Alibi V.13 No.4 • Jan 22-28, 2004 

Sonic Reducer

The Flatlanders Wheels of Fortune (New West)

After taking three decades to furnish the follow-up to their 1972 debut, it only took the Flatlanders—Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore—two years to provide us with a third installment of near-perfect Texas country music. Wheels of Fortune was recorded immediately following the band's 2003 Now Again tour, and it's got the feel of a trio who've been on the road together for 30 years. Truth is, each member is a musical icon in his own right, but the sum of Flatlanders is more than its parts. Like the Beatles with twang raised in a roadhouse.

Release date: out now

Andy Summers Earth + Sky (Goldenwire)

Since the dissolution of the Police in 1984, guitarist Andy Summers has made solo albums that straddle the gauzy line between contemporary jazz and new age self-absorption. The result has been a core audience that has neither grown nor diminished over these past 20 years. Earth + Sky isn't likely to change that trend. Entirely inoffensive, rather syrupy and full of odd-time signature grooves, it lacks memorable melodies, but does display some fine instrumental work by Summers and cohorts Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) and Abe Laboriel (bass). Problem is, the record doesn't manage to stray too far from boring.

Release date: out now

Joss Stone The Soul Sessions (EMI)

Proving that she's not just another pretty face, 16-year-old Brit Joss Stone appears to be heir to the Family Stone, as in Sly-and-the. Her debut came about as an accident, recorded in four days during the sessions for an album of her own material that's to be released early this year. The Soul Sessions contains 10 stunning tributes to classic soul, from "The Chokin' Kind" to "All the King's Horses." Stone's voice sounds worked-in beyond her years, and her sense for nailing the groove and wrapping herself in it is so precise you'll wonder if she's indeed of this earth.

Release date: out now