With all the fireworks happening this Independence Day weekend, you'd expect an explosion of activity in the record racks too, right? Wrong. Not only is there a lack of releases this week, there aren't even any new Hank Williams Jr. or Darryl Worley tunes to light your sparklers to.
Instead you'll have to settle for Chicago iconoclasts Rise Against, who're squeezing out their fourth record, The Sufferer & the Witness. The 13-track affair, co-produced by Bill Stevenson (Black Flag, Descendents), features the hardcore-ish "Survive," rapid-fire "Bricks" -- featuring the refrain "we'll never die" -- and a surprise ballad, "Roadside." Look for guest-singing appearances by Holy Roman Empire's Emily Schambra and Drag the River's Chad Price.
If it's more topical -- and critical -- listening that you're after this week, look no further than Blow Up Hollywood's The Diaries of Private Henry Hill, a concept album that's based on the writings of a U.S. solider who died in Iraq. Hill's journals were passed along to his father, who in turn gave them to Blow Up frontman/ homeless-shelter coordinator Steve Messina. The third studio LP by the New York ensemble is boosted by a bonus DVD and includes the ominously titled "Shots Fired," "Shock and Awe" and "Salvation."
Too critical for your tastes? Well, the closest you're going to get to nationalist sentiment is with Johnny Cash, a reputed renegade who perplexed patriots throughout his career. This week hails American V: A Hundred Highways, presumably the final chapter in the series overseen by Rick Rubin, as it contains the last song Cash wrote and recorded: "Like the 309." Bundled with touching notes by Rubin, the opus features covers of songs by Bruce Springsteen ("Further Up on the Road"), Hank Williams ("On the Evening Train"), Gordon Lightfoot ("If You Could Read My Mind") and other American heritage artists.
Just as Cash's renditions of other people's songs are being collected, so are the songs that inspired him to make music in the first place. Roots & Branches: Artists, Songs & Recordings That Inspired the Legend of Johnny Cash boasts the Kingston Trio's "Jackson," Jimmie Rodgers' "In the Jailhouse Now," Roy Orbison's "You're My Baby" and more.
On the subject of recycling other people's songs, Rodney Jerkins is putting a new twist on the idea. The premier hip-hop producer shows his Versatility with an album that boasts 13 instrumental songs and six additional cuts that consumers can break down into individual tracks and re-create. Those who reshape one or more of the bonus tracks can submit the mixes -- along with the CD's proof-of-purchase -- to Jerkins, and the winner will get a chance to be a songwriter on a future Jerkins-produced album. Versatility drops on his own Darkchild Records imprint.
Also going the innovative route are the Eastern Stars, who spray Moog, ukulele and omnichord over the 11 tracks featured on July 5th, 1961. The newbies -- Rob Corradetti and Kaia Wong -- looked to Moldy Peaches, Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd for inspiration on their first effort, according to a track-by-track breakdown. The New York folksters are giving the record a soft release this week in New York and San Francisco -- so it can relish the 45th anniversary of the album title, which the band calls "a date on which nothing of political or social significance occurred, yet a date on which everything imaginable happened: birth, death, tragedy, baseball and slugging back to work with holiday hangovers." The record gets a wide release in August.
Also seeing a limited release this week is Ziggy Marley's Love Is My Religion, which he's only delivering to Target stores through Tuff Gong Worldwide. It's the first time Marley has gone with an exclusive distributor and, more significantly, the first time Target is selling a record exclusively -- took a little while to catch up to Best Buy, eh? "One of my father's goals was to release an album independently. ... Unfortunately, he never had the chance," Marley said in a press release. "This album and the way it is being sold is important to me in honoring my father's spirit." Bob Marley's spirit living on through a major retailer? Who knew? Marley's Love Is My Religion, his second solo release, features African percussion and "Into the Groove," "Be Free" and the title track.
Also pushing musical boundaries are Banco de Gaia, whose Farewell Ferengistan encompasses electronic and Middle Eastern beats, ambient passages and Qawaali drumming. "Flow My Dreams, The Android Wept" not only references the novella by author Philip K. Dick, which was adapted to became "Blade Runner," but the song includes a clip from the score to "A Clockwork Orange," as well.
Last but not least, this week brings the first CD by Peter Gammons, longtime ESPN analyst, baseball critic and, apparently, guitarist. Sadly, the 61-year-old will be celebrating the release of Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old in a hospital bed -- he's still recovering after suffering a brain aneurysm last week. With a varied guest list that includes George Thorogood, Juliana Hatfield, Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein and a smattering of Sox players, all proceeds will be going toward Epstein's Foundation to be Named Later, a nonprofit that helps disadvantaged kids in the Boston area. Don't get hooked on "Tanqueray" or "NyQuil Blues."
Song Title of the Week:
"The Ticket That Exploded" from Eastern Stars' July 5th, 1961
Read: [article id="1495369"]"Want A Song From Superproducer Rodney Jerkins? He'll Sell You 11 For Just $18"[/article]
Notable Reissues and Archival Material: