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Some of the best albums of 2010 are being released this week...

New Album Releases Week of March 16, 2010: Nick Moss, Kilborn Alley Blues Band, White Stripes…

I have been looking forward to today for months and months and months.  I've prepared you for this moment and it finally arrives:  it's BlueBella Records Day here at Blogcritics! 

When I write my Best Music of 2010 column at year's end, I can promise you we'll all look back to this day.  Half of my list could come from albums being released today.  The four albums being released by Blue Bella have dominated my listening time through the first three months of the year with no slowdown expected any time soon. 

Nick Moss – Privileged
Kilborn Alley Blues Band – Better Off Now
Matthew Stubbs – Medford & Main
Cash Box Kings – I-94 Blues

Nick Moss founded Blue Bella Records to release his own music his way.  The consistently high quality output of his own career would have made Blue Bella an important player on the blues scene if he continued releasing nothing but his own music, but he didn't.  After releasing several of his own albums, Blue Bella began working with other like-minded artists.  The early results were fine blues albums from artists who like Moss were firmly schooled in the Chicago blues tradition.  Blue Bella had its own musical identity, a rarity in the era of corporate labels who try to offer something for everyone.  That identity doesn't undergo a radical change with this quartet of releases but it does broaden, and it does so in part because of the newest record from its founder.

Nick Moss spent years studying the Chicago blues tradition from men who played vital roles in shaping it in the early-to-middle part of the 20th century.  The time spent learning the nuances of the Chicago tradition over the course of five studio and two live albums resulted in some of the most satisfying music the idiom has had to offer in ages.  By staying true to the form, Moss' growth as an artist — singer, guitarist, songwriter, arranger, producer — was audible but sometimes obscured.  Not anymore.  On Privileged, Moss takes his sound to new places and distills everything he has learned into the most forceful, direct, confrontational record of his career. 

Kilborn Alley delivers on the promise of their previous records and reaches new heights.  They've broadened their musical horizons without diluting their sound.  They confidently move through different components of the blues — shuffles, soulful ballads, and hardboiled blues — and demonstrate mastery of them all.  They are playing better and vocalist Andrew Duncanson is singing better than ever.  Better Off Now is more than just the best album of their young career, it's one of the best blues records of recent memory.

Cash Box Kings have been working the Chicago blues circuit for awhile now but this is their first record with Blue Bella.  CBK are sort of like a band within a band; there is a core group of musicians that expands to include some very talented friends.  They spent one day in the studio knocking out 17 songs, 15 of which they present to you on I-94 Blues.  The album is not 100% overdub free but you can bet this is more live than most live albums.  Not only is it live, it's alive.  There is spontaneity and camaraderie.  The Kings and honorary "Kings" are multi-instrumentalists and lead vocalists change from one track to another.  If they're this entertaining in the studio, you know they have to be great live.

Matthew Stubbs may go down as my favorite musical discovery of 2010.  I've long been a fan of instrumental guitar music.  Satriani, Vai, Keaggy- I love listening to the way these men voice melodies through their guitar and the way they relate their main instrument with other instruments and explore different sounds and styles.  Enter Matt Stubbs.  He makes instrumental music and he's a guitarist, but this isn't instrumental guitar music in the sense of the established genre any more than this is a blues record.  Despite owing nothing to the sound of U2, Stubbs' approach reminds me more of the opaque, texture-driven approach of The Edge than it does to other Guitar Heroes of the past or present.  Along with collaborator Sax Gordon, who handles the horn arrangements, they create a sweet blend of sounds evoking Memphis and Southern California. 

Peter Karp & Sue Foley
He Said She Said

Just as Matthew Stubbs has been one of my favorite musical discoveries of this year, Peter Karp was a favorite of 2007 and his place in my musical universe remains secure.  When I interviewed him about his brilliant Shadows & Cracks, he mentioned that among the many projects he was considering for a follow-up was this collaboration with Sue Foley.  This album didn't start as an album but as a collection of letters the two artists exchanged.  As the correspondence continued the two artists realized they had something special brewing, and used that as the basis for this imaginative collaboration. 

The White Stripes
Under Great White Northern Lights

We don't know when Jack White will return to his White Stripes musical persona, but while we wait we have this soundtrack to the film of the same name.  Under Great White Northern Lights is a tour film that follows Jack and Meg across Canada and includes a lot of performance footage of the duo in concert.  The CD culls 16 of those tracks and presents the first-ever White Stripes live album.  Nearly all phases of the band's oeuvre are represented and there is a brilliant cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" tossed in for good measure. 

And now we get to the very honorable mention recordings out this week including what is being billed as the first of two possible records from Drive By Truckers (The Big 2-Do), a new set from jazzman Brad Mehldau (Highway Rider), and the latest from Juno-winning blues/roots artist Chris "Old Man" Luedecke  (My Hands Are On Fire And Other Love Songs).

From Hellöwith Love

Armored Saint
La Raza

Boys Of The Isle, The
The Absolutely Essential Irish

Brad Mehldau
Highway Rider

Cash Box Kings
I-94 Blues

Caveman Culture Sound
Volume 1

Disco Biscuits, The
Planet Anthem

Drive By Truckers
The Big-2-Do

Dropkick Murphys
Live On Lansdowne, Boston Ma

Etran Finatawa
Tarkat Tajje/Let S Go!

Fates Warning

Fireball Ministry
Fireball Ministry

From First To Last
Throne To The Wolves

Gamma Ray
To The Metal!

Gilberto Gil

Happy Birthday
Happy Birthday

Jarreau, Al
Live In London/ The Deluxe Edi

The Next Me

High Glow

Jorge Drexler
Amar La Trama

Kanda, Hiromi
Hiromi In Love

Karp, Peter And Sue Foley
He Said She Said

Kate Miller/Heidk/Curiouser

Kilborn Alley Blues Band
Better Off Now

Kirk Whalum
The Gospel According To Jazz Chapter III

Matthew Stubbs
Medford & Main

Meredith Andrews
As Long As It Takes

Midnight Well
Midnight Well

Nick Moss

O Hearn, Patrick
A Windham Hill Retrospective

Old Man Luedecke
My Hands Are On Fire And Other Love Songs

One For The Team

Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording

Parker, Graham
Imaginary Television

Popa Chubby
The Fight Is On

Praise And Worship Top 40
Top 40 Praise & Worship Vol. 3 (3Cd)


Reno & Smiley
Bluegrass 1963

Sapp, Marvin
Here I Am

Seasick Steve
Man From Another Time

Sly & The Family Stone
Ain T But The One Way (Origina

Standard Fare
The Noyelle Beat

Stockwell, Tony
Healing The Wounded Soul

Stockwell, Tony
Heighten Your Spiritual Awaren

Streetlight Manifesto
99 Songs Of Revolution

Such A Loser

The Audition

The Whigs
In The Dark

The White Stripes
Under Great White Northern Lights

Uriah Heep
Celebration (Reg Ed)

Sunday In The Country

The Edge

Various Artists
Adagio: A Windham Hill Collect

Various Artists
Rough Guide To Arabic Lounge (

Various Artists
Rough Guide To World Music For

Various: Mixed By Agoria
Balance 016

Venegas, Julieta
Otra Cosa

Weiss, Dan Trio

Wiseman, Mac
Bluegrass 1971

About Josh Hathaway

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