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Pop Brazilian singer-song- writer-guitarist Vinicius Cantuária is best known for spare, progressive bossa nova of the highest, most- haunting order. Frisell? He's the Buddha of jazz-guitar timbre, with equally wise footing in country swing and bluegrass,


Lágrimas Mexicanas

(Entertainment One ***1/2)

nolead ends Brazilian singer-song- writer-guitarist Vinicius Cantuária is best known for spare, progressive bossa nova of the highest, most- haunting order. Frisell? He's the Buddha of jazz-guitar timbre, with equally wise footing in country swing and bluegrass, with an ambient swell all his own. They've collaborated in past outings, but Lágrimas Mexicanas, their first full-on teaming, finds them primed for weirdly atmospheric, Spanish-language pop that borrows from their musical and ethnic lineage without sounding like anything either (or anyone) has done previously. As their guitars intertwine with the brittle delicacy of a fresh spiderweb, Cantuária's supple baritone saunters through the stunning array of (occasionally rough) textures and rhythms in a manner evocative of João Gilberto. The ride is bumpier than bossa's usual cool on the dozily spaced- out, wah-wah-infused "Mi Declaración"; the calm, watery wonk of "El Camino"; and the fuzz-toned "Calle 7," with its nuanced brand of norteño.


- A.D. Amorosi

nolead begins PJ Harvey
nolead ends nolead begins Let England Shake
nolead ends nolead begins (Vagrant ***)

nolead ends You don't have to be an Anglophile or a student of the First World War to love PJ Harvey's eighth album, but it would help. The powerhouse singer and guitarist's first album under her own name since 2007's piano-based White Chalk takes a measure of her homeland's bloody past and present, from Gallipoli to Afghanistan, with a 12-song set that rewards attention, but will not rock the world à la, say, 1993's Rid of Me. Recorded in a cliffside, 19th-century church in Dorset with usual collaborators John Parish, Mick Harvey, and the producer Flood, Let England Shake starts off examining the battle for the Bosphorus on the title cut, wittily borrowing a xylophone melody from "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)," while regarding a landscape "weighted down with silent dead / I fear our blood won't rise again." In similarly crafty manner, she quotes Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues," while summoning a sense of timeless sorrow on "The Words That Maketh Murder," on which she plays autoharp and saxophone. I'm betting Harvey spent some time reading World War I poets such as Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke as she composed the acoustic-based, often-wispy songs here, which gather commanding force, quietly, as they consider what it means to be English.

- Dan DeLuca

nolead begins Bright Eyes
nolead ends nolead begins The People's Key
nolead ends nolead begins (Saddle Creek ***)

nolead ends "I take some comfort in knowing the wave has crested," Conor Oberst sings in "Haile Selassie," a Rasta-flavored "One Love"-style exaltation, a typically finely crafted soul-folk rumination on The People's Key. "Knowing I don't have to be an exception."

Oberst, who makes up Bright Eyes along with instrumentalists Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, turns 31 this week, and he has been marked as a songwriting wunderkind since he was a teenager. The People's Key is the first Bright Eyes album since 1997 (although, in the interim, Oberst has released two albums under his own name, plus one with Monsters of Folk). For the most part, Oberst sounds relieved of generation- spokesman pressure, and happy to get down to the business of writing excellent songs. And there are a bunch on the musically varied People's Key, from the refreshing, rocked-out, and riffy "Shell Game" to the spiritual-sustenance-seeking, piano-tinkling philosophizer "Ladder Song." This CD gets taken down a half a star for the spoken ramblings of mystically minded cowboy and Oberst pal Randy Brewer, which pop up on three occasions to waste everybody's time.

- D.D.

nolead begins Teddy Thompson
nolead ends nolead begins Bella
nolead ends nolead begins (Verve Forecast ***1/2)

nolead ends "There is a place where the happiness flows," Teddy Thompson sings on "Over and Over." To be sure, that's not a place the prodigiously talented son of English folk-rock greats Richard and Linda Thompson has visited often in his own work. And that holds true through his fifth and best album.

The songs on Bella wallow in longing and ache, unease and unflinching self- appraisal ("My longing for control is leaving me cold," he laments on "Gotta Have Someone"). But if the emotions are unvarnished, the music is another matter. Thompson and producer David Kahne frame these downbeat tales in exquisitely crafted, hook- happy pop. Some numbers ("Looking for a Girl," "The Next One") lean toward rock. Others employ strings, such as "Take Me Back Again," which echoes the romantic sweep of the Drifters. Either way, the results have a classic feel, and they are irresistible.

- Nick Cristiano


What Makes Bob Holler

(Proper American ***)

nolead ends The "Bob" in the title is, of course, Bob Wills, the American music titan whose Western swing, made with his Texas Playboys, is one of the prime inspirations for Hot Club of Cowtown. And what the trio of fiddler Elana James, guitarist Whit Smith, and bassist Jake Erwin do with Wills' music would no doubt make Bob let out his trademark "Ah-haaa!" (Especially if Hot Club's efforts send listeners to seek out the originals, as they should.)

The trio gets to the essence of Wills' appeal with a set that approximates the live-in-the-studio immediacy of Wills and the Playboys' radio transcriptions, while providing a showcase for the members' own instrumental virtuosity, whether it's James and Smith dueling on "The Devil Ain't Lazy" or Erwin taking the spotlight on the instrumental "Osage Stomp."

With the more familiar material, Hot Club seems to make an extra effort to provide a fresh angle. Smith and James, who generally alternate lead vocals, tackle "Time Changes Everything" as a duet, while "Faded Love" is done as an instrumental, James' mournful fiddle carrying the melody.

- Nick Cristiano


Blue Suede Jews



KlingonKlez) ***

nolead ends One of the defining features of jazz in this era is the players' sheer eclecticism; folks cross genres profligately. Klingon Klez raises the bar on such efforts. This CD laces klezmer with schmears of jazz, latin, funk, and blues. The resulting fusion is great fun. Jack Kessler's vocals on "A Hot Date in Zero Gravity" sound like The Ten Commandments' soundtrack on steroids.

But brisket is not for the faint of heart. "End of the Universe Part 2" builds to a shvitzy froth with vigorous efforts from trumpeter Stan Slotter, clarinetist Bob Butryn, and violinist Joseph Kessler.

Keeping this Klingon congregation firmly reconstructed are bassist Chico Huff, drummer Tom Cohen, and keyboardist Dave Posmontier. Dancing is an expected by-product of this CD.

- Karl Stark


(Deutsche Grammophon ***1/2)

Helene Grimaud's strong recent appearance with the Philadelphia Orchestra coincides with the release of one of her best recital discs, a mixed-composer program consisting of Mozart's

Piano Sonata No. 8 K. 310

, Berg's

Piano Sonata Op. 1

, Liszt's

Piano Sonata in B minor

, and Bartok's

Romanian Folk Dances

. And whatever these pieces have to do with the disc's title,


, the musical sequencing has some midsize revelations. Everything is played with Grimaud's charismatic boldness and attention to detail. Her remarkably sympathetic Mozart breathes with naturalness you wouldn't expect from a performer who rarely dips into this period. She framed Liszt with different reactions to his breakdown of tonality. The Berg sonata has an unleashed quality as it dives into a new world of expressive possibilities, while Bartok looks to some of the thornier folk music he collected as a ticket to the future. Though you'd expect Grimaud to burn down the Liszt in virtuosic fashion, she downplays the rhetoric and uses color more as a mode of expression, in keeping with accounts of Liszt's own playing. Even for those who know this piece, Grimaud is full of distinctive phrase readings that prompt return hearings.

- David Patrick Stearns