the Buzz for March 2012


Jake Owen — “Heaven” (from Barefoot Blue Jean Night) — Heaven - Barefoot Blue Jean Night

Tackling a chorus that flirts with seeping just past the outer boundaries of his range, Owen’s soaring vocal lifts this lovely and perfectly harmless spoonful of cornpone schmaltz that, to the songwriters’ immense credit, never quite heads in the direction you fully expect it to. (To completely appreciate the restraint on display throughout these three minutes, refer back to something like Collin Raye’s treacly 1991 smash “Love, Me” and you’ll instantly get a sharply-honed sense of how sinfully sappy this heart-warmer could have been. And seeing as how Owen seems perfectly content to fill the same slot at country radio that Raye did a couple of decades ago, the analogy hardly seems inapt.)


Bruce Springsteen — “We Take Care of Our Own”
(from Wrecking Ball) — We Take Care of Our Own - Wrecking Ball

Certainly conjuring his strongest (and most acutely focused) effort since The Rising (and quite possibly since Born in the U.S.A.), the Boss hurls himself back into the mix with a grandiose (and, also, rather grand) new album, and not a moment too soon: just as Rising surveyed the shaky patchwork of our post-9/11 reality, and Born took the country’s frustrated measure four years into the sharply divisive Reagan age, Wrecking Ball dares to shine a light on the heresy and hypocrisy of a nation founded on the principles of democracy and freedom allowing the aspirational allure of the American dream to be snatched clean out of the hands of ninety-nine percent of its populace. A knockout punch from one of society’s keenest observers.


Meat Loaf (featuring Patti Russo) — “California Dreamin'”
(from Hell in a Handbasket) — California Dreamin' - Hell In a Handbasket

Not quite on the level of the revelatory take on The Mamas and the Papas’ iconic classic that Queen Latifah turned in a few years back, but the ferocious Mr. Loaf — with the nimble aid of his old favorite duet partner — shows he’s still got it, anchoring his terrific new album with a harder-edged, smartly rendered cover of an ever-reliable chestnut from the modern American songbook. (I had the great honor of chatting with Meat Loaf a couple of years ago for a special edition of Brandon’s Buzz Radio, and if you missed that conversation, I highly suggest you catch up with it here.)


David Gray — “Jackdaw” (from Draw the Line) — Jackdaw - Draw the Line (Deluxe Version)

One completely biased fan’s opinion (hint: mine mine mine) has it that the quality of Gray’s musical output has dipped dramatically in the years following his astonishing string of successes throughout the first half of the aughts. (Hardly an unforgivable sin, that: the same can easily be said of Tori Amos, Annie Lennox, and about a dozen other artists that I nonetheless love all the way down to my toenails.) Still, when Gray is on his game — as he is on this 2009 stunner, plumbing the murky magnificence of one of his favorite topics: love slipping through the flawed hero’s fingers — there ain’t nobody in his league.