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Reviews of CDs by Roy Carrier, Spit, Hanson and Jeff Mellin

Now Hear This

Roy Carrier, "Twist and Shout," (Right On Rhythm) — This southwest Louisiana native comes from the old school of zydeco music. Influenced by his cousin Clifton Chenier, Carrier started playing the back-country road joints in the '70s, and this 19-cut CD accurately captures the raw Saturday-night house-party sound he's developed through the years. But if Carrier's style remains more blues-oriented than some of the newer brass-and-rock zydeco bands, it's no less kicked-up. Armed with his triple-note accordion, Carrier and his four-man Night Rockers band roll through this set of mostly original numbers with unflagging energy. The sound is low-tech, but the nonstop dance spirit loses nothing in the translation. There's a slower number or two such as "Show You How to Love" for those who need to catch their breath. But, bottom line, this is a high-energy party album for fans of traditional blues-based zydeco. Roll back the rug and crank this recording up loud. You can also catch Carrier live when he plays the Boulevard Deli June 29 at 8:30 p.m.

— Ames Arnold

Spit, "America's Sweetheart," (Pacific Force Inc. Records) — Billed by its creators as the "world's first conceptual punk-swing album," "America's Sweetheart" is a vulgar, non-politically correct foray into the dark side of Broadway musicals. Each song is preceded by a short, thematic scene. We follow this demented serial's protagonist, Bill, through his dysfunctional life from the day of his birth to his slip into an irreversible downward spiral. The cast of characters most notably features adult-film-industry stalwart Ron Jeremy as The Bartender.

Spit's songs are at times catchy, but their take on swing doesn't in the least parallel Louis Prima or Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. Harmonicas make an appearance on a number of tracks, giving the songs a blues feel. Other influences seeping to the surface include rockabilly and '80s-style glam rock. I can see the glam metal connection by just looking at frontman Vinnie Spit, who looks like he used to play with any number of teased-hair bands. A few of the standout cuts I can mention by name, since some titles are offensive, include "Bill Works For Dad" and "Father Peter." The latter song features the Dead Kennedys' Jello Biafra on lead vocals.

Spit is not for everyone by any stretch of the imagination. If you have the sense of humor to laugh at songs about heavy drinking, sacrilege and sex, then this is a fun record. If you find these subjects too lowbrow, skip it.

— Angelo DeFranzo

Hanson, "This Time Around," (Island/Def Jam) - Too bad this CD couldn't be slipped onto a classic rock playlist without a hint as to who made it. The phones would be buzzing.

Yes, Hanson's follow-up to "Middle of Nowhere" is that good. Not great; good. Isaac, Taylor and Zak took three years — a rock eternity — writing, recording and co-producing it, and it shows. Arrangements are more complex and Isaac's voice has a huskier timbre that lends the 13 tracks some heft.

That's not to say it all works. "Love Song" doesn't hold up, and Issac overreaches on "Save Me." On the other hand, the clever percussion and Taylor's piano, a consistent highlight, ensure that neither song is a throwaway.

But when they click … The title track and "Dying to Be Alive" sport an intro from Elton John's '70s playbook and a quasi-gospel chorus that does Leon Russell proud. Guests include John Popper, Jonny Lang and Beck collaborator DJ Swamp.

So, go figure: "This Time Around" moves 64,000 copies in its first week, and Britney Spears coughs up her cud and sells 1.3. million of "Oops! … I Did it Again."

No mystery, really. In growing up, the Hanson lads have outgrown their audience. It's the audience's loss.

— C.A. Shapiro, The Virginian-Pilot

Jeff Mellin, "Jeff Mellin Saves the World Parts One and Two," (Stereorrific) — Mellin has rattled around the fringes of the New England bohemian music scene playing in a variety of configurations, so it comes as no surprise that his first solo release reveals a pop sensibility that blends many influences. The result is a catchy and diverse musical package. While the 10 cuts are undeniably filtered through Mellin's ear, a listener can't help but hear snatches of Crowded House, a '60s Turtles vibe, a cheery side of the Velvet Underground, a bit of Paul McCartney bass and even some Dylanesque vocals and lyrical images. The first five tunes are unspectacular but solid pop tunes, while the remaining five take a more stripped-down acoustic approach. The CD has a half-and-half feel because "World" pairs two EPs cut some years apart, but this variety adds to its appeal. The project is not without its faults, as there are some annoying loops and studio blabber to contend with. But Mellin's songwriting and his way with a tune show he's headed in a promising direction.

— A.A.

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