/While one has to stay here in hell." The guitars explode into the mix, carrying the refrain, breaking open not only the tune, but her heart: "It was a black Cadillac/Like the one you used to drive/You were always rollin'/But the wheels burnt up your life/It's a black heart of pain I'm wearin'/That suits me just fine/'Cause there was nothin' I could do for you/While you were still alive." These lyrics, the swirling six strings, a funky Fender Rhodes, the crashing of drums, and the distant, tinny horns quoting their place in "Ring of Fire," as the track ends, while it opens up the focus of the rest of the disc -- it becomes the mission statement for the heart-rendering that follows. Cash has a history of searing honesty; Interiors and The Wheel are just two examples. But Black Cadillac engages it in a different way. She disguises nothing. There are no extended painterly metaphors. These are open and direct songs without self-pity, without artifice. Writing about her parents, she expresses regret, but doesn't ask for more time; there is only the open, unbowed humility of gratitude and the weight and burden of history, and experience that results in wisdom. In "I Was Watching You," she recounts her history from youth to age 50 with Johnny, and amid the atmospheric arrangements, she states plaintively, "Long after life/There is love." It's the crack in the record that becomes the catalyst for her search for meaning after these experiences. There are rockers, too, such as "Burn This Town Down," which struts its country, rock, and roots simultaneously. Yet it's all beside the point. From "God Is in the Roses," a nearly straight-up country tune that re-engages faith in God not as a concept, but as a place for the soul to find solace and rest in life's most difficult occurrences, the question of faith looms large on Black Cadillac. In "World Without Sound" she states, "I wish I was a Christian/And knew what to believe/I could learn a lot of rules/To put my mind at ease." "Like Fugitives" indicts religion -- and a few other things -- to a slippery trip-hop rhythm track and expresses anger purely and simply. The rocking "Dreams Are Not My Home" feels like it were written for Dire Straits. The poetic lyric is offered authoritatively against acoustic and electric guitars. This tune is a manifesto. Its refrain digs against the illusions of the past and the many temptations to escape the difficult present: "I want to live in the real world/I want to act like a real girl/I want to know I'm not alone/And that dreams are not my home." The bluesy country-rock in "House on the Lake" (referring to the old Cash home in Hendersonville, TN) evokes memory and the notion of place as a metaphor for passage and return. The guitars turn and wind around mandolin passages that underscore the determined declaration in Cash's voice. Cash has always been a pioneer and experimented freely. Since the release of 1990's Interiors, she has distanced herself -- on records -- from her family's country roots; in the process, she's carved a small niche in the nebulous adult alternative "genre." Black Cadillac shows the songwriter coming full circle without compromise. Her signature brand of country music has become part of her mix again. She has always employed rock and pop sounds even on her early outings. Cash embraces country here as a part of the sonic tapestry that includes every kind of music she's interested in. This set was recorded in Los Angeles with Bill Botrell (the odd numbered cuts) and in New York with husband-producer John Leventhal (the even numbered ones), and it's an album that CMT and even country radio can warm to. (This is interesting, because in 2006 the music the genre consciously employs and strives to include is something Cash helped to pioneer as far back as the 1980s.) This album is extraordinary. It is brave, difficult, and honest. It is utterly moving and beautiful. Because it so successfully marries all of her strengths as a songwriter, singer, and musician, Black Cadillac may be the crowning achievement of her career thus far. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Blues - Released January 1, 2005 | Capitol Records

With the glut of Canned Heat compilations available, what makes this 19-song Capitol/EMI release better than the rest? For starters, the previously unreleased track "Henry's Shuffle," featuring guitarist Henry Vestine and recorded in 1968, which was undoubtedly the zenith year for the band; the inclusion of "Low Down (And High Up)"; the rare Liberty B-side "Time Was," and the rollicking 1970 date with Little Richard, "Rockin' With the King." Also included are several tracks that both the novice and die-hard fan alike would find essential -- three live cuts from the Monterey Pop Festival, a nod to the 1971 collaborative effort with John Lee Hooker on "Whiskey and Wimmen'," and two Woodstock era classics culled from the Boogie with Canned Heat album, "Amphetamine Annie" and "Fried Hockey Boogie." And, of course, what would a Canned Heat compilation be without the bona fide hippie hits: "On the Road Again," "Goin' Up the Country" and "Let's Work Together." These are the original versions, digitally remastered and sounding great, so ignore the glut, this really is the Very Best of Canned Heat. © Al Campbell /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2005 | Capitol Records

