17 Pygmies 13 Blackbirds, 13 Lotus (Trakwerx)
Who is manning the woodblock on 13 Blackbirds? I can get next to soupy folk ambience, super-blended vocals, even a mellow pace. But there is some woodblock-sounding thing (Or alternately, some other awkward percussion instrument. Is that a triangle?) plinking away in the foreground of a bunch of tracks. I zero in. I tap along. I jam ... with the woodblock. All the careful atmosphere falls away, and it's time for "The Woodblock Hour" with Woody and his Syncopated Block Boys. 13 Lotus, a second disc that remixes a song titled “Lotus,” replaces the woodblock with decent electronic work that provides a nice, unexpected contrast to the folksiness of it all.
Mos Def True Magic (Geffen Records)
I don't know about this one, Mr. Def. No one could accuse you of being too hooky, but most of it slides right over the ear, and if you asked me to repeat something I'd just heard, I'd have nothing. The beats plod along, tired. None of the flows make contact either. You're not Talib, and no one expects you to be. But you usually make up for it with singability and style. Yeah, it's probably better than a lot of crap out there, but the ironically titled True Magic is missing that certain something.
Rod Lacy Blacklung (self-released)
More than a year after recording the thing, local Rod Lacy, formerly of Weldon, pulled together a band (The Old Main) to release a disc of lilt, twang and alt.country/folk juice. He handles all the instruments on the CD, though he says he didn't know how to play any of them until he started fiddling around in the studio. Textures figure heavily into the first couple of tracks, with ambient noise invited in for a spell. Clearly a solid songwriter and guitar player, it's the rest of the instruments, a little wild in their newness, that really work for me.