- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 19, 2002

THE AVALANCHES
Since I Left You
(Modular Records)
Two years ago, British groups Basement Jaxx and Groove Armada dropped best-selling dance and electronica albums on an unsuspecting American public, creating the party records of the year. This time around it's Australia's turn, as the Avalanches' debut is set to make the playlists for many house parties in 2002.
Like those British records, "Since I Left You" is not a perfect album from start to finish. It has enough standout tracks, though, that it propels the Avalanches far above the bland trance, garage and house music hitting the dance floor today. The album opens up with the sound of a noisy house party, the first of more than 100 samples used throughout the record and a hint of the fun to come.
The most noteworthy song is "Stay Another Season," which lifts the bass line to Madonna's "Holiday," the first time the singer has ever let another artist sample her work. It's one of the better tracks on a record that sounds like an audio tour through the history of the party, from seedy nightclubs to the Wild West frontier, with hip-hop, soul, rock and even classical guitar stops along the way. Better still, samples float between tracks, giving the record a unified feel, which is surprising since its material comes from dozens of artists.
These changes keep the record from hitting too many dull spots, even if the group's momentum slows on songs such as "Two Hearts in 3/4 Time" and the closer "Extra Kings," which crackles with the sound of old vinyl but fails to take off. Whether a group that grew out of punk rock and hip-hop can make a go at the fickle dance market is anyone's guess, but the Avalanches have made a classic party album regardless of where they go from here. Derek Simmonsen

CHARLIE DANIELS BAND
How Sweet The Sound
(Sparrow Records)
Although front man Charlie Daniels is best known for his country and rock songs, he never has been one to limit himself. Mr. Daniels returns to his roots with this album, a collection of hymns and other gospel songs.
The musician with the trademark hat and belt buckle is perhaps best known for his 1979 Grammy Award-winning song that topped both the pop and country charts, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Although Mr. Daniels has been performing gospel songs in his live concerts for many years, this is one of the rare times he has made a complete album of them.
This two-disc, 25-track offering includes "Amazing Grace," "Blessed Assurance," "The Old Rugged Cross," "I'll Fly Away" and "In the Sweet By and By." But lesser-known songs such as "Life's Railway To Heaven," "There Is Power in the Blood," "In the Garden" and "Come Unto Me" complete it.
Mr. Daniels gives these traditional favorites a rock and country fiddle twist, creating a toe-tappin', heavenly good time. Amy Baskerville

JOHNNY BUSH
Green Snakes
(Lone Star Records)
You won't hear many fiddles and steel guitars or shuffle beats on CMT's "Top 20 Countdown," which is why you're unlikely to see a Johnny Bush video on the country music cable channel anytime soon assuming, of course, that this old-school country purist even does videos. In fact, at least one of the songs on "Green Snakes" predates TV, while others date back to the medium's infancy.
The title track, by contrast, is only about 30 years old a contemporary, as it were, of Mr. Bush's last major country-chart hit, 1972's "Whiskey River." (Though "Whiskey River" is more often associated with Willie Nelson, Mr. Bush wrote the song, and his is the far better version and it's among my Top 5 all-time favorite country songs.)
The newly re-recorded "Green Snakes (On the Ceiling)" of the 15 tracks on the disc, the one most nearly akin stylistically to "Whiskey River" is a comically cautionary tale about demon rum, told from the perspective of a barfly experiencing the DTs. Said to be a cult favorite among college students on the Texas country dance-hall circuit, "Green Snakes" has you singing along by the third listen.
The 13 other songs here explore familiar honky-tonk country themes heartbreak, cheating, religious redemption, eking out a living, and oh, yes drinking to excess. Among the latter, there's the delightfully loopy zydeco/Tex-Mex polka "Dos Tacos," about a man who finds himself hung over, hungry, alone and stranded after his "bonita" dumps him for a guy named "Nacho," and the Western swing-style "Driving Nails (In My Coffin)," with its three-fiddle attack.
Among the best of the rest: "When Did You Stop Loving Me?" a lament that showcases Dicky Overbey's haunting steel guitar and Bobby Flores' fiddle; "I Wish That I Could Fall in Love Today," on which Mr. Bush could easily be mistaken for his "hero and mentor" Ray Price (who recorded the song in the 1960s); the Buck Owens' co-written "He Don't Deserve You Anymore," with Mr. Bush's trademark 4/4 shuffle beat and harmony bridge; and "The Last Voice You Hear," an appeal to an ex-lover's better judgment, featuring Mr. Bush on electric acoustic guitar.
The first eight tracks on "Green Snakes" are, on the whole, better than its latter seven, but there are only two the last two, as luck would have it that I skip over now, one of them an out-of-place 21/2-minute anecdote about driving to a 1957 gig with a band mate. But I suppose anyone who has been in the business as long as Mr. Bush, who has been dubbed the "Country Caruso" and who turns 67 next month, is entitled to a small self-indulgence. Peter Parisi

LOST PROPHETS
The Fake Sound of Progress
(Columbia Records)
Modern heavy metal has become so oppressively nihilistic that most modern bands make Black Sabbath seem like a traveling comedy show. So it is refreshing to find among the shouting, tattooed throng a band that at least tries to let the uninitiated inside its armor of hostility and alienation.
The six-piece Welsh band Lost Prophets has all the requisite modern hard-core trappings crunching guitars, grim and angst-ridden lyrics and the occasional thrash-metal shriek in place of singing. Most of the songs appear to be about defiant scorn for a former friend or lover who has betrayed a trust a common theme in today's crowded field of angry heavy metallers.
But unlike grim colleagues such as P.O.D. and the Deftones, the Prophets seem willing to chart a mellower course, at least at times. With clear melodies, decipherable (if still cryptic) lyrics, and a singer who sounds more like John Linnell of They Might Be Giants than James Hetfield of Metallica, the Prophets may just be the post-punk metal band for those of us too content or too old to appreciate the delights of the mosh pit. Sean Scully

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