Shelby Lynne has been seeking the place inside her music where everything cracks and opens for over a decade. From her Columbia Records debut, she has been writing and singing songs that seek to get underneath themselves and communicate something of the wildness, ambiguity, and emotional depth that is in the grain of her voice. Suit Yourself is a self-produced, loose, organic set of 12 new songs, ten of them originals. Suit Yourself is intimate. Recorded at home and in Nashville, Lynne 's original vocal and guitar demos were used on a part of the album, and she recorded the rest as her band played live from the floor on the Nashville tracks. That band includes Brian "Brain" Harrison on bass (and who mixed the set with Lynne); the Heartbreakers' Benmont Tench on keyboards, pedal steel and mandolin; dobro boss Robby Turner; guitarist Michael Ward; Bryan Owings on drums, and legendary swamp rock guitarist and songwriter Tony Joe White. The feel of these songs is quiet, loose, relaxed, and very immediate. Sounds of ice tinkling in glasses, private conversations, session directions, encouragement, and all manner of whispers and laughter shimmy through the grooves here -- but these informal moments, which seem to exist outside the songs -- inform them the most. The up-tempo, rocking R&B that kicks everything off on "Go With It" is preceded by a conversation and a broken take of the bridge. When the song begins in earnest, Lynne and her band take no prisoners. The guitars ring and shimmer playing staccato against the rhythm section. It's followed by the slow, simmering acoustic paean "Where Am I Now" that feels like it could have been written by a Zen Master: "...Telling's just talking that turns into speeches/Doesn't aid the body with the hand that reaches/Stumble in the void to find there's no one there." "I Cry Everyday" fuses R&B and country-soul like the strands of a cord wrapped around Lynne's voice. Likewise the slippery, back-porch blues rag of "You're the Man" that feels like an open sky on a summer day. The personal manifesto at the heart of "I Won't Die Alone" is one of the finest songs Lynne has ever written, full of resilience fueled by a shuffling rock & roll rhythm, pulsed by brushes on snare and tom-toms in a near military march. And then there's "Johnny Met June," a speculative love song like no other -- it serves as both an elegy and a hymn for the possible, where acoustic guitars ring softly at first, reflectively, but as her tale of sorrow unfolds it transforms itself into a song that is virtually instructive in its meditation on death and reunion; it's full of joy placing love outside the realm of the time-space continuum. Lynne and band also cover a pair of Tony Joe White's tunes. There's a whispering version of his broken-heart ballad "Old Time' Sake, that in Lynne's voice becomes an entirely new song. And then there's the uncredited final track (titled "Track 12"): a cover of "Rainy Night in Georgia," that contains all the passion, elegance and restraint Lynne can muster, proving once again her masterful ability as an interpreter. It's smoky, bluesy, low-lit, and simmers with a passion that bubbles just under the surface of the tune. Suit Yourself is aptly named, Lynne dressed herself this time out with great players and finely wrought songs, and put it all together on her own. This is her finest moment yet. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Folk - Released January 1, 2004 | Capitol Records

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Country - Released January 1, 2004 | Capitol Records

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Country - Released January 1, 2003 | Capitol Records

The Best of Bonnie Raitt on Capitol 1989-2003, its 18 tracks handpicked by the artist herself as a portrait of her renaissance years, are indicative of the high-quality work ethic she has imposed on herself. Sometimes these songs reveal the queen doing a definitive read, such as on John Hiatt's "Lovers Will" (a song that deserves far, far more than it got -- the ache in her voice is the real grain of somebody who has been on both sides of love's hot broken arrow and still has faith enough to sing) or "Thing Called Love." Sometimes she's bringing the songs of Paul Brady ("Not the Only One"), Bonnie Hayes ("Love Letter" and "Have a Heart"), or even David Gray ("Silver Lining") and Richard Thompson ("Dimming of the Day") to the masses in ways that define them for a different audience. And sometimes, it's simply Raitt playing her own songs ("Nick of Time" and "Spit of Love") full of a poetic, sensual ferocity that oozes tenderness and commitment. And throughout it all is her trademark bottleneck slide, coaxing love notes or razored snarls out of her Stratocaster. There aren't any unreleased tracks here, but for the money you get the best of the best and her own comments on each song as well as a short essay about what this music means to her. Given that you don't have that box set (yet), that means this is worth whatever you happen to pay for it -- but don't forget about getting some of those Warner albums (Give It Up is a great place to start). Here is the astonishing range, from deep blue-eyed bluesy soul, sheeny reggae-tinged pop, and adult rock & roll that moves and inspires anyone with an open mind. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2003 | Capitol Records

