Dig These Discs :: Ken Mogan, Sheryl Crow, Arctic Monkeys, Five For Fighting, Birdy
Pop star Sheryl Crow releases a hot collection of country music in "Feels Like Home." Singer/songwriter John Ondrasik, aka Five for Fighting, drops his sixth studio album this month. Eclectic and clever wordsmiths Arctic Monkeys release their fifth studio album. UK teen Birdy scores with her sophomore EP, and EDGE reviewer Ken Mogan covers some of our favorite songs and original tracks. Dig These Discs falls back with autumn!
"Feels Like Home" (Sheryl Crow)
According to Sheryl Crow, all she wants to do is have fun before she dies; that, and make big bucks singing country music. Missouri-born Crow got her chops in the early ’90s as a pop star with her smash hit "All I Wanna Do," and went on to produce seven albums. VH1 has ranked Crow as #25 of the 100 Greatest Women in Music. Now she has signed with Warner Music Nashville to release her country-influenced album, "Feels Like Home." The combination of pop and country is infectious, as she sings convincingly about booze, pickup trucks and heartache. On her first track, "Shotgun," she sings in delightful double entendre, "You brag about what’s under your hood, but it ain’t doing us any good/ Rolling through town and going too slow, what we need is an open road/ 400 horses need a little room to run." Electric guitar, slowed down, pairs well with drums in "Easy," a tune about choosing love over money, hanging at home, with the humorous lyric, "We’ll play Jack Johnson; he’s the new Don Ho." She gets real country in songs like the saccharine "Give It To Me," singing, "You’ve got one foot in and one foot out the door." Her tune "Drinking" is classic boozy country fare, about drinking on a weeknight, and "Best of Times" is an ass-kicker of a song about positivity. "Waterproof Mascara" has a modern country feel, as Crow sings sadly of a child asking, "all my friends have Daddies; Mommy, why don’t I?" And "Crazy Ain’t Original" has an old-school country, Merle Haggard feel to it. The heartbreak in "Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely" could go over well on an easy listening station, as could the come-hither song "Nobody’s Business." Life is harder after high school in the sad "Homecoming Queen," and for a working mom in "Stay at Home Mother." Crow’s crossover attempt is an unequivocal success; her raspy, confessional style of singing is a good match for this increasingly popular oeuvre.
(Warner Music Nashville)
"Bookmarks" (Five for Fighting)
Singer/songwriter John Ondrasik, aka Five for Fighting (a hockey expression), drops his sixth studio album this month. Gregg Wattenberg and Derek Fuhrmann produced the album. Ondrasik has received early acclaim for his single "What If," released on June 11. Ondrasik is best known for his piano-based rock, and this collection highlights some of his best work, paired with his clear, fine voice and the backbeat of a classic drum kit. He opens the 11-track album with the anthem, "Stand Up," singing, "If you have to paint yourself and you’re not a clown/if you’re naked lost in space and all you wear’s a frown/ Stand up!" His voice goes up and down the scales in the love song, "What If," and he expresses his deep love in "Heaven Knows," with a charming a cappella break. "Down" is a bit hokey, as is his track "I Don’t Want Your Love," a tale of a woman who wants to settle down with him and start a family, much to his chagrin. He does better with "The Road to You," which has a pub rock, Chumbawumba feel. "She turns wine to water, she’s nobody’s daughter, a stranger to the lovers at her feet," Ondrasik sings in "She’s My Girl," which is catchy but a bit treacly. "Symphony Lane" calls to mind early Beatles’ hits like "Eleanor Rigby;" it is compelling and at the same time dour. Ondrasik has done relatively well with more than 2.5 million albums sold, a top 10 debut of "Two Lights" on the Billboard Top 200, his single "Superman" nominated for a Grammy Award, and his cut "Chances" featured in the Oscar-winning film "The Blind Side." "I don’t wanna be the son of a better man, I don’t wanna love you any more than the best I can," he sings in "Your Man," which has a rock edge to it. In addition to his musical talents, Ondrasik is also a charitable dude; since 2007, he has created charity websites for Autism Speaks, the Fisher House Foundation, Save the Children and Operation Homefront.
Teen sensation British singer-songwriter Birdy (Jasmine van de Bogaerde) releases her four-song EP, on the heels of her self-titled debut in 2011. This 17-year-old from Lymington has made a big splash in the UK with her spine-tingling rendition of Bon Iver’s "Skinny Love," and followed her success with "People Help the People" and "1901." Now she’s back, after having collaborated with the likes of Ryan Tedder, Dan Wilson, Rich Costey and Ben Lovett, not to mention the legendary T Bone Burnett, on the soundtrack for "The Hunger Games." She is also featured on the song "Learn Me Right" with Mumford & Sons for the Pixar film "Brave." "In the moment we’re lost and found, I just wanna be by your side if these wings could fly," she croons in "Wings." She hits the high spots on the register in the piano-accompanied track "Shine," singing, "if the world gets you down, don’t be afraid to wrestle it... you have your whole life ahead of you, come make the best of it." Unlike many teen artists, Birdy doesn’t seem to be solely driven by bubble-gum pop; her sound is introspective, and she reportedly plays her own guitar backing in both her recording sessions and live performances. Her single "What You Want" is a serious and sad track in which Birdy wishes she could fly away, with her love as the sun shining on her. The song draws to a dramatic tension that well serves her style. The EP closes up with a live recording of "Skinny Love" from the Sydney Opera House this April. Her slow piano chops overlaid with her high soprano are more haunting than Bon Iver could ever have envisioned. With a start like this, there is no way Birdy won’t fly on this side of the pond.