Sorry for the brief delay in this week’s record store report — Sherry Ann has been so antsy anticipating this, it’s hard to ponder how she survived the pre-Buzz days — but here we go, with yet another brilliance-packed week before us. Buckle up, kids: we’ve got fourteen albums to discuss.


Solid proof that you shouldn’t judge books by covers:  in the same week in which word has broken that Rob Thomas’ second solo album is due next spring, Matchbox Twenty’s guitarist (and former drummer) Paul Doucette — who, throughout his band’s entire history, has never failed to represent himself as an irritatingly sarcastic horse’s ass — scores a home run as the leader of a fascinating new side project,
The Break and Repair Method.  An album of pleasant melody and stunning depth, Milk the Bee finds Doucette manning both the piano (and adeptly, at that) and the microphone (and while his vocal prowess is certainly no match for Thomas’, Doucette’s timbre proves to be surprisingly rich), creating a ten-track set whose sensibilities land somewhere in between Wilco’s and Keane’s on the yardstick of pop.  (Even if you ultimately choose to let the album as a whole slip by you, be at least sure to check out track number five, “Calling All Electrical Prints,” the kind of sweet, haunting love song Jeff Tweedy only wishes he could write.)

Currently on tour with the riveting Ray LaMontagne (on whose upcoming album she also appears), Leona Naess is back this week with her fourth album, Thirteens. She first captured our attention at the turn of the century with the surprise hit “Charm Attack” and cemented her status as an artist worthy of attention with her unjustly ignored 2001 masterpiece I Tried to Rock You But You Only Roll.  Following an interminable five year hiatus — made all the more frustrating by the fact that her 2003 self-titled effort contained her best-ever track (the heartbreaking “Calling,” which made its way onto more than one film soundtrack) — Naess and her shimmery voice have finally returned to center stage.  And not a moment too soon.

Come late next year, when we take a pause to recall and recap this decade and its music, one of the names we will discuss at great length will be Marc Broussard‘s.  A dynamic singer steeped in the centuries-old tradition of Mississippi Delta blues, Broussard exploded onto the scene in 2005 with “Home,” his instant classic debut single, and he’s been knockin’ ’em out ever since.  With his third major-label album, another soul-drenched romp called Keep Coming Back, Broussard uses his raw, searing voice to attack with trademark gusto eleven new originals, including duets with LeAnn Rimes (returning in kind Broussard’s appearance on her latest record) and the infinitely annoying Sara Bareilles (for whom proximity to the brilliant likes of Broussard can only be a huge step forward).

The coolest Welsh singin’ chick this side of Bonnie Tyler, Jemma Griffiths — in these parts, better known simply as Jem — is back with her sophomore record, Down to Earth.  An unabashed favorite of the folks at “The O.C.” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” who have scored countless episodes with her dreamy, eclectic music, Jem’s sound (teeming with hints of hip-hop, of ’60s soul, and of ’80s cheese) is all over the map — what other brave soul would not only attempt a cover of Paul McCartney’s touchstone “Maybe I’m Amazed,” but sell it with her peculiar brand of joie? — but it’s neither bland nor boring.  Definitely worth a serious listen.

She’s been laying low for a while now, having released just one studio record — 2004’s towering Chinatown — in the years since “Ally McBeal,” the television series that jump-started her flagging career, ended.  But the terrific Vonda Shepard is finally ready to try again.  From the Sun offers no fresh insights into Shepard’s talents:  she long ago found the formula that works, and there’s no need to fix what ain’t broke.  We’ve missed you terribly, gal.

Once upon a glorious time existed a South Carolina bar band name of Hootie and the Blowfish, whose sound was a perfectly modulated blend of rock, rhythm, and gospel-drenched blues and whose delicious debut album Cracked Rear View made its way into practically every music collection on the planet in the mid-’90s.  (Living as we are in an age in which frighteningly few records are able to make it past the one million mark in units sold, it’s sometimes hard to fathom the fact that these guys were able to move seventeen million copies of their first record out the door in roughly an eighteen-month span.)  And even if you weren’t a fan — wasn’t it a shame how quickly the word “Hootie” became a national punchline, particularly given how startlingly brilliant their underappreciated sophomore record (1996’s darker-hued Fairweather Johnson) turned out to be? — you had to admit that the band’s phenomenal lead singer Darius Rucker owned one blazing hell of a powerful voice.


Hootie and the Blowfish have been off the pop radar for some time now (their last even-moderate hit was 1998’s “I Will Wait,” and their last album — 2005’s Looking for Lucky — found them coasting on fumes), but Rucker has found unexpected success on his own of late, and in the most unlikely of places:  country radio.  Following in the nascent footsteps of Bon Jovi, Jewel, and the ridiculous Jessica Simpson, his debut single — the hilariously twangy “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” has become a surprise top ten staple on the Nashville circuit — and his second solo album, the unmistakably country-leaning Learn to Live, arrives in stores this week.  The tasteless Charley Pride jokes have already started making the rounds, but fail to forget:  Especially in tracks like “Let Her Cry” and “Only Lonely,” Hootie’s output always had at least a toe dipped in the waters of country, and without question, Rucker’s musical soulmate is the fabulous Nanci Griffith (their late-’90s duets — particularly their dazzling reinvention of Griffith’s “Love at the Five and Dime” — have become the stuff of legend, at least in my house), so his leap to a new genre isn’t so large a stretch to wrap your brain around.

One of the most gorgeous men in the history of the world, legendary saxophonist Dave Koz — still riding high from last year’s triumphant At the Movies — has assembled his Greatest Hits for a brilliant new collection of music.  Most of the usual suspects are here — “Castle of Dreams” (the spine-tingling 1990 classic that put Koz on the map) and “Faces of the Heart” (which, in one form or another, has served as the theme song for “General Hospital” for the best part of two decades), to name the two most obvious — as well as four new tracks and a pair of rare collaborations with Chris Botti and Luther Vandross.  And while Hits is by no means a comprehensive overview of Koz’s extraordinary career, it’s a mighty fine sampler plate.

Also noteworthy this week:


  • Hip-hop’s latest great white hope Colby O’Donis — whose name is so slyly hilarious, it’s difficult to fathom why it hasn’t been appropriated by male porn stars the world over — drops his eponymous debut.  (O’Donis can also be heard on “Just Dance,” the spectacular introductory single from Lady GaGa that just went up at Lady GaGa & Colby O'Donis - My Best 10K: Beginner - Just Dance.)

  • Australia’s answer to Lucinda Williams, the stunning Kasey Chambers collaborates with her husband Shane Nicholson on Rattlin’ Bones, her fifth album.

  • Radio has been inexplicably cool toward him of late — strange, considering his infallible dependability as a hitmaker over the last decade — but the incomparably talented rapper Nelly returns with his fifth album, Brass Knuckles.

  • They’ve never really been my cup of tea, but rock legends Metallica are on fire with their tenth album, Death Magnetic, which is set to debut atop next week’s Billboard 200.

  • The naturally gifted progeny of Carly Simon and James Taylor (that’s one hell of a gene pool in which to take a dip, yeah?!), Ben Taylor is up with his third record, the curiously titled Legend of Kung Folk, Part One (The Killing Bite).

  • Just ahead of a promised Fleetwood Mac reunion early next year, Lindsey Buckingham offers up Gift of Screws, his fifth studio album.

  • Why Wait, the debut album from one of the most laughably ludicrous finalists in “American Idol” history, Kristy Lee Cook.  (And yes, it includes “God Bless the USA.”  Somewhere, poor Lee Greenwood is shuddering in horror.)


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