Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Worth It In 2011: #32 - Buraka Som Sistema

I'm still working on a review of this one, so I'll be cagey, but it's an electro-acoustic dance album based on Angolan kuduro music, which I've never heard in its pure form, if it even has a "pure form". Think MIA in her "pure form", without any stylistic tangents. Komba is also a concept album (so they say) based on a ritual seven-day wake that Angolan people throw for their dead friends. The music is deep and dark, but also very humanistic. I've said too much! (Way better than Battles' Gloss Drop.)

Buraka Som Sistema

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Worth It in 2011: #33 - Thompson Square

The first, and less favorite, of two country couples on my list, Thompson Square's debut album just got traction this year with their single "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?", which is big and fine and reviewed by the Singles Jukebox here. "The melody's got some tug to it", I said, but I missed its majesty, how it sounds like the endgame of the entire world depends on the answer to the title question -- in other words, exactly how such a situation sounds inside the head of the nervous would-be kisser.

Thompson Square
Thompson Square
(Stoney Creek 2010)

Though they do some annoying list-the-humdrum-details-of-my-everyday-life songs ("As Bad As It Gets" and "One of Those Days", sort of the mainstream country version of Francesca Battistelli's "This Is the Stuff"), they also have one heck of an extended-metaphor ballad in "Glass", one heck of a hard-to-explain-to-your-kid-in-the-backseat-without-having-THE-TALK ballad in "If It Takes All Night", and lots of good riffs and harmonies. Not as MANY harmonies as that other country couple, which partially explains why Thompson Square are all the way down here in the 30s. But still good.

Listen here; way better than the Decemberists' The King Is Dead, if only because Thompson Square actually get around to explaining why we fight. (To make up, basically.)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Worth It in 2011: #34 - Weasel Walter/Mary Halvorson/Peter Evans

This free jazz trio session becomes more enjoyable every time I play it, as drums/guitar/trumpet coalesce into areas of great beauty and energy, only to break down into more scattershot configurations. To way oversimplify things, Evans swings, Walter clatters, and I'm VERY pleased with this as my introduction to Halvorson, who somehow holds them both together with a giant catalog of guitar techniques. If you wanna read more about her, here's the fine Will Layman at PopMatters

Weasel Walter/Mary Halvorson/Peter Evans
Electric Fruit
(Thirsty Ear)

Drummer Weasel Walter is known for his blast beats, and guitarist Mary Halvorson is considered one of the hardest pickers in the biz, so the most surprising sonic quality of Electric Fruit might be its quietness. Fruit is an improvised six-track pow-wow between Walter, Halvorson, and trumpeter Peter Evans. On occasion, these three weirdos push each other into areas of overdriven sonic violence, but more often Fruit sounds like a collective dare: How quickly and precisely can three musicians play together without ever lapsing into a conventional rhythm or tonality?

On “The Stench of Cyber-Durian”—this thing’s got the best song titles around—Halvorson starts with what sounds like a cute little ostinato figure. Or at least that’s what we’re led to believe for about 11 notes, until she starts messing with it. Walter darts around her while Evans blows one note over and over, seemingly intent on exploring every possible iteration of that pitch. From there they embark on a capricious 11-minute journey through scritches and scratches, arpeggios and melodies, prettiness and godawful rooting pig noises. Have you ever dropped everything simply to appreciate how many different sounds exist in the world? If so, this may be the album for you.

Even when someone does threaten to start grooving, the other two refuse to succumb. Halvorson, who evinces the biggest bag of tricks, will sometimes offer a lovely bit of Metheny minimalism that threatens to become music you could play at a dinner party. Sometimes Walter and Evans coalesce around her dominant rhythm; more often, they simply mess with it until everything breaks down again, bliddledybloop. This shouldn’t imply that they’re not playing nicely together, though. The interplay of these three musicians often resembles a conversation among highly intelligent people who know they should listen respectfully but, try as they might, can’t stop thinking of stuff to say and so continually talk over one another’s responses. It’s hard-charging interdependence. Think a late-night dorm-room conspiracy theory session or an episode of The McLaughlin Group. (Same thing?)

