New at Southwest Sound: May 5

by Cooper Stapleton

May 5The Sword, “Greetings From…”After dropping two albums last year, the Austin stoner metal giants return with their first-ever live album. The track list includes some of my favorites, like “The Chronomancer I: Hubris” from their seminal album “Warp Riders” and “Tres Brujas” from the same record, along with a few favorites from the new records. When they play live, The Sword is one of those bands that does not stray too far from the record. Whether that is a good thing or not is up to the listener. The two times I’ve seen them, they ripped, and this live album does well to show that off.

Taj Mahal and Keb Mo, “Tajmo”Easily one of the biggest blues releases of the past decade, “Tajmo” brings together two generations of bluesmen who have never done a proper collaboration until now. The album has six original cuts, as well as a smattering of covers of some surprising artists like John Mayer. The recording is as down to earth as you’d imagine it to be, and these two legends play off each other brilliantly. If you aren’t a fan of their brand of blues, preferring rip-roaring electric blues like Joe Bonamassa, I don’t think this will change your mind. But if you want something with a classic sound, this one has it.

Chris Stapleton, “From A Room Volume 1”After leaving the Steeldrivers a few years back, Stapleton took the country world by storm and proved that the genre as a whole isn’t lost in its Budweiser-fueled identity crisis. Even though “Tennessee Whiskey” is overplayed to hell, all of the songs on his last album, “Traveller,” are wonderful reminders that there is actual power in country music and that it isn’t all jeans and trucks and corporate sponsorship. His new album, a two parter, I am happy to confirm, continues this mindset. It gets a little louder at times, incorporating blues-rock tinges to amp up some emotional moments. Add in some punctuation from duets with his wife and frequent collaborator Morgane Hayes-Stapleton and you have a winner.

Oxbow, “Thin Black Duke”This one is the odd one out this week. Oxbow is an experimental rock band from San Francisco, fronted by one of my performance and writing idols Eugene S Robinson. (Seriously, go read “FIGHT”; it is amazing). It is hard to get across what Oxbow is about in words. Imagine a blend of Jesus Lizard noise rock, contemporary jazz with a dash of chamber music thrown in for good measure, with an exclamation point provided by Robinson’s strangely-warbled vocals. “Thin Black Duke” is their first album in about 10 years, and it comes back with a slow smolder only they could provide. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, really since I first got introduced to the ideas of avant garde music by my dear friend and old coworker Travis when I was a youngin’. Go and listen to “Cold and Well-Lit Place.” If it intrigues you, check out the record. If you don’t like it, it probably wasn’t meant to be.

Cooper Stapleton


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