Reviews in Brief of New Pop Music Releases
Robert Randolph & The Family Band Lickety Split (Blue Note)
e_STnS“Turn it up to 10 and get loud in here,” Robert Randolph sings early in Amped Up, the opening track on Lickety Split, his first studio album with his Family Band in three years and his debut for Blue Note Records. It’s a declaration of purpose: Lickety Split is an amped-up party album that rarely pauses for breath.
Randolph is a peerless pedal steel player, and his roots in the sacred steel church tradition surface in Born Again, a secular love song that crosses classic gospel lyrics with Stephen Stills’ Love the One You’re With. Throughout the album, Randolph’s leads dazzle, but the songs themselves are secondary, and he’s much more forceful and personable as a guitarist than as a singer, which is less of a distraction when heard live than from the studio. This is an album built for the jam-band circuit, foregrounding rousing blues and funk grooves, from a perky cover of the Ohio Players’ Love Rollercoaster to the note-bending guitar jam Brand New Wayo, one of two tracks with Carlos Santana.
— Steve Klinge
Daughn Gibson Me Moan (Sub Pop)
Deep, deeper, deepest: Daughn Gibson’s baritone rumbles low, way down in Waylon Jennings-Sleepy LaBeef territory. The former Philadelphian has a resume suited to a country-noir experimentalist tough guy. He used to man the counter in an adult bookstore, work as a long-haul trucker, and play drums in the heavy-rock band Pearls & Brass, back when he went by his given name, Josh Martin. Me Moan is his second solo album. This Daughn jawn builds on the Portishead-goes-hillbilly-baroque, one-man-band approach of his 2012 debut All Hell by fleshing out the sinister sound with bagpipes, among other intriguing touches, and the aid of musicians like Baroness guitarist John Baizley. Sometimes Gibson’s stylized, stentorian delivery gets lugubrious (see All My Days Off). But he has a way with a melody and an alternately jaundiced and bemused eye for the seedy underbelly of this sordid existence, and Me Moan is a grower.
— Dan DeLuca
Wale The Gifted (Maybach)
Despite his cool flow and strong songs, Wale is in danger of being known mostly as Rick Ross’ foil, something more than a hype man but less than a full partner to the CEO / MC (Philly Maybach signing Meek Mill, beware).
The Gifted then, with its occasional self-reflections, gospel swell, and caramel vintage-soul arrangements, is Wale’s shot at separating himself from Ross’ strip-club-hop.
Certainly, there are club-pop bangers like Clappers and Rotation, Wale’s most contagious stoner soliloquy yet. Bad is a handsome cross of rap and slick soul.
But the more mature Wale (the one pulling away from Ross) comes with singsong spiels, churchy backgrounds, and the plush, organic strings and keys of ‘70s R&B. Wale does a nice job with Stevie Wonder’s vibe on Sunshine. Simple Man and Golden Salvation (Jesus Piece) feel richly antique. Lyrically, though, Wale is awkward. He can’t truly commit to emotional breadth or depth. His duet with Jerry Seinfeld (!?) on Black Heroes / Outro about Nothing sums up Gifted nicely: at times stately, but more often shallow and naive.
— A.D. Amorosi