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In the opening track of singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier's latest CD, Filth and Fire, ominous Hammond organ swells set the stage for this gorgeous yet dark collection filled with ground-down characters all but destroyed by loneliness and their tragic life choices. Fire images punctuate these 11 roots-rock tracks, from the departing lover who finds herself alone among the flames ("You are the lover / Who loved me right down to my bones / Now I walk through the fire alone") in "A Long Way to Fall" to the poisonous smoke that clouds the horizons in "Sugar Cane.
Culled from recordings of full-band concerts from 2000 to 2002, Ani DiFranco's double-disc live set So Much Shouting, So Much Laughter adopts the same warts-and-all approach the folked-up, punk-jazz funketeer took on her first live CD, Living in Clip, which includes both thunderous applause and periodic screwups. (DiFranco opens the new set by cursing and giggling about her acoustic guitar's wily refusal to comply with the program.) So Much Shouting is a testament to DiFranco's magnetic and political stage persona, taut picking, and speed-of-light strums.
From the tense, thunderous crash and crisp guitar picking of the opening track, "Monsoon," to the percussive glee of "Perfect Groove," Luka Bloom has cultivated a wide range of aural textures for this CD, his first set of original songs in six years.