Halvorson and Walter play their music with lots of hard consonants: Brisk. Brittle. Crisp. Rattly. Lickety-split. (Though admittedly, there’s not much Slack.) Even when Halvorson uses pedals to add blasts of distortion or cool pitch-bend effects, she cuts off her sounds abruptly. This is miles away from, say, a Last Exit-style blowout, where you can get lost in gooey globs of feedback and noise. Every sound here seems intentional, and there’s nowhere for the notes to hide. Because of the nature of his instrument, Evans’ playing is more legato, but he deftly keeps up with the other two and slides through an impressive variety of timbres.

Electric Fruit makes for captivating listening. Whether you’ll feel compelled to play it a bunch is another matter, but I suspect there’ll come a day in the not too distant future when you just wanna hear three music geeks at the top of their game, playing, with obvious care and delight, music that’d sound like the infernal tortures of hell to 90 percent of the yaks you have to tolerate every day. May this deeply social collaboration chase them screaming from the room.

Weasel Walter, Mary Halvorson and Peter Evans - Electric Fruit by Thirsty Ear Recordings

Worth It REISSUES in 2011: #6 - Drive-By Truckers

From writing this review for PopMatters, excerpted below, I learned two important things:

1. My taste in Drive-By Truckers differs from most fans' taste in Drive-By Truckers. Commenter Jamie McAfee kindly summarized it this way: "This was somewhat enlightening in its alternative appreciation. Clearly you know the records, but your appreciation doesn't really line up with the average DBT fan. Zip City and The Living Bubba are pretty central DBT songs, for example, and Ouftit was the big DBT anthem till Isbell left." The trouble is, those songs are pretty boring, and the Truckerz are capable of louder things and cooler guitar tones.

2. You should NEVER EVER state in a review that you don't know what a song is about, because there is undoubtedly some fan out there who has parsed the lyrics more closely than you have and will eagerly set you straight. (ahem... "Carl Perkins' Cadillac"...) You should just always follow Rob Sheffield's tactic of blithely stating your interpretation of the song, no matter how out there. If nothing else, this tactic makes for an extra joke, and jokes are useful and hard to come by.

#6 Reissue
Drive-By Truckers
Ugly Buildings, Whores & Politicians
(New West)

Here, let’s have some fun. Put on Southern Rock Opera, the Drive-By Truckers’ breakthrough 2001 double album, and play the first few seconds of each song, like you’re sampling it on the digital listening stations of some defunct retailer. (RIP Borders.) With a couple exceptions—the drums and bass that open “Wallace”, Mike Cooley hollering “I think I’m gonna call the PO-lice!”—every song starts with guitars: noodly guitars, foreboding guitars, guitars that have trouble getting started, guitars that have a loose relationship with soul or boogie or punk riffs. DBT can do different things, but their classic sound is meditative electric guitar worship that somehow congeals into song. To paraphrase minimalist composer Morton Feldman, those six strings are their Walden...

[then I talk about some of the boring songs]

Thankfully, as the Truckers’ extensive gay listenership might say, it gets better. Half of these 16 songs are mighty fine, and that number includes character studies like the evil “Sink Hole” and music history lessons like “Ronnie and Neil” and “Carl Perkins’ Cadillac”. I’m still not entirely sure what “Cadillac” is about, but its melody rips off “Mr. Bojangles” with such sweet yearning I can’t help but love it. “Lookout Mountain” is massive; “Marry Me” sounds like a lost Stones classic. 2008’s Brighter Than Creation’s Dark album is absurdly overrated, but this compilation has the courtesy to cherrypick two of its four rockers. “The Righteous Path” is Hood’s meditation on singing one note over and over again, a righteous path of anti-melody. And “3 Dimes Down”! “3 Dimes Down” is a CRAZY song—the guitar tone from the Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking”, a story about a laudromat threesome, and two verses (no chorus) of perfect rock ‘n’ roll lines. “Three dimes down and 25 cents shy of a slice of the Doublemint Twins”, indeed. Throw in “Let There Be Rock” and that makes five Hoods, three Cooleys, and no Isbells, which seems about right, though I wouldn’t skip Isbell’s “Outfit” and “Never Gonna Change” if they came on.

(Way better than the Eli Young Band's Life At Best.)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Worth It in 2011: #35 - Alexi Murdoch

IF YOU LIKE NICK DRAKE THEN YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO ALEXI MURDOCH. Even if you don't often listen to Nick Drake, but he always sounds nice on soundtracks and on your wife's As Seen On TV compilation, then you might want to listen to Alexi Murdoch. If you saw that charming pregnancy movie Away We Go, you have already heard Alexi Murdoch. Gentle acoustic folk with propulsion and dissonance in the guitar, subtle instrumental shading, openhearted grappling with matters of life and death... You know you wanna hear this guy. And what the heck is that on the album cover?

