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Posted on Thu. Apr. 10, 2014 - 12:01 am EDT

Music reviews: Martina McBride reinterprets soul classics; Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey rock on

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Martina McBride, “Everlasting”

Of all contemporary country singers, Martina McBride seems the most well-suited to interpret classic soul tunes.

On her new album, “Everlasting,” McBride works with producer Don Was, who brings an understated R&B pulse to the songs as McBride leans on vulnerability and purity of tone rather than the growling, rapturous release of the originals.

McBride presents several impressive performances, turning Little Walter's “My Babe” into a funky, sexy love song and Fred Neil's “Little Bit Of Rain” into a tender treatise on separation.

But McBride lacks the fierceness of Otis Redding's “I've Been Loving You Too Long” and Elvis Presley's “Suspicious Minds” or the ecstatic joy of Diana Ross on The Supremes' “Come See About Me.”

Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey, “Going Back Home”

Wilko Johnson, former guitarist of rabble-rousing 1970s British rockers Dr. Feelgood, is enjoying a bittersweet late-career surge.

Johnson's jagged playing and menacing stare gave Dr. Feelgood's bluesy rock an infectious, raucous energy.

Then the group imploded and Johnson spent years as a cult hero.

Last year, he was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer; vowing to rock until the end, he set out on a farewell tour.

And the world is taking notice. There have been sold-out shows and now an album with Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who.

Inspired by a shared love of early British rockers, “Going Back Home” is deliberately rough-edged and retro — even the label, Chess Records, is a heritage brand resurrected for the release.

Recorded in a week with producer Dave Eringa and Johnson's touring band, its 11 tracks include 10 Johnson compositions, from the Feelgood days through his solo career.

The title track sets the tone of robust, rocking R&B. Daltrey growls lustily over Johnson's choppy riffs and it's spiced with lashings of dirty harmonica from Steve Weston and galumphing piano from ex-Style Council keyboardist Mick Talbot.

Songs like “Keep it Out of Sight” and “All Through the City” have a swaggering energy and raw yearning. “Some Kind of Hero” is a meaty slice of the blues on the evergreen topic of a cheatin' woman, but the lyrical bravado is laced with British self-deprecation.

“Going Back Home” is not going to win awards for innovation, but it's feisty fun and a rousing testament to a distinctive figure in British rock history.


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