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Is Pusha-T's album worth the hype? We say yes

Reviewed: Pusha-T, Lump and Dale Gilmore and Dave Alvin

Pusha-T performs at the Made in America Festival, September 3rd, 2017.
Pusha-T performs at the Made in America Festival, September 3rd, 2017.Read moreCAMERON POLLACK for The Inquirer

(Good Music *** 1/2)

Daytona is newsworthy in all kinds of ways. It's Pusha-T's finest work since Hell Hath No Fury, his 2006 classic with duo Clipse. Also, praises be, it's only 7 songs and 21 minutes long! And like Jay-Z's 2017 release 4:44, which teamed the rapper exclusively with No I.D., Daytona is a taut, cohesive work that is a full length collaboration with a single producer.

That producer is Kanye West, who — no matter what you think about his recent public statements in praise of Donald Trump and about slavery being "a choice" — immediately makes it clear that he still has his wits about him as a sharp, inventive beat maker. Pusha — who like Jay, has restored the hyphen to his name — allows West to guide the musical ship, and the rapper is on top of his game, whether catering to his hardcore fans on "If You Know You Know," or wondering what was on the mind of then-incarcerated rapper Meek Mill on "What Would Meek Do." West has a guest rap on that song, and it's weak. The producer and Good Music label head is also responsible for the dubious decision to use a picture of Whitney Houston's bathroom the day she died as the Daytona album cover. Houston's estate says they're "extremely disappointed" in West.

Finally, Daytona has also incited what promises to be an epic feud between Pusha and Drake, reminiscent of the Canadian rapper's beef with Mill in 2015. On the album's "Infared," Pusha again raises the charge that the "Hot Line Bling" star doesn't write his own raps. Drake responded immediately with the clever clap back "Duppy Freestyle" and Pusha struck again this past week with the brutal diss track "The Story of Adidon." Don't expect this to end anytime soon. — Dan DeLuca

(Dead Oceans, *** stars)

Lump is a new collaboration between English folk artists Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay of the band Tunng. Lindsay provides the music, a blend of gentle electronics and soft guitars, with the occasional addition of a flute or abrasive synths. It's an often abstract, sometimes insistent bed for Marling's voices, which range from her familiar intimate alto to ethereal, reverberating high harmonies to measured, detached monotones.

Marling uses the project to experiment: Her own albums tend to be word-centric, full of rapid paragraphs of images and narrative. Here, she's interested in impressionistic statements and compact declarations that explore the intersections of subconscious thoughts and public persona. "Sleep like a teen / Paint dots on your wrist to see me in your dreams," she sings with a sigh in "Late to the Flight" atop a dreamy, and dream-poppy, swirl of synths and strings. The brief album — 30 minutes, plus an odd two-minute recitation of the album credits — has more in common with Kate Bush or, on "Curse of the Contemporary," the Cure than with Joni Mitchell or Nick Drake or Marling's own albums. — Steve Klinge

Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Downey to Lubbock
(Yep Roc 3 stars)

You could call it an Americana summit, although Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore not only predate the genre label by decades, they have also helped shape what "Americana" has come to represent, amorphous as that may be. On the roadhouse romp of a title song that launches their first collaboration, they tell their individual stories: Alvin is the one from Downey in suburban L.A. with the "loud Stratocaster" who helped found the Blasters; Gilmore is the "hippie country singer" from Lubbock in West Texas who also was a charter member of a storied group, the Flatlanders.

The high spirits and sense of camaraderie set the tone for what turns out to be an inspired pairing, even if Alvin's cigarette-roughened baritone and Gilmore's nasal warble – along with their stylistic differences – don't initially seem like a natural fit. They deliver terrific versions of songs by fallen contemporaries such as Steve Young's "Silverlake" and Chris Gaffney's "The Gardens," and – fitting for an old hippie – the Youngbloods anthem "Get Together."  They also reach back for some vintage blues and R&B, and if there's a revelation here it's the way Gilmore occasionally departs from his usual vocal style and tears with gusto into LIghtnin' Hopkins' "Buddy Brown's Blues" and Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy." On the other hand, it's hard to think of a singer who can wring more pathos out of Woody Guthrie's wrenching "Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)," a ballad that takes on renewed resonance today.

Alvin's folk narrative "Billy the Kid and Geronimo" is the only original besides his and Gilmore's "Downey to Lubbock," and it's so good you wish the two of them had written more themselves. Maybe next time. — Nick Cristiano

With Dead Rock West, at 8 p.m. Thursday at World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut St. Tickets: $30 in advance, $33 day of show. 215-222-1400.