Alibi V.18 No.13 • March 26-April 1, 2009 

Sonic Reducer

Jeff "Tain" Watts Watts (Dark Key Music)

The personnel tells you pretty much what you need to know: This is some smoking contemporary jazz. The flamboyantly emotional trumpet of Terence Blanchard and the sly, operatic saxophones of Branford Marsalis bring a dash of Crescent City savoir-faire to the proceedings, and the huge, percussive bass of Christian McBride keeps it all from flying away. Then there’s drummer/composer Watts, whose 10 original compositions range from easy-grooving country funk to screaming post-bop burners edged with humor, and whose drumming ... well, it’s a wonder and it’s right up front. Pianist Lawrence Fields guests on one poignant ballad. (MM)

Handsome Furs Face Control (Sub Pop)

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I once considered Handsome Furs to be just another side project that keeps Wolf Parade from being more prolific. Now it’s clear this experimental electro outfit deserves the time and attention its members put into it. Handsome Furs includes Wolf Parade co-lead singer Dan Boeckner, but that’s where the similarities between the two bands end. Bleak, frosty synths are juxtaposed against Boeckner’s desperate yelps. All he can do to break free from the foreboding path he’s on is beg the music to change course. Boeckner’s feedback-wielding guitar fights the synths for control of the land. The battle is bloody but, improbably, weirdly therapeutic. (SM)

Buddy & Julie Miller Written In Chalk (New West Records)

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Even for listeners like me who don’t usually venture this far into the country-folk woods, Written In Chalk is deep-rooted and solid as oak. Buddy and Julie are a long-married couple who have released 11 solo albums combined—though they sound like they were destined to compose together, this is only their second collaborative album since 2001. Their harmony is reminiscent of Johnny and June; he plays guitar like a sinner, she sings like an angel and together they bridge the River Twang to authentic country. Written In Chalk has magic in every note. (JH)

(SM) Simon McCormack, (MM) Mel Minter, (JH) Justin Hood