Alexi Murdoch
Towards the Sun
(Zero Summer)

The album is a study in stillness, but a fascinating stillness inside which you can move around. Steve Horowitz, a fine writer at PopMatters, turned me on to this guy. He sez, "Each of the seven tracks offers the same lesson. We are free to walk towards the light or live in the shadows. The choice is ours. No one can make it for us. Listen to that still small voice inside, like the one you hear on the record. You will know what to do."

(Way better than Bon Iver's Bon Iver.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This Kool and Together Comp is NOT Worth It.

Cymbal afficionado.

Since they read better than my PopMatters review, here are two angry comments from "Donna," who had the sagacity to NOT insult my day job:

Dude, what is your deal.....just saw these guys perform and they killed it... First of all those are old recordings and I personally do not understand why you would bring up someone [Cowboy Troy] from Victoria....Yeah he probably had better contributions but he probably had money to keep making music!!!!!!  This is their first album that has actually come out..Also they were KIDS when they made this.....They did not have the technology they do now to make them sound good.....Like I said not everybody could afford top quality like the Rolling Stones!!!!!!! You are the only one that has said something negative the ONLY one...Even Spin magazine liked them and WHO are you!!!!!!!!!Whatever, before you pass judgement!!!! you should see them at the Lincoln Center in New York on December 15....then judge!!!!! Josh!!!!!!

Plus...people...THESE RECORDINGS WERE NOT MEANT FOR THE PUBLIC THEY WERE DISCOVERED BY CHANCE....JOSH did not do his research skills correctly obviously.... This review is awful and not specific and very bias....they are a damn good band and people you should check them out!!!!!!

Worth It in 2011: #36 - R Kelly

R. Kelly's genius at creating albums is casual in nature. He seems to just pick up whatever's lying around and put it out there for us to devour, which explains why this late 2010 album contains a barely-altered Christmas version of the title track that includes A COWBELL SOLO. Why not? There's such an unforced feeling to his output, in pop-auteur terms he's less Stevie Wonder or Prince than he is Neil "It's All One Song!" Young. (Except is Neil Young really an auteur? Discuss.) Kelly releases his share of crap, but Love Letter, while not as extended a triumph as 2004's Happy People, is right up there with his best long players.

R Kelly
Love Letter
(Jive '10)

From Sheep & Goats over at Burnside:
It’s like Song of Solomon, only it mentions God more and includes a scene in a taxi cab.  This is Kells in his sunniest mode, stepping through his folks’ R&B collections while canned drums burble gently in the background.  If, like me, you consider him the most gifted chart popper of the last decade, this is his most delightfully consistent effort since Happy People in ‘04.  If, like my wife, you find him irredeemably cheesy, you may still appreciate the shouted adlib that ends “Number One Hit”:  “You’re my Titanic! My movie star! My Coming to America! My Avatar!”  Or maybe this, from “A Love Letter Christmas”:  “I wanna have some fun, gimme the cowbell!”  AND THEN HE PLAYS A COWBELL SOLO.

From Singles Jukebox, where the title track scored a collective 7.38:
The lyric is pretty brilliant, too. It’s a deceptively artless stream of consciousness on people’s motives for writing love letters, incorporated into his own act of writing, so that, without a shred of detail about Kelly’s surroundings, I can envision him sitting at his dining room table writing his letter, pausing every once in a while to ruminate on the nature of letter writing itself. And in my imagination, his dining room table is my dining room table, which in turn makes me think I should catch up on my correspondence. I mean, wow — talk about collapsing distinctions between life and art, between artist and audience.

And Tal Rosenberg correctly sez, "It certainly feels like no art I’ve come across in recent memory has dealt so plainly with such elemental sources of happiness."

(Way better than Destroyer's Kaputt.) (You know, if we're talking suave R&B vamps and such.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Worth It in 2011: #37 - David Banner & 9th Wonder

I'll persist in calling this late 2010 album Christian rap because that's what it is, although I wouldn't be comfortable playing it around most people at church, or my parents, or my children, etc. The album's Christian-ness isn't just a matter of David Banner using Christian imagery in his raps. Throughout Death of a Pop Star, Banner grapples with his position as a Christian in a non-Christian world of urban poverty, flashy rap stars, and strip clubs. The results wouldn't please everyone, but that's hardly a Christian's job, is it? An honest mess from a faithful brother.

