Sonic Reducer: Bernadette Seacrest, Phish, Felt 3

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With a voice that promises everything, including maybe 20 years in the pen, vocalist/co-producer Bernadette Seacrest conjures a noir underbelly of a world on The Filthy South Sessions , with help from co-producers Charles Williams (guitars), who wrote all 12 tunes, Kris Dale (double bass, pedal steel) and guests. Williams’ steamy tangos, blues and rumbas don’t so much tell stories as sideswipe them (“I love you, but put down that gun”). “Babylon” recalls Leonard Cohen’s lyrical enigmas, and Seacrest delivers it with a seductive, Billie Holiday–esque plangency. Clearly, Seacrest knows what’s what and, deliciously, she’s in no hurry to explain it. (MM)

Phish Festival 8 (10/31/09) (JEMP Records)

Even those who loathe Phish and its zany juxtapositions of classical, jazz and jam-rock have nonetheless regularly admired the Vermont band’s exceptional covers of everything from Duke Ellington to Pavement. This Halloween in Indio, Calif., Phish played a “musical costume” for the first time since its 1998 cover of the Velvet Underground’s indie blueprint Loaded . This time, the band chose The Rolling Stones’ soulfully debaucherous 1972 classic Exile On Main Street , which was more treat than trick. Talented neo-soul singer Sharon Jones came along to help tackle Exile’s 18 bluesy tracks. Keyboardist Page McConnell deftly handled the challenging lead vocal duties. The band used legendary Stones lyrics like “who’s gonna help him to kick it?” from “Torn and Frayed” to reference Phish’s infamous struggles with substance abuse. Meanwhile, Trey Anastasio tempered the entire evening with occasionally virtuosic guitar improvisation. The polarizing group’s Halloween 1996 cover of the Talking Heads’ Remain in Light was better, but Phish obviously put in the necessary work to do Exile justice. (AP)

Felt Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez (Rhymesayers)

Aesop Rock’s beats are weird in that David Lynch sort of way. His 2007 effort, None Shall Pass , showcased a penchant for off-the-wall production, so it’s no surprise that an album he actually produced has that same feel: Felt 3 has Aes’ fingerprints are all over it . The super duo of Murs (Living Legends) and Slug (Atmosphere) continue the B-actress theme with Felt 3: A Tribute to Rosie Perez ( previous releases paid homage to Christina Ricci and Lisa Bonet). The 21-track collection balances Murs’ powerful delivery, Slug’s outstanding narratives and Aes’ ominous beats. “Aes forced us to get out of our comfort zones,“ Slug says. “I’m pleased with the results.“ Initially, Felt 3 is so bizarrely eclectic that it’s hard to grasp, but after a second listen, it grabs hold. (KE)

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