Yo-Yo Ma & Co., Tom Waits 

Reviews: Goat Rodeo Sessions, Bad As Me

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Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile, The Goat Rodeo Sessions

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The disparate styles of bluegrass and classical are blended with such skillful ease in The Goat Rodeo Sessions it’s a wonder why more collaborators haven’t played in this amorphous zone of melody and string-based rhythm. Maybe it just takes a collection of virtuosos—Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile—to genre-bend in such a classy fashion.

The album might seem bluegrassy to classical fans and classical to bluegrass junkies. The opening track itself oscillates between the two from one breakdown to the next. And some tracks have jazz and folk elements. The violin melody in “Quarter Chicken Dark” is sleek and sexy like a Regina Carter tune, and guest vocalist Aoife O’Donovan (Crooked Still) sings two tracks into the folkie realm.

Overall, with such instrumentalists, the effort could either be solid gold or a “goat rodeo,” which the band used playfully. According to UrbanDictionary.com, the term essentially means a clusterfuck with multifarious inputs that seems to make for a hopeless outcome. The album is anything but. It is exhilarating and mind-bending, and we can only hope that these busy musicians can find the time to get back in the studio. Sony, Oct. 24, 2011 (Austen Diamond)



Tom Waits, Bad As Me

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Tom Waits is one of those artists who is essentially beyond criticism at this point, and by that I mean that most music fans have already decided whether or not they think Waits’ brand of carnival-barker blues is brilliant or grating (often deciding that based on their tolerance for his, um, unique howl of a voice). You can guess where I fall by looking at the stars I awarded Bad As Me, Waits’ latest collection of timeless, gutbucket Americana.

On Bad As Me, Waits explores the rough times of modern America through songs like “Raised Right Men” (as in, there aren’t enough around) and “Talking at the Same Time,” featuring lines like “All the news is bad/ Is there any other kind?” and “Someone makes money when there’s blood in the street.” Elsewhere, Waits and his co-writer wife, Kathleen Brennan, find romance (“Get Lost,” “Kiss Me”) and hope to grasp onto (“Chicago,” where “maybe things will get better”). Joined by an all-star cast of musicians including Keith Richards, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo, Les Claypool, Charlie Musselwhite, Marc Ribot, Flea and Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s Ben Jaffe, Waits’ latest is a headphone delight of sounds and lyrics that will stick with you. Give them a chance, and you might find yourself a Waits convert. Anti-, Oct. 24, 2011 (Dan Nailen)

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