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Flynnville Train


Next Evolution Records

Buy if you like: Zac Brown Band, Travis Tritt

Southern rock may be back in a big way, but Flynnville Train tries too hard on its sophomore album to join the same circles as the Zac Brown Band, Eric Church or any number of Skynyrd-esque bands. Lyrics get a bit too clichéd and calculated for comfort, as on "Preachin' to the Choir," which mentions the Good Book, patriotism and soldiers, but somehow leaves out farms, tractors or grandma's cooking. Thankfully, those last three virtues find their way into the song "Home," which borrows a Led Zeppelin guitar lick to hold down a crunching Southern rocker. The music here is pleasing enough, if not overly original, highlighted by a rowdy barroom brawl-along written by former Georgia Satellites frontman Dan Baird, who also takes the lead vocal. If Flynnville Train finds more of the originality Baird brings to his guest appearance, the band will be on the right track. — Alan Sculley


Crowded House



Buy if you like: Finn Brothers, Squeeze

Neil Finn creates some of the most exquisite songs on earth, and sings them in a voice that comes straight from heaven. So a new Finn project in any incarnation is always welcome. In this case, however, he might have gotten a little carried away on the production end. On "Saturday Sun," he sprinkles a gorgeous pop melody and those lovely Crowded House harmonies with electronic blips that don't quite fit. On "Archer's Arrow," his expressive voice, one of the sweetest sounds there is, soars on each verse, then winds up almost duking it out in the choruses with backing vocals, synths and other add-ons. "Isolation" starts out like an old pop standard with gently tremoloed guitar, but abruptly changes into screaming chords. It's jarring. But the sublime moments, like the atmospheric "Either Side of the World," the elegant love song "Falling Dove," and the beautiful closer "Elephants" are truly wonderful. — Lynne Margolis


The Cat Empire



Buy if you like: UB40, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

This band from Melbourne, Australia made news when a review copy of its fourth studio album, Cinema, was leaked a few weeks ago and sold on eBay for $200. An extravagant sum, to be sure, but at least the buyer got a good album out of it. The group started out as a nine-person jazz band, before evolving into today's slightly smaller unit and shifting its musical focus toward a horn-spiced fusion of soul and rock. On Cinema, Cat Empire's sound is as vibrant and varied as ever, whether fusing Latin and soul on "Falling," adding a few hip-hop touches to what is otherwise a punchy soul-rock track ("Feelings Gone"), going for a bit dreamier sound on "Only Light" or setting the sweet soul melody of "Shoulders" to a reggae beat. The album does have a couple of lackluster tracks, but overall, Cinema finds Cat Empire continuing to create a pretty singular fusion of musical styles. — Alan Sculley


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