Album reviews of the week

22:40, Jul 28 2011

ROCK Sixx: AM - This Is Gonna Hurt (Sony) 1/2

Sixx: AM is the side- project for Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx's narcissistic indulgences - presumably because he couldn't fit all of his narcissistic indulgences on the recent Motley Crue albums. The trio was formed to record a soundtrack to Sixx's grim but boastful memoir The Heroin Diaries. Heroin shouldn't carry the can for the lacklustre performances of Sixx: AM though - it might not be a family-friendly way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but it can claim to be the source behind more than a few great songs. So now Sixx: AM returns because Sixx has a new book to push, and though this album attempts to stand on its own, it is still tied to the book project, which shares the same name. It's a meta-irony that Nikki Sixx is releasing music by an inferior group under the title This is Gonna Hurt. He's been pronounced dead before, so this shouldn't bother him, but I'd now like call him on his artistic flat lining. Here's hoping there are no further signs of life from Sixx: AM. SIMON SWEETMAN

COUNTRY Kort: Kurt Wagner & Cortney Tidwell - Invariable Heartache (Rhythmethod) * * * 1/2

Lambchop's Kurt Wagner and country singer Cortney Tidwell take a trip down memory lane as they explore the back catalogue of the now- deceased Chart Recordings, a Nashville label once run by Tidwell's grandfather. Cherry- picking from the small country label's predominantly 1960s and early 70s recordings, Wagner says the goal was to capture the spirit of the originals while also putting their own stamp on them, which they do to great effect. As the album title suggests, Invariable Heartache is full of bittersweet songs about relationships gone wrong with titles like Incredibly Lonely, He's Only a Memory Away and Who's Gonna Love Me Now, saying it all. While the album is predominantly about sadness, when the band does pick up the pace, as on the barnyard stomp of Pickin' Wild Berries and Let's Think About Where We Are Going, they show their class - especially Paul Niehaus on pedal steel and Billy Conteras on fiddle. While there's nothing groundbreaking here, it is a lovely album of understated duets with Wagner's deep growl a wonderful foil for Tidwell's sweet emotional delivery. LINDSAY DAVIS


KIWI The Sami Sisters - Happy Heartbreak! (Parrot Diva Grump Records) * * *

Madeleine Sami is the best known of the three Sami sisters, for her critically acclaimed career as a stage and screen actress. But at no point does Happy Heartbreak!, with siblings Anji and Priya, sound like just a hobby. Instead, think of the Andrews sisters reborn to play a distinctly lo-fi and largely upbeat mix of indie semi-acoustic pop, folk and country in the vein of Anika Moa. Produced by Ed Cake (Bressa Creeting Cake, Pie Warmer) and with contributions from other musicians, there's a kind of relaxed confidence throughout the album. The three work best singing together - none on their own has a voice that's as powerful or as distinct as Moa and similar Kiwi singers. But together they deliver, especially on Take It or Break It - which is less predictable than it first sounds, Cry, and right through to the gentle closer On This Day. The no-frills approach means the album almost sounds like it's captured the trio live, which leaves one eagerly wanting to get to a Sami Sisters gig. Wellington has the opportunity at Mighty Mighty tonight. TOM CARDY

COUNTRY Mickey Newbury - Box Set (Southbound) * * * *

Possibly better known as a songwriter than singer, Newbury wrote, among others, American Trilogy, a musical triptych of Dixie, Battle Hymn of the Republic and All My Trials. In Elvis Presley's hands it became a show- stopper that displayed all the jingoistic elements, including the patriotism that the Americans love. Along the way he wrote Funny Forgotten Familiar Feelings for Don Gibson and Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) for fellow classmate Kenny Rogers. I can't say that I have ever seen Newbury's albums previously released in New Zealand but now they are available as a set of four CDs. Strangely, they have also been released here in vinyl as separate items. Blessed with a rich tenor, perfect diction and a masterful use of studio technology, I'm surprised that he is not as well-known as he should be, certainly there is a similarity in early Kris Kristofferson, John Denver and even Gordon Lightfoot. Unfortunately, his recording for too many labels - RCA, Electra, ABC/Hickory and his own Mountain Retreat - did not help build a profile. COLIN MORRIS

INDIE William Fitzsimmons - Gold In The Shadow (Shock) * * * 1/2

American alt-folk beardy William Fitzsimmons narrowly avoids being written off in the Fleet Foxes/Bon Iver/Iron & Wine camp as some annoying chin- stroker, because like Elliott Smith before him, he brings songs that have a gravitas; an impetus. There's a feeling that Fitzsimmons' songs do actually need to happen, at a time and in an age where so few of the songs so willingly lapped up will actually amount to anything or mean anything shortly after the release. During the past half decade, Fitzsimmons has plugged away creating five releases, each improving on the last. Gold in the Shadow will please fans of early Iron & Wine and it does touch on where Smith was going in some of his folkier moments. It's a gentle album with no standout tracks that tends to drift and meander - that's both its strength and weakness. Lovely music, if a little inconsequential. But Fitzsimmons does know how to craft a song; taken on the merit of the individual songs it's a strong enough collection. And he's worth having a listen to. SIMON SWEETMAN

The Dominion Post