What our critics are listening to

11:37 AM, Jan 07, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 16: Singer Brandy attends 'VH1 Divas' 2012 at The Shrine Auditorium on December 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images) (Michael Buckner/Getty Images)/


BLACKBERRY SMOKE

WHIPPOORWILL. What, another Southern rock band coming out of Georgia? “I may not change the world, but I’m gonna leave a scar,” Charlie Starr sings, and that’s probably self-effacing enough when you walk this well-worn path. Sometimes there’s a little too much Lynyrd Skynyrd here for my taste, but that passes quickly enough when the Black Crowes-like caterwauling steps in. The rocked-up country pieces are fine, but I can hear these guys really know how to play when they slow it down. On the gloriously ragged “Everybody Knows She’s Mine,” we get the Southern boy’s amiable yet swaggering tribute to his fine-lookin’ woman: “She got my name tattooed where the sun don’t shine.” The gorgeous, slow-cooking title track showcases everything this band has to offer, from guitar riffs drifting to the rafters like moonshine smoke to elegant piano to the church-organ whirling around Starr’s aching voice. Call it Allman Brothers Jr., if you like, but I’ll be driving around the city awhile with this one in the CD player. — JEFF SPEVAK

BRANDY

TWO ELEVEN. It’s easy to forget about Brandy the singer, given that we see her on TV more often these days (BET’s The Game comes to mind). But singing is her lifeblood and she still knows how to make hits. Single “Put it Down” featuring Chris Brown is her radio cut meant to snare the masses with its catchy hook. But it’s songs like “Scared of Beautiful” that deserve more attention, thanks to its haunting lyrics and Brandy’s heartfelt delivery. And Brandy’s voice is gravelly at times but it works on the mid-tempo “Wildest Dreams.” The beat thumps and Brandy’s vocals are smoky one minute, lighter the next in “Without You.” Other songs worth noting include “So Sick” and and the sensual vibe of “Paint This House.” There’s a lot to like about this CD. Check it out. — SHEILA RAYAM

JOHN WILLIAMS

LINCOLN. The esteemed composer and conductor moves into the realm of Aaron Copland for this lovely program of Americana, created for Steven Spielberg’s wonderful portrait, Lincoln. Like Copland, Williams borrows from folk melodies and American 19th-century music, and adds his own elegant grace and uplifting melodies. The 80-year-old Williams has penned the scores to 25 of the 26 feature films Spielberg has directed. They match up beautifully because both men share an openly emotional approach to storytelling, as well as affection for the music scores of classic Hollywood. Here Williams offers echoes of his early scores for The Reivers and The Missouri Breaks, as well as Spielberg’s more recent Amistad. All in all, Williams’ Lincoln is a worthy part of Spielberg’s great film — and also stands alone as rich, evocative music. — JACK GARNER