David Banner & 9th Wonder
Death of a Pop Star
(b.i.G.f.a.c.e./eOne ‘10)

From Sheep & Goats:
In the best song, Banner prays that he might lead his people to “The Light” over a slinky funk bounce built of barks and grunts.  He starts the soulful “Slow Down” talking smack to a stripper, and ends up humanizing her — not in any real deep way, but we learn she’s a single mom working two jobs, which is more than you’d get from the Ying Yang Twins.  Banner can also sound idiotic — he equates rappers trying to sing with “preachers touchin’ the kids”, and attributes homosexuality to rape-by-stepfather.  But that hardly makes him the first Christian blowhard, and anyway, he can rap rings around most such yaks, burrowing deep into 9th Wonder’s inspired grooves.  It’s a confounding possibility for what Christian rap can be:  dope, spiritually naked, socially perceptive, occasionally stupid and offensive.  And hey — if Ludacris wants to offer a hilarious sex rap instead of a testimony, at least Banner got him in the door.

From The Singles Jukebox, where "Be With You" scored a collective 7 out of 10:
Luda’s verses are laugh-out-loud funnier in the context of Death of a Pop Star, one of the more confounding and entertaining Christian rap albums I’ve heard, because he strings his random church and sex images together with such obvious glee, he makes me believe he’s getting away with something. It’s as though Banner invites him to church to give a testimonial, and instead Luda regales the congregation with a blasphemous blow-by-blow account of his Saturday night, and everybody ends up loving him anyway. As a single it’s just a straightforward pick-up/sex rap with some inexplicable God talk thrown in, but 9th Wonder’s track and Banner himself are warm and loose, and Luda’s “offering”/”oxygen” still makes me grin.

Listen to "The Light"!

(Way better than the Beastie Boys' Hot Sauce Committee Part Two.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Worth It In 2011: #38 - Heavy Winged

One of my better writing efforts from the past year, originally at PopMatters:

Heavy Winged
(Type '10)

Heavy Winged conjure visions of massiveness.  Imagine all the MASSIVE things you can: THE SUN, of course, and MOUNTAINS, and NORSE GODS, and DIVINE HAMMERS, and all that kind of stuff.  From an instrumental noise-metal group, this is pretty much what you expect.  Bands like Heavy Winged don’t often aim to evoke things like mice or fairies, not even the really mean and big kinds that wear boots.  But these guys are impressive—they sound pretty massive even during their sparser, quieter moments, which occur intermittently across the 45 minutes and two songs that constitute Sunspotted.

20-minute songs are the norm for Heavy Winged, whose discography consists largely of improvised CD-Rs and LPs released through tiny labels.  Recently, they’ve been using studios and overdubs more.  Sure enough, Sunspotted often boasts two mightily rad guitar figures assaulting both your ears at once, with noise connoisseur Ryan Hebert laying down two-chord motifs over sheets of haze and squawl.  If you do a guided meditation to this album under the persuasive influence of Yukon Jack—and you should, it’s got a flavor big as all outdoors—you’ll eventually find your mind wandering into expanses of desolate tundra, winds howling and locomotives running amok, door buzzers ringing insistently to no answer (that one doesn’t exactly fit, but it sounds freaky coming out of a guitar), and eventually you’ll come across THE PENDULUM SWING.  That effect comes 16 minutes into “Breathe Life” (Heavy Winged usurp the divine!).  It consists of Herbert scraping a tone cluster worthy of late downtown composer Morton Feldman, over and over, as though snuffing out existence itself.

Song two, “Vapor Trails” (Heavy Winged usurp the FAA, or at least Rush!), starts with noodling guitar-windchimes blowing in the breeze, then evolves into crackling electrical scritching.  Drummer Jed Bindeman starts gettin’ antsy and everything escalates, the guitars threatening explosion ‘mid bassist Brady Sansone’s roiling clouds of doom and gathering sandstorms.  (He sounds huge throughout.)  After passing through various phases of instrumental war, the whole thing comes to a pastoral close with a darling little filigreed pattern like the end of some Strauss tone poem.  Both songs change texture every five to ten minutes, so they’re more like two extended suites.  This adds to the overall feeling of largeness; though the two songs initially seem monolithic, they’re stuffed with so many sounds that it takes a while to register them all.  (For some reason my notes label one such sound “BIG OLD ELECTRICAL PLANT”, but that may just be the Yukon Jack talking.)

