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Lamb of God "New American Gospel," The Tender Idols "Distressor," Alejandro Escovedo "A Man Under the Influence," Troubadours of Divine Bliss "Dressing Room for Eternity"

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Lamb of God, "New American Gospel" (Prosthetic/Metal Blade Records) — Doing its part to keep heavy-metal music evil is Richmond's own Lamb of God. After changing its name from the even more blasphemous Burn The Priest and getting signed to one of the largest metal-intensive record labels in the world, the band's "New American Gospel" exhibits a sound that's a welcome switch from the death-metal norm. Sure, in places the lyrics are inaudible and the music is so fast you might miss something if you blink, but if you're a fan of the many-splendored musical variations of modern metal, this record is for you. As original and hard as this album is, however, I'd only recommend it to those heavily into metal and its accompanying lifestyle. Trust me when I say Lamb of God's new album will only interfere with a good night's sleep for others who dare to take a listen. — Angelo DeFranzo The Tender Idols "Distressor" (E-Magine Records) — The Tender Idols' new CD features two songs that should make Noel Gallagher of Oasis green with envy. "Washed Away" is a lush midtempo track that surpasses Oasis' monster hit "Wonder Wall." "One More Life" is an epic, slightly edgier tune with the kind of knockout melody Gallagher has been struggling to write since his band's first CD. Fortunately, the rest of "Distressor" shows that this Atlanta-based band isn't an Oasis clone. "Give Us Wings" and "Losing Controls" are two more songs that showcase The Tender Idols' exceptional talent for crafting sweet, full-bodied midtempo melodies. When the Tender Idols want to get gritty, they are just as impressive. "Afraid to Move" catches fire behind the churning guitar riff and stirring vocal melody. "Freefall" is the CD's hardest-rocking track, with a high-octane hook that is pure pop adrenaline. When it comes to British-style pop (even from an American band), it simply doesn't get much better than "Distressor." — Alan Sculley. Alejandro Escovedo "A Man Under The Influence" (Bloodshot Records) — In his hometown of Austin, Texas, Alejandro Escovedo is a major star. And while he boasts decent followings in other areas the country, he remains something of an undiscovered treasure after nearly 20 years of recording and touring. "A Man Under the Influence" works a musical terrain that ranges from lushly orchestrated folk to potent roots rock. The CD kicks off with two elegant midtempo tracks — "Wave" and "Rosalie." Employing washes of strings, acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards, these songs deftly employ the lovely yet sturdy sound he has developed fronting his Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra. The full-on rocker in Escovedo also surfaces a couple of times on "A Man Under the Influence." "Castanets" is a bouncy, hard-hitting tune built around a thumping beat and stinging electric guitars. "Velvet Guitar" has an epic melody well suited to the judiciously employed wall of electric guitars that gives the song much of its heft. A CD filled with memorable songs and heartfelt lyrics, this is Escovedo's most satisfying solo effort to date. — A.S. Troubadours of Divine Bliss, "Dressing Room For Eternity"— Listening to this female duo and the free-flowing guitar and accordion sounds on this CD is like hanging on a city street corner hearing some slightly daft but completely serious musicians play for spare change. These gals are clearly having a ball, but they're also clearly serious about life as they tell their tales of dead-end drug addicts, soup kitchens and late-night streets of sin. Daughters of Holy Roller charismatic church types from Kentucky, Aim Me Smiley and Renee Ananda have been making their music since 1995 when they began busking on the streets of New Orleans. During the ensuing years, the Troubadours have performed their homegrown folk at festivals and shows. Granted, the vaudeville/gypsy campfire routine wears after awhile. But the Troubadours' mix of innocence and street-level edge carries a spiritual truth that needs its messengers. — Ames Arnold

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