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NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS
No More Shall We Part Reprise

Though lyrically weak at moments and lacking the brutal musical intensity and onionesque layers of past work, No More Shall We Part shares a bed with predecessors The Boatman's Call and The Good Son, with similar gospel-influenced ballads deftly driven by piano and violin--a Leonard Cohen-esque endeavor, complete with an interspersing of female background vocals. The many shapes and contours of matrimony texture this diverse work that romps through the usual Cave haunts of religion (best on the sly, almost-too-clever "God Is in the House") and social commentary, with the addition of a confessional personality that was previously only a coy suggestion. Cave approaches his vocals here with a higher, more desperate, crooning whine of sorrow than his usual insidious baritone howl. This brittle yearning surges on the Nina Simone-reminiscent title track, but worked better at recent live shows than on much of this recording. There are moments of undeniable pop genius here, such as "Love Letter," which makes one think of Bogart and Tom Waits drinking each other under the piano at Rick's Café. Like the oil blossoms on the cover, the rich colors offered here make this bad seed flower and grow with each listen. --Amrah Fatale


Bessie Jones
Put Your Hand on Your Hip Rounder

The Rounder Heritage Series is presented in celebration of the label's thirtieth year in business, and features anthologies devoted to themes like traditional fiddlers or blues piano players, as well as titles by single artists. It's fitting that one of these should be Bessie Jones, the great folk singer from the Georgia Sea Islands. The islands, which extend down the north Georgia Coast, were the home of the most African of African-American cultures. Many of Jones' songs were learned from her grandfather, a former slave who lived to be over a hundred. They range from spirituals to game songs she sings with a group of youngsters. She had the ability to lift any group she sang with, and, like Leadbelly, could make even the simplest song an experience of real depth. Enhanced by excellent, extensive notes, this release lives up to its billing as "essential." --Duck Baker


Yukmouth
Thuglord: the New Testament Rap-A-Lot

Ever since the death of Tupac Shakur in 1996, West Coast rap has been in disarray. Sure, there have been rappers who came on the scene and made an impact, like Vallejo's E-40, but the loss of Shakur's voice set the west back, as other regions of the country gained dominance in the rap market. With the arrival of Thuglord: The New Testament, Yukmouth is trying to settle scores and bring the Bay Area back on the national hip-hop scene. This is not the Yukmouth that fans grew accustomed to when he was in the Oakland rap group the Luniz, that tore up the scene from 1994-1998. While that Yukmouth was hardcore but reserved at times, this Yukmouth is energetic and out front, and shows he's not an emcee to be played with. This is apparent in the first cut off the album, "Thug Lord," a fast-paced gangsta rap song that's an open diss of Too $hort. Yukmouth even bites at comparisons to Shakur in the cut "We Gone Ride," featuring the Outlawz, the group Tupac founded. "They say I act like Pac/ I don't rap like Pac, I just get dap like Pac/ Bring the West Coast back like Pac, make a nigga pack a gat, and snap like Pac." Yukmouth does display the Tupac aura, with his gangsta rap and outlaw mentality, but there was also a redeeming, socially conscious side of Shakur that Yukmouth doesn't tap into. Still, that doesn't detract from the crisp lyrics displayed on Thuglord. --Lee Hubbard


MITCH WOODS & HIS ROCKET 88'S
Jump for Joy Blind Pig

Woods' monster piano chops--a combination of stride, boogie woogie, rock 'n' roll, and a touch of N'awlins second line strut--made him a favorite sideman when he arrived in San Francisco in the late '70s. He formed his first version of the Rocket 88's in 1980. Woods dubbed his original music "rock 'n' boogie," with the lyrical sass of Fats Waller and the jumpin' rhythms of jive. Woods was playing hot swing music long before the current revival took shape, but although he's well respected in blues circles, pop success has thus far evaded him. Jump for Joy probably won't make Woods a mainstream star, but it's a damn good album, maybe the best he's put out in his sixteen-year recording career. This time out, the 88's are augmented by a seven-piece horn section that lends tunes like "Jump in the Groove and Go" and "Straight Eight" plenty of sizzling energy. Jump for Joy also shows Woods' growth as a songwriter and singer. His arch delivery makes "Broke" (which includes a clever interlude wherein he lists every libation found at a high class saloon) and "Easy Street" (a smooth ode to the good life), a sophisticated sheen. Other winners include "Not a Bad Part of My Life," a tale of romantic high jinks with a funky Latin groove, and "Jive Mr. Boogie," a showcase for Woods' work on the keys. --j. poet

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