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Marley’s ghost gives country music a good name

Mike Cote //June 25, 2010//

Marley’s ghost gives country music a good name

Mike Cote //June 25, 2010//

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MARLEY’S GHOST Ghost Town (Sage Arts)

While watching Jeff Bridges’ Oscar turn in “Crazy Heart,” my 22-year-old son, intrigued by the rootsy, outlaw-inspired soundtrack, said “Well, if this is country music, then maybe I like country music.” In other words, the cookie-cutter radio fare – all big hats and pickups – doesn’t appeal to him.

I’ll have to share with him the latest from Marley’s Ghost. Ghost Town’s blend of country, bluegrass, blues and folk comes from a group of guys who can find the power of a song, whether they’re getting all hillbilly (Tracy Schwartz’ “Old Dirt Farmer”) crooning ballads, (band member Mike Phelan’s “Should I Be Singing the Blues?”) or interpreting a rock tune (Warren Zevon’s “She’s Too Good for Me.”) Gorgeous harmonies wrapped with electric and acoustic guitars, Hammond B3 organ, mandolin and accordion provide a great recipe for Americana.

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OTIS REDDING Live on the Sunset Strip (Stax)

Considering he was gone by age 26, Otis Redding left an indelible mark on soul and rock. Live on the Sunset Strip is all the proof you need. This expanded double-disc edition features three complete sets from Redding’s historic two-night stand at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles.

Redding’s down-home between-song stage patter (“ladies and gentlemens”) and warm rapport with the small but appreciative audiences underscore the singer’s powerful vocal turns on now familiar fare like “Security,” “These Arms of Mine,” “Mr. Pitiful” and “Respect” that American audiences outside of the R&B charts we’re just beginning to appreciate. British rock bands of the ‘60s had long plied American black artists for inspiration, and Redding returns the favor, delivering high-octane versions of the Rolling Stones “Satisfaction” and the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night.”

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ELVIS PRESLEY On Stage: Legacy Edition (RCA/Legacy)

Elvis was still living off the sparks of his 1968 comeback when he recorded these concerts in Las Vegas. This two-disc edition of On Stage pairs the original 1969 album with its 1970 follow-up, Elvis in Person, tacking on several bonus cuts to each.

On the former album, Elvis seems trapped in time; his biggest hits behind him, he packs his set with cover versions of recent hits: Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” But he’s in fine voice throughout, especially on a plaintive version of “Runaway” (even if he relies on background singers to hit that falsetto part).

The King sounds less like a Vegas act on Elvis in Person, focusing on material better suited to his rock roots: “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Hound Dog” and reprising his recent hits “Suspicious Minds” and “In the Ghetto.” He also dips into the blues, covering the Little Walter hit “My Babe” and (on the bonus cuts), Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman,” Little Milton’s “Reconsider Baby” and Jimmy Reed’s “Baby, What Do You Want Me to Do.”

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