Record Report (#20): December 14, 2006

The Baldwin Brothers: Return of the Golden Rhodes (TVT): Four non-brothers, none named Baldwin, all credited with programming. Their junktronica beats can move you, but they depend on guests for vocals, and the guests are too scattered to add up to anything coherent: a disco dolly, a rapper, a soul diva, a lost cowboy from somewhere out on the range. B [electronica]

Buddy Guy: Can't Quit the Blues (1957-2005, Silvertone/Legacy, 3CD+DVD): He moved up to Chicago from Louisiana in 1957, a young man with a slick guitar, but it took him a while to click. But blues is an old man's game, and he got stronger as the competition died off. This dispatches 25 years with one disc, limiting frequent partner Junior Wells to five cuts, then fills two more starting from 1991. That doesn't make for balance, but why stop for such niceties? Individually, his Silvertone albums seem like more and more of the same old, same old, but packed together they deliver quite a punch. A- [blues]

Scott Hamilton: Nocturnes & Serenades (Concord): A set of slow standards, with "Autumn Nocturne" and "Serenade in Blue" tying into the title, "You Go to My Head" and "Chelsea Bridge" more instantly recognizable, and "Man With a Horn" his definitive statement. In other words, pretty much his typical record. The English quartet doesn't have the snap of last year's Back in New York, but sometimes sax is best when you take it nice and easy. A- [jazz]

Chris Knight: Enough Rope (Drifter's Church): A singer-songwriter from Kentucky, country because he don't much care for the city, least of all when the city comes calling. His writing is wound as tight as his guitar, which grabs your attention like a ticking bomb even when he has a full band somewhere in the background. He worries about quail and rabbits, knows better than to put a bridle on a bull, and while he admits that you can be saved by love, he also understands it when you do what you have to do. A- [country]

Diana Krall: From This Moment On (Verve): The Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra doesn't split the difference between Billy May and Nelson Riddle so much as they aggregate the virtues of each. That wouldn't mean a thing without a commanding singer, but Krall fills that bill. She sings the title song, "It Could Happen to You," "Come Dance With Me," even the often hoary "Willow Weep for Me" as authoritatively as they've ever been sung, and each come with long, illustrious histories. And while the Orchestra is capable of overkill, it's remarkable how seamlessly she slips in four songs without them. A- [jazz]

Jay McShann: Hootie Blues (Stony Plain): The Kansas City piano great died last week at 90. Twenty-some years ago he recorded an album with Ralph Sutton called The Last of the Whorehouse Piano Players, and he survived Sutton to make his claim. He was also the last of the major Kansas City bandleaders. For a long time he was best known for hiring a junkie who played greased lightning alto sax, now more than 50 years dead. But really, blues shouter Walter Brown was his star then, and when the big band era ended, McShann just boogied on. This was recorded five years ago and released early this year. It's typical -- a good one to remember him by. B+ [jazz]

RockDownBaby: Love & Sex & Rock & Roll (Life Force): That voice is Deena Shoshkes, returning anonymously after a too long absence, but still instantly recognizable -- at least to anyone who thought The Cucumbers was the great album of 1987. Short, with seven songs totalling 21:47, testing ideas perhaps, but more like rumaging through the attic, trying on '80s-vintage shoes and hats -- shades of Talking Heads, Devo, Kraftwerk, and best of all, the Cucumbers. B+ [rock]