Noteworthy: reviews of new music

Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti): Neko Case leads you on a trip through the wide-ranging scenes and sultry moods of her first new studio album in four years, "Fox Confessor Brings the Flood." Case's gliding, smoky voice is unparalleled as she tells dark stories and cautionary tales whose imagery is startling and shadowy. Most often labeled alt-country, her music mixes rock, blues, folk, and country. Case's rich voice deploys her oblique lyrics with great skill, as in "Maybe Sparrow," in which she sings: "Maybe sparrow it's too late/ the moonlight glanced off metal wings/ in a thunderstorm above the clouds/ the engine hums a sparrow's phrase." Grade: A
- Kate Moser

David Gilmour - On an Island (Columbia): On his third solo album, Pink Floyd's David Gilmour sings about lying on moonlit beaches and strolling through bucolic pastures with his wife. It's hardly a trip to the dark side of the moon. Apart from a few majestic guitar solos the music is so somnambulant that it makes a Jack Johnson CD sound like hyperactive speed metal. There's a place for such tranquil stuff - one imagines Gilmour recording it while wearing a pair of slippers - but for all its loveliness only "Smile," a delicate lullaby with sitar-like acoustic guitars, and "Then I Close My Eyes," a meditative instrumental, prove memorable. Like any postcard from paradise, it's pretty, doesn't say a whole lot, and is quite disposable. Grade: C+
- Stephen Humphries

Matisyahu - Youth (Epic): When you first see Matisyahu - a Hasidic Jew replete with black suit, yarmulke, beard, and sidecurls - the last thing you'd expect him to do is break into chilled reggae beats. But that's just what he does, and while the concept might seem kitschy, the music is not. Matisyahu's third CD, "Youth" (his first studio-produced album), takes classic Caribbean grooves through chameleon-like changes of atmosphere and rhythm, resulting in reggae as fresh as its spiritual overtones. Matisyahu (below) doesn't preach, but narrates his own search for purpose and empowerment through the Torah's teachings. The values that come across - self-awareness, social responsibility, and kindness - are universal. Grade: A-
- Karoun Demirjian

The Wood Brothers - Ways Not to Lose(Blue Note Records): Fans of the jazz/funk trio Martin, Medeski & Wood are used to the unexpected. But this disc is a total out-of-left-field surprise - a soulful, country blues delight. It pairs MM&W's upright bassist Chris Wood with his singer/songwriter brother, Oliver, who's no slouch on guitar and dobro. Fans of such laid-back radio stars as G. Love and John Mayer should become quick converts to their relaxed DIY vibe and lyrics such as, "If I die young, at least I got some chocolate on my tongue." Oliver's voice is a wonder - a little country twang (think Willie Nelson and Leon Russell) with a healthy dollop of blues - and his songs about facing up to life and love's trials are original and compelling. An inspired debut from this band of brothers. Grade: A
- John Kehe

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