1. Archive


Published Oct. 27, 2008

Album: Damn Right, Rebel Proud (Curb)

In stores: Now

Why we care: He looks like grandpappy Hank I. He raises Cain like daddy Hank II. But despite his obvious lineage, Hank Williams III (or just "III" if you wanna drink with the man) is an original, a demon-scarred buck whose hellbilly music mixes old-time pickin' and punk disrepair.

Why we like it: If III had his way, he'd be a full-time metalhead. But that doesn't pay the bills. So despite hating his lot in life, he gives diehard fans whiskey-bent, hemp-bound outlaw twang that stresses the black-eyed side of life. Using a pinched high-mountain whine, he sings The Grand Ole Opry (Ain't So Grand) with a sociopathic fury you can square-dance to.

Reminds us of: David Allan Coe on a bender

Download this: Me & My Friends

Grade: B


Album: Perfect Symmetry (Interscope)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Well, whaddya know: The Brit-pop pantywaists in Keane have grown some hair on their collective chest. This strutty '80s dance party - lanky beats, New Wave keyboard swirls, heartache lyrics that secretly stress the joys of isolation - is a departure from the piano-pounded mope of big hit Somewhere Only We Know.

Why we like it: A little swagger suits these gentlemen - especially now-sober singer Tom Chaplin - rather well. But heart-sleeved fans needn't worry: The boys summon the weepies on bombastic closer Love Is the End.

Reminds us of: Seeing them play SoCal's Coachella Fest as creepy model Janice Dickinson hit on boys back in the VIP lounge. Ewww.

Download this: The Lovers Are Losing

Grade: B-

Jim Croce

Album: You Don't Mess Around With Jim (R2M)

In stores: Now

Why we care: The saddest song of all time - 1973's Time in a Bottle - now sounds even sadder, as Rhino Records has reissued the late, great Croce's brief catalog. The Philly-born singer died in a plane crash on Sept. 20, 1973, just as his career was blossoming. His short burst of star power was potent, especially here, where every song is a subtle, singable masterpiece.

Why we like it: "Well things were spinnin' round me / And all my thoughts were cloudy / And I had begun to doubt all the things that were me." That's the opening dagger of New York's Not My Home. Gets me every time.

Reminds us of: Riding in my parents' car, staring at the back of their beautiful heads, 1973.

Download this: New York's Not My Home

Grade: A


Lucinda Williams

Song: Real Love

Album: Little Honey (Lost Highway)

In stores: Now

Why we care: I take a ton of guff from fans and fellow critics for not liking Lucinda Williams' alt-country drawl party. But I'll 'fess up to loving the sloppy, six-pack punch of this rocker, with its triple-guitar assault and loamy backing vocals courtesy of unlikely helpers Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs.

Why we like it: "The thing about you so far, you squeeze my peaches / Then you send me postcards of girls on beaches." Williams likes her paramours to be dinged up, dirty, basically Billy Bob Thornton with a muddier car. The way I see it, Williams would be swell to hang around - until she gets in a dark Sunday kind of mood and starts pounding you with her barfly poetry. Still, she makes for one heck of a party star.

Reminds us of: "Send me dead flowers . . ."

Grade: A