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CD REVIEWS: New music from Bonnie Raitt, Keb’ Mo’ and Philadelphia’s Lizanne Knott

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REVIEWS BY SEAN HICKEY 
For Digital First Media

Bonnie Raitt
Dig In Deep
(Redwing Records)
Bonnie Raitt continues her musical journey by turning out one great pop/blues record after another. That trend is upheld on her newest CD Dig In Deep.
The release is the twentieth for Raitt and covers all the bases that have become her own, inimitable style – blues, R&B, funk and laidback rock. Backed by her long-time touring band of George Marinelli, Hutch Hutchinson, Ricky Fataar, and Mike Finigan, all of the material here is locked down tight whether it’s the politically charged rock of “The Comin’ Round Is Going Through,” the minimalist “All Alone With Something To Say” (with vocal guests Maia Sharp and Arnold McCuller helping out), or the delicate piano ballad “The Ones We Couldn’t Be” that closes out the set which was partly inspired by the losses of her father (Broadway star John Raitt), mother, and brother in recent years. raittThe material is a mix of self-penned songs by Bonnie and her band, contributed originals (“Undone” from Bonnie Bishop, and Joe Henry’s “You’ve Changed My Mind” are both standouts) along with two great covers – Bonnie’s rollicking version of the Los Lobos gem “Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes,” as well as a smoldering take of the INXS tune “Need You Tonight.”
Through it all, Raitt exhibits a subtle balance between the understandable weariness of her nearly five decades as a performer as well as the peace and wisdom she has acquired along the way. Her journey continues – and shows no signs of stopping.
Folks have two opportunities to see Bonnie Raitt perform in our area in the months ahead as she will be part of the 16th Annual Non-COMMvention at World Café Live on Wednesday, May 18 (http://www.xpn.org/events/non-comm for details), and on Friday, Aug. 26 when she performs at the Mann Center for Performing Arts with Richard Thompson (www.manncenter.org).
Keb’ Mo’
Live – That Hot Pink Blues Album
(Kind of Blue Music)
For all the critical acclaim that Keb’ Mo’ receives for his studio recordings, it is in his live performances where he truly sparkles and shines. Folks who have not been able to experience one of those shows up to this point know have a chance to hear what they’ve been missing with the release of Live – That Hot Pink Blues Album.
The songs included on this two-disc set were captured during Keb’s 2015 tour to support his BLUESAmerica release, a record that was designed to touch on as many different American roots sounds as possible. And while some of the tracks (“Tell Everybody I Know,” “France,” and “Government Cheese”) are presented in an economical fashion – in or around four minutes – others, such as “Dangerous Mood” have been allowed to stretch their legs a bit and allow for some keb livephenomenal guitar play from Keb’ as well as his terrific touring trio that features Michael B. Hicks on keyboards, Stan Sargeant on bass, and Casey Wasner on drums, who also produced this release. Also included in the proceedings is an active participation by the audience, who always seem to fill in the blank space between the notes with a collaborative energy that has been a hallmark of a Keb’ Mo’ show.
With sixteen performances culled from nine separate locations, there’s a certain energy that is unique to each venue here – The crowds are lively in Charleston SC, raucous in Saratoga CA, and the orchestral touches from the Nashville, TN session provide a great vibe – But the sum of these different parts add up to a very satisfying listening experience indeed!
Fans that would like to experience a live Keb’ Mo’ event will have the opportunity on Friday, May 20 when he brings his band to the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA for what promises to be another incredible night of musical magic. Additional details can be found at www.keswicktheatre.com.
Lizanne Knott
Excellent Day
(self-released)
The Philadelphia area has had a wealth of musical and singer-songwriting talent over the years and the work of Lizanne Knott is no exception to that rule.
This latest release is a bit of a departure from the sultry brand of Americana she has become known for, and is her response to the recent passing of her friend, guitarist Jef Lee Johnson. That sad circumstance prompted Knott to reach back to her jazz and blues roots to try and capture the essence of who that man was – and she does so admirably on the title tune which was written by Johnson. Her own songwriting continues to amaze on tracks like the seductive “Come for the Kill,” the upbeat “Someday Love,” the stripped-down “Tennessee,” and the gospel-tinged beauty, “Lay My Burden Down” with a nice little banjo assist from none other than Steve Martin. Knott also knows how to cover some of the best of them with a hushed version of Janis Ian’s “Sometimes,” an inspired version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Stolen Car,” and a smokey blues rendition of the Gershwin classic, “It Ain’t Necessarily So.”
Excellent Day is destined to be one for those records we’ll be putting on during the knottupcoming summer nights, when our busy days dwindle down to campfires, a good red wine, and those quiet moments when we can recall and reflect on times and people that have gone too soon.
Now based in Nashville, Knott has built a solid fan-base over in the UK, where is will be touring for most of June, as well as here in the States. July offer many chances to catch her performing live in our area at venues such as Twilight Concert Series in Bryn Mawr on Saturday, July 9, (go to www.brynmawrtwilightconcerts.com for details) and a monthly residency at Chestnut Hill’s Mermaid Inn (http://themermaidinn.net) with her next show coming up on Thursday, July 21.
American Psycho
Original London Cast Recording
Music and Lyrics by Duncan Sheik
(Concord Records)
90’s singer-songwriter Duncan Sheik has made a nice cross-over to the stage in the past few years creating the wonderful (and nine-time Tony Award winning) Spring Awakening: A New Musical in 2006, as well as his latest, American Psycho.
This adaptation is based off of the 1991 Bret Easton Ellis novel and the 2000 movie release with Christian Bale starring as Patrick Bateman in the title role. The London production of the play ran from 2013 to 2014 at the Almeida Theatre, with continuous sold out performances and great reviews in The Guardian, The London Times, among other publications. It was also a critical smash with the audience. This soundtrack release coincides with the musical’s Broadway debut at Gerald Schoenfeld Theater in New York City where it continues to play to SRO crowds. The result is a synth-heavy score just as stylish and angular as Bateman’s apartment — and director Rupert Goold’s production. Although it does incorporate ’80s anthems like Phil Collins’s “In the Air Tonight” and the Human american psychoLeague’s “Don’t You Want Me” — in striking new arrangements and sometimes disturbing new contexts — American Psycho is not a jukebox musical. Rather, it’s stocked with original songs that strike a balance between the humor of Ellis’s novel and its very real sense of menace. The Bateman character is portrayed on this release by the amazing Matt Smith who some may know from his recent work on the Doctor Who series. A highlight of this soundtrack, that leans more toward dark comedy, is “You Are What You Wear,” a gleeful, tongue-in-cheek ode to late-’80s fashion sung by Bateman’s girlfriend and her best friend (whom Bateman is also, naturally, involved with) as they prepare for a dinner party in honor of his birthday.
While some of the harsh, sexually-charged language found in American Psycho may have the audience feel like they’re ‘barely breathing,’ Sheik continues to be a musical force to be reckoned with, no matter what style or genre he chooses to employ.

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