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CD reviews of Asylum Street Spankers, Wilco, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

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Asylum Street Spankers, "Hot Lunch"Wilco, "Summer Teeth"Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, "Blackjack"
Play These Songs"UFO Attack""Trippin' Over You""New Jazz Fiddle"

Real Audio RequiredAsylum Street Spankers, "Hot Lunch"(Cold Spring Records) isn't quite country, it's not quite swing and it's not quite bathtub-gin jazz. But whatever the heck it is, the latest Asylum Street Spankers release is a hilarious blend of genre-defining hot-cha. With washboards, clarinets, acoustic guitars, ukuleles, banjos and crosscut saws going wild, how can a group of great musicians with excellent musical taste and songwriting abilities go wrong? The songs are mostly delivered in a deadpan style, and they tackle subjects that range from a terrorist bomber to barbecue joints to perilously twisted love and UFO invasions. Martini and cigar bars get a special nod for their particular brand of obnoxious standards. Many of the lovelorn lyrics take a nice politically incorrect stance while the stand-up bass keeps the beat steady. Maybe you won't play this CD on a regular basis, but it's a fine addition to any collection, whether it's for the musicianship or for the skewed take on life and love. — Ames Arnold
Play These Songs"Via Chicago""A Shot In The Arm""Nothing'server gonastandinmyway(again)"

Real Audio RequiredWilco, "Summer Teeth" (Reprise) Frontman Jeff Tweedy promised that Wilco's third effort would be a departure, and with "Summer Teeth," the band seems to have shed its "alt-country" label for good and transformed itself into a band that defies easy classification. The most noticeable change is "Summer Teeth's" shimmering, vintage keyboard-heavy sound, evocative of Brian Wilson's "Pet Sounds" and Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles. These songs are at once eerily familiar yet unlike anything you've ever heard before. Were the band to ever earn the airplay it so rightfully deserves, these songs would sound right at home on the radio — low-fi AM radio, that is. Juxtaposed against Wilco's bright new sound are Tweedy's deep, dark lyrics, giving the music a serious, introspective edge. "I dreamt about killing you last night and it felt all right," he sings in the haunting "Via Chicago." Yet despite the darkness, the music retains a wistful hopefulness that make these songs irresistible. From the ebullient pop of "Nothing's evergonnastandinmyway (again)," to the slowly building momentum of "A Shot in the Arm," the finely crafted music on "Summer Teeth" demands, and holds, your attention. — Jessica Ronky Haddad
Play These Songs"Song For Renee (Gate's Tune)""When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again""Take Me Back To Tulsa"

Real Audio RequiredClarence "Gatemouth" Brown,"Blackjack" (Sugar Hill Records) — Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown doesn't want you to call him a blues musician. Never mind that Brown, born in 1924 in Louisiana but raised in Texas, was one of the first electric blues guitarists to emerge from the Lone Star State behind T-Bone Walker in the late 1940s, and that he went on to influence giants like Albert Collins and Buddy Guy. Ask the man himself and he'll tell you he plays "Texas Swing," a blend of blues, Western swing, bluegrass zydeco, and country. Brown laid out just what that sounds like on his 1977 album "Blackjack," newly released on CD. Never heard a blues violin? Check out the slow, rich classic "Song for Renee." Brown puts a little grass in his blues fiddle with the jumping "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again." There's also a wild Bob Wills Western Swing cover, "Take Me Back To Tulsa." If you think Wilco transcends genres, check out the amazing talent and range of this original alt-country phenom. — Mark Stroh

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