Utne Weeder 11-12/02

A few of our favorite books, music, and more

| November / December 2002


COUNTRY ROCK Bramble Rose by Tift Merritt (Lost Highway). A slight ache is the secret ingredient in every great country crooner’s voice. Merritt’s got it, sounding like a credible cross between Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams. Several of this newcomer’s self-penned songs already sound like twang-pop classics.—Keith Goetzman

Jerusalem by Steve Earle (Artemis). A controversial, harrowing, and ultimately brilliant portrait of America today. Earle gets inside the mind of John Walker Lindh, offers a spiritual benediction over the ashes of the World Trade Center, and skewers the conceit of compassionate conservatives with enough energy left over for a couple of good love songs- all done with his usual mastery of rock, country, and beyond. —Jay Walljasper 

CLASSICAL  The Complete Goldberg Variations (1955 & 1981): A State of Wonder by Glenn Gould (Sony). Listening to Gould’s two recordings of Bach’s exquisite composition, you wonder if he is even playing the same notes. Although his unconventional style is recognizable on both versions, they differ wildly in spirit, revealing the Canadian pianist’s genius for the art of interpretation. —Karen Olson

FOLK  Fashionably Late by Linda Thompson (Rounder). Her voice more plaintive than ever, Thompson returns after a long absence with this wryly titled album. Still strongly influenced by traditional British tunes, she penned several songs with son Teddy Thompson and brings them to life with talented friends like Van Dyke Parks, Rufus Wainwright, and even ex-husband Richard Thompson. —K.G.

ROCK Now You Know by Doug Martsch (Warner Bros.) The meandering guitar mastermind of Built to Spill goes mostly acoustic with impressive results. Martsch’s introspective lyrics constantly drop memorable phrases, and his blues- and folk-tinged bottleneck slide rings clear and true.—K.G.

AFRICAN The Radio Tisdas Sessions by Tinariwen (World Village). Historically nomads and more recently rebels against the government of Mali, the Tuareg, or Kel Tamashek, people of the Sahara have recently made peace, which comes through here in Tinariwen’s mellow music. Circular electric guitar melodies buoy call-and-response singers like dunes slowly shifting in the distance. —K.G.

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