Front Parlour Ballads
Fairport Convention co-founder, folk veteran, and music nerd's nerd Richard Thompson locked himself in his L.A. garage for this album, his first of solo acoustic tunes since 1981's Strict Tempo! "Let It Blow," the lead cut, has been lauded as the album's best track, since it rocks where the rest of the album meanders, but the setup is just too silly: "He was a species on the verge of extinction/ She was an Air New Zealand hostess," he sings over galloping bass, harshly strummed acoustic, and flickering electric guitar as the story of a tabloid romance unfolds. Such cheap cynicism should be beneath a man who could turn around, on "Row, Boys, Row," to write such poignant lines as, "Is it wise to be needy in the land of the free/Is it wise to be bleeding in a shark filled sea?" amid a stormy dirge. Likewise, the mandolin and squeeze-box drone of "Miss Patsy," already a favorite of his live performances, works as an embodied period piece in which Thompson exudes character in both voice and understated yet brilliant guitar technique. Front Parlour Ballads' homemade, raw-ended warmth works best in those moments, when Thompson gets outside the gaze of his adopted metropolis and beyond his unfortunate century, crafting his wit into the fashionable foppery of bygone days. DAPHNE CARR
Richard Thompson plays Benaroya Hall at 8 p.m. Sat., Oct. 8. $41.
JIMMIE DALE GILMORE
Come on Back
Early last year, Jimmie Dale Gilmore said that though his legendary Texas country-folk trio the Flatlanders didn't release any music between their 1973 debut and a cut from 1998's The Horse Whisperer, he and bandmates Butch Hancock and Joe Ely "still were best friends." You can hear the amiable nature that comment seems to suggest in nearly everything Gilmore's recorded over the past three decades; even if the guy's never touched a drug (unlikely), he's about as fine an advertisement for recreational pot smoking as NORML could ask for. On Come on Back, the singer's first solo album since 2000's One Endless Night, Gilmore pays tribute to his father (who died of ALS in 2000) by covering the songs his dad loved. Because Gilmore's heart is as big as his fine-enough voice, his renditions here glow with a lived-in warmth that makes up for any lack of imagination in Ely's pan-roots production. Anyway, who needs fancy new arrangements with tunes as effortlessly charming as "Saginaw, Michigan," a three-minute autobio popularized by honky-tonk pioneer Lefty Frizzell, or Jimmie Rodgers' "Standin' on the Corner," which boasts of both "a hundred cash dollars" and a "suit of clothes." In Come on Back's liner notes, Gilmore calls these tunes "simple, well-crafted, unpretentious." He's not talking about his performances, but he might as well be. MIKAEL WOOD
Jimmie Dale Gilmore plays the Triple Door with Colin Gilmore at 8 p.m. Fri., Oct. 7. $23 adv./$25.
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 2
Yoko Kanno first attracted attention on the U.S. music scene with her sizzling music for the soundtrack of the 1998 Japanese animated TV series Cowboy Bebop. Even then, she didn't get the kind of acclaim she deserved, because her music fit the style of the show so snugly it seemed more an emanation of the series' primary-color 23rd-century-noir look than a free-standing score. The overall tone is like midperiod Maynard Ferguson big band at its coolest and screamingest, but you could never mistake it for that; its cool is specifically late 20th century, with even its frenzy ironic and sharply outlined. Kanno has written a lot of music for TV since, and every score shows her operating with a broader palette. Her music from the second season of another cutting-edge animation series, Stand Alone Complex, operates, as the title suggests, in zany parallel to Mamoru Oshii's two gorgeous but kinda glum full-length Ghost in the Shell animations, riffing on their characters and plot elements without being tied down to any one tone or style. That goes double for Kanno's music. We've got neo-big-band jazz here, but also post–Weather Report sizzlers, Shinto processionals with a kazoo-band obbligato, superdisco sounds that steam clean that medium's jaded surfaces, dense electric weaves, maniacal percussion sinfoniettas, all of it rocking to an unhealthy degree. Being Japanese seems to liberate Kanno and her musicians from the burden of the musical past. The whole of pop music from Woody Herman to hip-hop scratching is their toy box, and the things they build out of the contents infuse the old bones with fresh life. ROGER DOWNEY