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Random Stabbings 16a

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Abigail Washburn “The Sparrow Quartet EP” (Nettwerk Records)
Period pieces from banjo-player Washburn, assisted ably by the always-underfoot-somewhere Bela Fleck and the well-heeled fiddle of Casey Driessen. If you can’t wait for this week’s episode of Deadwood to end so you can dig on the Stephen Foster-era truthiness during the end credits, this is the thing you want, and Washburn’s voice often has a user-friendly Annie Hayden/Lisa Loeb quality that makes it kinda sexy in an awkward way when you can get the thoughts of Bonnie Raitt out of your head. NPR eggheads to a fault, this bunch can probably be found busking around town prior to whatever coffee shop or world symposium is supporting their granola habit that week, not to ignore the fact that their bubbly-busy tuneage is intensely soulful and probably a lot more relaxing than whatever’s passing for chill around your homestead at the moment.  Order from Nettwork Records

Jurassic 5 "Feedback" (Interscope Records)
Touching down in parental-warning-sticker grillz-land, LA undergrounders Jurassic 5 up their major label ante (or pull a weaseling sell-out, take your pick) with a stop-the-presses drop-in from Dave Matthews, bent on revealing his stereophonic 70s side on “Work It Out,” a hypnotic bit of chill crossover that successfully strives to go beyond its own built-in “Woah, Dave Matthews jamming with Cypress Hill or somebody!” commercial. For cred’s sake, that tune’s been banished to the #7 track, but by then most fans will be steeled for just about any awkward contingency after facing such scattershot genre-hollas as the glossy “Back 4 U” (replete with an air-conditioned 80s-style piano-and-shaker loop) and a visit from reggae sisters Brick & Lace on Scott Storch’s “Brown Girl” that’s outwardly indicative of nothing more than a quixotic urge to insert random patronizing props to girl crews. The main goal – Laserjetted for posterity onto their press release if it’s not obvious enough – is radio success, which may not be achieved by refrying Skee-Lo’s old-school approach (“Radio”) or any of the above, but there are some strong possibilities, perhaps the jiggly “Baby Please” or the house-stomping “Turn It Out.” Order from


Guster "Ganging Up On the Sun" (Reprise Records)
Celebrating somewhere around a decade of nudge-wink indie, Guster is an inoculation against hipster nonsense, ginning up a cross between Belle & Sebastian and arena rock for lack of a handier label. They’re all over the place, targeting Pink Floyd’s “Us and Them” on “Empire State,” chumming out Beach Boys choruses here and there, and generally wreaking beauty upon your drivetime. Ryan Miller’s voice usually does a Jackson Browne thing, rarely getting the least bit excited, but when he lunges for an upper register it’s more like Maroon 5 (“Dear Valentine”), thus it’s too good for Indieland but too proud to cater to MTV; overall an endearing experience that includes plenty of things that’d fit in just fine on anybody’s alt-rock mix-burn. Order from

Darker My Love “Darker My Love” (Dangerbird Records)
A nice break from late-to-the-party groovers who can’t bring themselves to admit that they like Sabbath, Darker My Love may not forge anything astoundingly new from their use of Vol. 4 guitar bliss, but coupled with the post-Spacemen-3 opium-den atmospherics familiar to whoever honestly listens to the Warlocks, you’ve got a winner on a not un-massive scale here. A more-serious Arcwelder and/or a less-serious Boris would be similar choices if DML weren’t so well-produced, and the fun part is listening to the ending fadeouts where it takes them forever to get the grungy feedback showers under control. Lots of swirly acid-jamming, as though they’d been tasked with spazzing up the Byrds for a soundtracking of crowd footage during Woodstock and so forth.
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Indie label releases, spaghetti sauce recipes and silly questions are always welcome.  Email

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