Far Side of the World
Jimmy Buffett (Mailboat)
Despite his happy-hour silliness, Buffett remains a most affable performer. So even the Paul Simonesque pretensions of this album aren’t too off-putting. Its insert art unaccountably features pictures of zebras and elephants, though the hints of African music that creep into the songs are heavily filtered through Buffett’s standard Caribbean influences.
Buffett’s relaxed presentation works to good effect. And Bruce Cockburn’s lilting “All the Ways I Want You” complements Buffett’s own romps like “Last Man Standing.” Dazzling studio musicians—guitarist Sonny Landreth, saxophonist Jim Horn—bring spice to Buffett’s simple, direct style, and lyrically the slacker grandpappy ribs himself: “Oh, no, he’s buying an island/ Oh, no, he’s building a boat.” Like most Buffett albums, this one sounds as if it were written in a hammock. It should be listened to the same way.
Bottom line: Satisfying fare for fans
Sheryl Crow (A&M)
Album of the week
Sheryl Crow‘s perkiest tunes are made for car listening, and her sound can turn any old Sycamore Lane into Santa Monica Boulevard. You can hear the top of the convertible going down on “Soak Up the Sun,” her peppiest sing-along since “All I Wanna Do.” Its lyrics are bright too: “I don’t have digital/I don’t have diddly squat/ It’s not having what you want/ It’s wanting what you’ve got.” Radio will feast on it.
Crow is more convincing as rock’s Katie Couric than its Meryl Streep, though, and her more serious efforts—the disc is littered with busted hearts—are less fun. The country-rock ones have a solid respect for early Eagles, and Don Henley (for whom she used to sing backup) even checks in to duet on a big ballad, a weepy postcard from the cheatin’ side of town called “It’s Only Love.” Some harder numbers stumble under her dreary big-guitar licks, but there is still plenty of great escape, notably in the raucous opener, “Steve McQueen.” When she’s in the mood to be a good-time girl, Crow is unstoppable.
Bottom Line: Soak up the sound
VH1 Presents The Corrs Live in Dublin
The Corrs (Lava/Atlantic)
The interchangeably gorgeous Corrs sisters together with their brother churn out fluffy Irish pop (such as “Breathless,” included here in a Xerox of their inescapable 2001 hit) with it’s-always-sunny harmonies. When they try on a classic outfit like Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” or the Stones’ “Ruby Tuesday,” it’s like Britney Spears suiting up in Jackie Kennedy’s duds. You’re lovely, darlings, but…. With their fiddles set to “jig” and their pretty woodwinds, the Corrs test the limits of cuteness, though guest Ron Wood helps on guitar and Bono gives much-needed ballast to two fine tracks, Lee Hazelwood’s “Summer Wine” and Ryan Adams’s “When the Stars Go Blue.”
Bottom Line: Gaelic Go-Gos are so-so
Friday Night in Dixie
Rhett Akins (Audium)
Caught between a rock and a roadhouse, Akins’s sound is a mix of Hank Williams Jr. (a mentor when he was growing up in Valdosta, Ga.) and Charlie Daniels, who cowrote the album’s boys-will-be-boys title tune. With help on two tracks from Daniels, Akins successfully blends country vocal inflections with rock-tinged rhythms. “You Rock Me,” for example, could, with not many changes, be turned into a heavy-metal piece. Yet he is also given to rural adoration on songs for the open road. Much-appreciated bonus: an acoustic take on Akins’s clever 1995 hit “That Ain’t My Truck,” a sprightly but affecting lament about observing the vehicle of one’s rival in the driveway of one’s beloved.
Bottom Line: Whistling Dixie with a rock accent