You can’t call ‘em “hooks”, but Sunspotted certainly has landmarks, memorable sonic areas that you can recognize and bask in with every listen.  The guitar riffs tend to be simple, built on fourths; the bass is a monstrous looming beast; the drums rock.  (At one point, Bindeman sounds like he’s smashing melons with a club.)  This is accessible noise that delivers the goods.  Four minutes into “Breathe Life”, the low end achieves a sound that resembles the moon bouncing off a tarpaulin made of whale skin.  Before hearing this CD, I wasn’t even sure what a tarpaulin was!  This shit will expand your mind.

(Way better than Prefuse 73's The Only She Chapters.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Worth It In 2011: #39 - Blind Boys of Alabama

The Worth It scale of unfair value judgments is fiendishly simple: if an album doesn't feel like a chore to sit through again, it's Worth It. If it's anything other than that, I just forget about it. Well, I don't totally forget about it, because I keep a list of everything, but there are several highly-placed Not Worth Its that I wouldn't hate you for liking, and that are probably quality music in the Objective and Godly scale of fair value judgments. But I wouldn't go around repping for them.

(A Worth It album basically equals a Sheep over at my "Sheep & Goats" column at the Burnside Writers Collective, though I occasionally grade a tad easier there. It seems to equal a high 6 or above at PopMatters. If I had the exact same taste as Robert Christgau, B+ and above would probably be Worth It. Everything I'm talking up in this Top 40, though, is A- at the lowest, or 8 out of 10 on the PopMatters scale.)

This criterion is useful to remember when it comes to an album like Take the High Road, which isn't the most ambitious or exciting thing in the world, I'll grant you, but which never doesn't sound good and always feels like a pleasure to listen to again. And there are little surprises, chief among them Lee Ann Womack being a total beast on the mic. I think I'm most surprised that I haven't gotten tired of this album yet, no matter how often it comes on.

Blind Boys of Alabama
Take the High Road
(Saguaro Road)

From Sheep & Goats:

Smooth countrypolitan piano and organ over a forthright shuffle, and some Blind Boys come in: “I was a burden…” Impossible! “I was a burden…” You’re national treasures! “I was a burden ‘til the Lord laid his hands on me.” Over the past 72 years(!) the gospel singers have perfected a blend of passion, good humor, gentleness, shouting, rhythmic acuity, and mile-wide vibrato that delivers songs as naturally as plain speech or breathing. Somehow all the vast enormity of the Christian walk resides in their voices. And THEN Lee Ann Womack comes in, looks us in the eye, and admits, “I was a burden to my motherrrrrrr / And to my fatherrrrrrr / My sister and brotherrrrrrrrr”. What, for being too perfect? No, she was on “dope, whiskey, and wine”, hopeless, losing her mind, until the Lord laid his hands on her. I’m no Dr. Drew, but I do wonder if the elements of her vocal performance that make it so incredibly sexy, her vibrancy and authority, are related to her past addiction. Maybe she tried to feed the vibrancy with chemicals, which worked OK until she became a burden, at which point she and God mustered up all her authority to get sober. Womack is brilliant here, pushing through unstated vulnerability up to her final triumphant “HA!” …Um, I suppose I should mention there’s 11 other country songs on this album, all good, loosey-goosily co-produced by the shaggy Jamey Johnson, some with different guest stars. Vince Gill! He sings real good. OK, I’ll go back to being smitten now.

Way better than Buddy Miller's The Majestic Silver Strings.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Worth It in 2011: #40 - Gucci Mane

Surfing In Babylon celebrates The Year In Music with our typical blend of largesse and hubris! You're welcome. Like you, I'm concerned about these year-end best-ofs appearing earlier and earlier each year; like you, I haven't fully absorbed the new Buraka Som Sistema CONCEPT ALBUM yet. Here's my excuses for jumping the gun:

1. I've heard a lot of stuff this year -- not as much as most people who write about music for a living, and not as much as plenty of folks who write about music for kicks, but more than I've ever heard in any other year of my life. SO.... this evolving list may point out things YOU'D like that you'd otherwise have missed, thus enabling you to formulate more perfect year-end lists of your own.