At every level, Rules of Travel distinguishes itself. A latecomer to songwriting, Rosanne Cash delivers plenty of compelling material, fully comparable in quality to the album's two non-original cuts. She comes up with fresh and intriguing chord changes to end verses and choruses on the title track, and images whose rugged eloquence perfectly fits the early-morning mumble of Steve Earle on "I'll Change for You." On "September When It Comes," she switches to a more homespun, folkloric imagery that suits her father's weathered, timeless rumble. The production values change very subtly according to what best suits each song, from the Wallflowers-oriented roots rock saunter of "Hope Against Hope" to the shadowy urban swing of "Will You Remember Me" to the stark acoustic setting of "Western Wall." Though her voice is hardly the most impressive instrument in country music, Cash knows how to compensate by using an understated approach to more quietly highlight the essence of a song. Given the quality of what she gives herself to work with on Rules of Travel, it's a method that can't miss. © Robert L. Doerschuk /TiVo
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Country - Released January 1, 2003 | Capitol Records

In giving Shelby Lynne's Identity Crisis even a cursory listen one has to ask the question as to whether the titles of Love, Shelby and this one were reversed by accident. While Love, Shelby, produced by Glen Ballard, was a schizoid mess of R&B, rock, and whatever, Identity Crisis is a deeply focused yet wildly adventurous look at American roots and popular musics as processed by Lynne, who is in top songwriting, vocal, and production shape here. Acting as her own producer with help from mixing engineer Bruce Robb, Lynne has penned 12 tough songs that showcase her true gift for lyricism and melody and display the real reach of her vocal prowess on a series of rootsy, souled-out -- sometimes psychedelic -- rockers and pop tunes. The sheer rock & roll abandon of "Gotta Get Better" could have been recorded by Beck, whereas the shimmering, down-tempo folkiness of "I Don't Think So," with gorgeous Fender Rhodes touches by Billy Payne of Little Feat, is harrowing in its heartbroken candor and seductive with its sultry melody that crosses Dusty Springfield with Scott Walker. Elsewhere, such as on the loopy, funky B-3-drenched "I'm Alive," Sheryl Crow's dark side meets the razor-sharp lyric sensibilities of John Mellencamp's Scarecrow-era material. But then, on "Lonesome," the classic countrypolitan-style honky tonk of Owen Bradley with Patsy Cline, or Chet Atkins with Connie Smith comes flowing through like honey in a sieve. The easy bluesy swing -- à la Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith -- on "Buttons and Beaus" is a something Bonnie Raitt might have recorded in the early '70s, if she had a razor's-edge delivery and skewed sense of humor. The tough, acoustic Chicago blues colored by a B-3 makes a standout of "Evil Man." The Tin Pan Alley-meets-Donovan touch on "One With the Sun" makes it the perfect closer, a loopy love song with clever lyrics, pastoral, romantic strings, and a melody that comes from timeless American pop music. Suffice to say, that while Lynne's career has produced many fine recordings -- I Am Shelby Lynne from 2000 being a recent case in point -- Identity Crisis is easily the most consistent record she had released since Tough All Over in 1990, and is without a doubt the most moving, ambitious, and elegant album of her career thus far. She sets a new standard for singers and songwriters with this collection, making it a candidate for any serious Top Ten of 2003. There is no identity crisis here, just the indelible mark of a mature, intense, always engaging artist. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Folk - Released January 1, 2003 | Capitol Records

The Gordon Lightfoot entry in EMI's Classic Masters series of discount-priced compilations is a typical effort and not much different from the numerous best-of releases previously issued from Lightfoot's five-album tenure on United Artists Records, 1966-1969. At the time, Lightfoot was better known as a songwriter than as a performer, and his UA recordings presented his own versions of such hits as "Early Mornin' Rain," "Ribbon of Darkness," "For Lovin' Me," and "Bitter Green" that had been popularized by others. All those tracks are here along with "Canadian Railroad Trilogy" and "Black Day in July," which gained exposure through Lightfoot's own performances. The other selections on the 12-song set (of which six were drawn from the singer's 1966 debut LP, Lightfoot!) are good, but in keeping with the songwriter focus, it might have been nice to include "The Last Time I Saw Her," "Steel Rail Blues," and "Wherefore and Why," all of which were Top 40 country hits, rather than, say, Lightfoot's cover of Ewan MacColl's "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," even if it did precede the Roberta Flack hit version by several years. A curious, if perhaps temporary, marketing juxtaposition, however, made the album a doubtful purchase at least at first. At the time of the disc's release, the 1993 double-CD United Artists Collection, containing Lightfoot's first four UA LPs, was still in print and selling at the same $11.98 list price for which this album was selling. True, it contained two songs from the 1969 Sunday Concert LP not on the 1993 set. But if you were going to spend 12 bucks on an album of Gordon Lightfoot's UA recordings, why would you buy this skimpy one over the far lengthier United Artists Collection? © William Ruhlmann /TiVo

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Capitol Records in the magazine
  • Katy Perry - If it ain't broke don't fix it
    Katy Perry - If it ain't broke don't fix it It comes as no great surprise that Smile, Katy Perry’s fifth album, doesn’t buck the trend of her previous work, which has been at the heart of the American pop scene for the last ten years.