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Sean Daly's CD picks: Mastodon, the Flatlanders, Stevie Nicks, Jason Aldean

Mastodon

Album: Crack the Skye (Reprise)

In stores: Now

Why we care: After a minute of listening to Mastodon, you realize the Atlanta band couldn't be called anything else. The proggers are very much the big, bludgeoning sound of a prehistoric leviathan crushing your head. Or, considering the quartet's conceptual themes of tsarist Russia and wormholes (!), they are the equivalent of 100 library shelves toppling around you. Bruce Springsteen producer Brendan O'Brien oversees.

Why we like it: We like loud noises. Especially weird loud noises made by a frenzied fleet of flammable guitars. Lyrics like "the demon skin is covered in fine mist" might have something to do with Nicholas II. Or not. Does it matter?

Reminds us of: Pot. And Ozzy. But mostly pot.

Download this: Quintessence

Grade: B-

The Flatlanders

Album: Hills and Valleys (New West)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Texas trio the Flatlanders — Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock and Joe Ely, solo stars in their own right — have only released four albums in 40 years. They haven't been very productive as a team, but they are efficient, as each release has been savored for its twang, twist and tears.

Why we like it: Lloyd Maines, father of Dixie Chick Natalie, not only produces this warm, thoughtful 13-tracker but adds dobro, lap steel and more. Somber themes deal with national malaise (Homeland Refugee), Hurricane Katrina (After the Storm) and wounded hearts (Love's Own Chains). The boys like to kick it, too, and when that accordion is squeezed, it's time to swing.

Reminds us of: The Three Amigos

Download this: Homeland Refugee

Grade: B

Stevie Nicks

Album: The Soundstage Sessions (Reprise)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Bob Dylan, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen: Even when they were young, their voices sounded shot — great, but weary and kaput. The rare lady in that craggy company is Stephanie Lynn "Stevie" Nicks, the mystic Fleetwood Mac twirler who had a sweet solo career, too. On her first live album, the 60-year-old puts new spin on old gems plus adds a swell cover of Dave Matthews' Crash Into Me. And yes, she still sounds beautifully broken.

Why we like it: She keeps Stand Back as a cheezy disco-synth dancer, but gives Landslide Nashville strings and wisened gravitas.

Reminds us of: Although I've seen AC/DC live, Nicks remains my all-time loudest concert.

Download these: Crash Into Me and Sara

Grade: B

SONG OF THE WEEK

Jason Aldean

Song: She's Country

Album: Wide Open (Broken Bow)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Country music is an iffy sell on iTunes. Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift have made dents in the digital-download dominion, but there's been a pretty steep drop-off after that. Enter Jason Aldean, whose new single She's Country is one of the hottest downloads in all genres. There's good, grindy reason for this.

Why we like it: On his first two albums, Georgia boy Aldean liked to mix grit and grits, a rocker in a curled cowboy hat. But She's Country takes his classic-rock kink to new extremes, as the song struts on an industrial guitar line that wouldn't be out of place on Back in Black. Seriously, it has true headbang potential and lumbers around with a Jurassic ker-thump.

Reminds us of: You Shook Me Y'all Night Long

Song grade: A

Album grade: B

Sean Daly's CD picks: Mastodon, the Flatlanders, Stevie Nicks, Jason Aldean 04/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 18, 2009 4:30am]
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