2. I don't have all the time in the world! Especially around Christmas. As one of the local PTO officials put it when someone challenged the date of our local Scrapbooking Event, "I have to schedule this when it works for ME."

3. This'll probably wind up including more than 40 albums, because I'll wind up inserting other things I hear in the meantime. Like the new Buraka Som Sistema CONCEPT ALBUM.

4. I'm not going to put much effort into it.

I'm not sure how that last one's a point in my favor, but we'll see. In the meantime, may I direct you to:

Gucci Mane
The Return of Mr. Zone 6
(a mixtape on Warner Bros., however that happens)

Still have a sneaking suspicion I liked this so much because I missed the Waka Flocka Flame boat last year. (I spent a delightful January day blasting Flockaveli, watching Black Swan, reading Proust, and debasing myself and others with bizarre psychosexual mind games.) (PTO holla!) Gucci's not as magnetic as Waka, who still shows up on a couple trax here, and these beats lack all that crazy Waka barking in the background -- a song like "Reckless" is anything but. But there still comes a time in every Gucci song when feel like I'm floating away on a sea of midtempo -- "bliss"? Maybe not, because in "bliss" women are generally loved and respected as equals, but you get the idea. It's like a form of hypnosis or sedative: repetitive and soothing, allowing you to notice enough details and idiosyncrasies to maintain interest, and a relief when you contrast your Gucci-filled life to the Gucci-less world that existed before the music started playing. Or when you look up and suddenly realize you're operating a car.

You should listen to "This Is What I Do", ft. Waka.

Way better than Tyler the Creator's Goblin.

This Dinky New Album By Gospel Music is NOT Worth It.

You can give him money for a razor, but he'll just spend it on booze.

Gospel Music makes twee pop, and there is better twee pop out there; I'm sure of it! If I didn't believe that, I couldn't go on. In my PopMatters review I have attempted to spell out why. An excerpt:

I think this guy Owen Holmes isn’t as clever as he’d like to be. He’s the man behind the moniker Gospel Music, an act whose output doesn’t have anything to do with gospel music, but does have plenty to do with jaunty acoustic pop and twee love songs. Holmes has this annoying habit of pausing before his “laugh lines” (I use the term loosely), as though he’s smirking at you, eyebrows wriggling, promising that THIS is going to be the wittiest thing you’ve ever heard. “Don’t call me a bore, don’t say I’m a mess / I’m not drinkin’ any more but I’m not drinkin’ ... any ... less”, and so on. That particular line graces the song “This Town Doesn’t Have Enough Bars for Both of Us”, from Gospel Music’s full-length debutHow to Get to Heaven from Jacksonville, FL. It’s an album-length ode to hangdogs, the women who settle for them, and the extremely long titles that ensue. As you read this, Holmes is probably scoring a Michael Cera movie.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Miranda Lambert's New One May or May Not Be Worth It.


It's called Four the Record. I now regret that I didn't include a whole string of terrible "four" puns at the end of my PopMatters review, fournication in the fourests of Fourks, WA, while fourmidable foes affourd no mercy and fourensic detectives fourget to fill out triplicate fourms, and whatnot. On second thought, maybe it's better that I didn't do that. Here's an excerpt:

Lambert is a rare country artist who’s become more popular even as she’s gotten alt-er. However you feel about alternative country vs. chart country, there’s something admirable about Lambert sprinkling her surefire Number One albums with the songs of Americana lifers like Fred Eaglesmith, Patty Griffin, John Prine, and, on this one, Gillian Welch and Allison Moorer. (It’s sort of like when Nirvana dragged the Meat Puppets onto MTV Unplugged.) No surprise, Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio” and Moorer’s “Oklahoma Sky” (nothing about Oregon?) are atmospheric and brooding, two qualities prized by alt-country fans. Lambert’s earlier ballads “More Like Her” and “Greyhound Bound For Nowhere” were prettier, less fussy, and better observed narratives. On the other hand, “Miss Ohio” never spells out its title character’s dilemma, so it arrives covered in a patina of capital “M” Mystery that manages to feel rootsy and sophisticated at the same time, a neat trick. If you enjoy dissecting the Anthology of American Folk Music over craft beers, Lambert might happily join you someday.