By Bliss Bowen
DUMPSTAPHUNK, “Where Do We Go from Here”
(Mascot/The Funk Garage): 3
Punchy funk jams and hopeful messages from bandleader Ivan Neville and his New Orleans crew. “Justice 2020” is a hard-charging reprise of their 2017 single that swaps out Trombone Shorty’s horn for Chali 2na’s righteous rap, while the title track, “Do You” and “Let’s Get at It” note towering challenges of the day with clear sight and conviction rooted in history and irresistible grooves. Infectious opener “United Nation Stomp” sets the tone: “Everybody clap your hands/ Everybody stomp your feet/ Everybody move around/ Everybody sing with me.”
MAIA SHARP, “Mercy Rising”
(Crooked Crown): 3½
The former Angeleno’s first album since 2015’s “Dash Between the Dates” transcends specific events yet speaks to this general moment of healing and starting over. Textured with subtle grooves and atmospheric guitar lines, standouts such as “You’ll Know Who Knows You,” the brooding title track and “Whatever We Are” offer studies in contrast between Sharp’s smoky vocals and smart, polished melodies. Sharp’s songs have been recorded by Dixie Chicks and Bonnie Raitt, among numerous others; it will be no surprise if other artists also fatten their repertoires with “Things to Fix” and “When the World Doesn’t End” (“4-3-2-1/ And no Armageddon/ There’s still a moon, still a sun/ And we’re still breathin’”).
WEST OF TEXAS, “Heartache, Hangovers & Honky Tonks” (Pleasant Valley Ranch): 3
Frontman Jerry Zinn, producer Rich McCulley and a cadre of veteran Southland roots musicians capture the upbeat swing and sparkle of Bakersfield country classics throughout this ingratiating set. It’s easy to imagine Zinn and the band playing these to a crowd of two-steppers, and their performances and the cheery retro appeal combine to make this a heart-lifting reminder that live shows are on the near horizon. Highlights: the hooky “Foolin’,” “12 Steps to Drinkin’” (co-written by Zinn and Grant Langston), “Dead End Job Blues.”
MARIANNE FAITHFULL WITH WARREN ELLIS, She Walks in Beauty (BMG): 4
Faithfull’s magnificently weathered voice embodies rock ‘n’ roll survival, and there’s symmetry to her resurrection of romantic poets who sketched a libertine template seized by 20th century icons, such as the Rolling Stones. Her readings tap into the inherent musicality of Byron, Keats (a sublime “To Autumn”), Shelley, Tennyson and Wordsworth (a Celtic-tinged, elegiac “Surprised by Joy”), as Bad Seeds multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis complements her speech with ambient settings layered with natural sounds and contributions from Nick Cave, Brian Eno and cellist Vincent Ségal. But it’s Faithfull’s gritty inhabitation of the language that makes it move and sing.