Katy Moffatt, Idlewild, and Kris Delmhorst

Katy Moffatt
Loose Diamond
Hightone Records

You can feel the saloon doors sway as you brush through them. Once inside, you wearily wobble up to the bar and order a tall cold one. No—make that a shot of something with more bite. Chances are you're one of the lovesick-yet-resilient fools inhabiting Loose Diamond, Katy Moffatt's intoxicating new CD. With exceptional flavoring from such area roots monsters as Rick Shea, Dave Alvin, Greg Leisz, Bobby Lloyd Hicks and Rosie Flores, this Texas-born, LA-based singer/songwriter has created a striking collection of pure, countrified weepers. "Whiskey, Money & Time" and "Stoned at the Jukebox" may be rather predictable ways of blurring the pain, but Moffatt's vocals are so full of pathos that she's utterly convincing. More lyrically imaginative are "Wheel," a complex tale of independence written by Moffatt and Flores, and "Burning Memories," a stark ballad that extols the cathartic value in letting go. The folksy, mostly acoustic-driven accompaniment is exquisite throughout, ranging from Shea's bluesy steel-guitar accents and Leisz's haunting dobro and slide work to David Jackson's south-of-the-border accordion flourishes and Brantley Kearns' mournful fiddle work. Not surprisingly, the tone of the Alvin-produced disc is predominantly somber, though Moffatt keeps the faith in closing with a decidedly hopeful tune called "Waiting for the Sun to Shine." But until that burning ball of fire peeks out from behind those gray clouds, pull up a stool, shed a tear and raise a glass or two. (John Roos)

Idlewild
Hope Is Important
Odeon Records

So the UK press has heaped mountains of hyperbole on another one of their young bands and is now shipping it over here with high hopes and press kits full of quotes so profound you expect to put the CD on and receive multiple orgasms from the aural rapture coming forth. So? That only happens, like, once every day. The latest hype kids are Scotland's Idlewild, and of course they can't possibly live up to it all. But unlike most of the UK's recent exports, Idlewild can't list Pink Floyd as one of its big influences and can actually rock. It's all simple loud-verse-louder-chorus stuff with snotty vocals (minus "I'm Happy to be Here Tonight," an acoustic stinker that sounds like a bad Brit version of R.E.M.). You could call them Britain's answer to Lit or Blink-182—they have that bratty, hyperactive vibe down (but it's not obvious they were once a glam metal band, as it is with Lit, and they have way more heft behind their whine than Blink does). Like those two bands, and millions of others on both sides of the Atlantic, this is easy pop-rock influenced by diet-punk, with catchy hooks, crunchy choruses and zero originality. Sounds like a radio programmer's dream come true. If Idlewild ever break on the American airwaves, you'll find yourself bobbing your head along, wondering why they sound so familiar. (Michael Coyle)

Kris Delmhorst
Appetite
Big Bean Music

Sure, sometimes you get lucky and meet that one person to fall sloppily in love with, and then you go around all doe-eyed, making the rest of us sick. Who doesn't want that? The record industry's made a fortune recording "perfect love" after "perfect love" songs for adolescents to put on mix tapes for one another, keying in to that romantic fantasy. But screw it. Love—and anyone who's ever been in love can tell you this—is friggin' hard work, and it never stops being so. Maybe that's what makes Boston songstress Kris Delmhorst's new CD, Appetite, so appealing. These are songs that rip through puppy-love daydreams, holding them up to the light for a while before tossing them aside—Delmhorst obviously has better things to do than mope around all heartbroken. Thank God. She looks at relationships with marvelous, if somewhat frightening, dispassion. Throughout the album, Delmhorst constantly warns her lovers ("I won't stick to you like glue/I will drift by you just like smoke") and then seems bemused that the lunkheads don't get it ("Go ahead and blame me like you blame the weatherman for the rain"). Ouch. It doesn't hurt that she's also a gifted guitarist capable of digging notes deeply into your heart. The CD also features some of the Boston folk scene's best musicians, including Patty Larkin, Jennifer Kimball, Catie Curtis, Paula Cole bassist Mike Rivard, and Morphine drummer Billy Conway, but really, it's Delmhorst's ability to deliver cold lines like "You and I are like a free lunch/There's no such thing" that makes this all-around remarkable album fly. (Victor D. Infante)

 
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