Selected audio reviews:
Various Artists, "Cold Mountain Soundtrack" (Sony)
T Bone Burnett is at it again.
After striking gold with the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack in 2001, followed by the Cajun-flavored "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" last year, Burnett's back with "Cold Mountain."
This time the era is the Civil War. The formula is the same, with modern-day musicians interpreting mostly 19th-century American blues, gospel, folk and country tunes.
And, like the past two soundtracks, "Cold Mountain" is a success.
Alison Krauss scores with her ethereal takes on two new songs written for the soundtrack, "The Scarlet Tide," by Elvis Costello, and "You Will Be My Ain True Love," by Sting.
Jack White of the White Stripes is the most prominent artist, taking the lead on five songs, including the standards "Sitting on Top of the World," "Wayfaring Stranger" and "Great High Mountain."
Deserving special note is the mesmerizing a cappella work of the Sacred Harp Singers at Liberty Church. Their gripping performance on the traditional song "I'm Going Home" is the highlight of the disc and makes you stop in your tracks and take note.
- Scott Bauer, AP Writer
* * * *
Joe, "And Then..." (Jive Records)
Joe's latest album, "And Then...," starts off promising, but then disappoints - miserably. The title track about a sexual escapade makes you anticipate an album of sexy slow jams and then ... the rest of the album fails to live up to that expectation.
Joe's smooth voice is most suited for sultry ballads, but there are no great ones here; just a collection of mediocre or bad songs. Songs such as "Jeep," about a sexual rendezvous in the back seat of a Hummer in a shopping mall parking lot, aren't exactly sexy. And "More & More," the first single about an extended sexual encounter (noticing a theme?), is simplistic and uninspired. Many of the songs are more suited for Jive labelmate R. Kelly, who wrote and produced "More & More." Next time, Joe, just stick to love songs and leave the playa themes alone.
- Damita Chambers, AP Writer
* * * *
Hoobastank, "The Reason" (Island)
Los Angeles rockers Hoobastank will probably be laughing all the way to the hooba-bank if they can convince enough 15-year-olds with unfocused angst that their latest release, "The Reason," is viable rock. It's really not.
There's no discernible purpose or plot in most of the songs. Though lead singer Doug Robb dutifully whines his way through 12 tracks of youth turmoil, the band refuses to tell us exactly who or what they're so frustrated with, or why. It's all intangibles at best.
"And I'm not sure which way to go because all along, we've been going in the same direction," Robb sings on "Same Direction." The direction, and the reason for going there, remain a mystery.
"Just One" is aptly named, since it's the only track worth a double take. The daredevil pace and a great head-banging hook back semisolid lyrics about going out on a limb and being prepared to leap at an opportunity. Robb nails this one, but in general his iffy songwriting is to blame for this bland CD.
- Ron Harris, AP Writer
* * * *
David Mallett, "Artist in Me" (North Road)
Maine folk singer David Mallett makes good music sound easy to make. He entered the recording studio with a guitar and a batch of terrific songs, and he came out with one of the year's best records.
Like Mallett's native state, "Artist in Me" is free of frills. He simply sings about angels and backaches, falling stars and fear, dancing and death and other things that comfort and confound us. The arrangements are understated but deceptively catchy, with hooks provided by a bass line here and a harmonica riff there. At the center is Mallett's tenor, warm and friendly and deserving of our attention.
- Steven Wine, AP Writer