Chris Ayer: Don’t Go Back to Sleep

In the grand scheme of the music industry in 2009, you might ask the question, “Who needs another Teddy Geiger/Jason Mraz/Jack Johnson hybrid?” But singer/songwriter Chris Ayer, though he might fit that exact model of hybrid, is not just another one of them trying to rise above the pack. His latest, Don’t Go Back to Sleep, is Ayer’s sixth album since 2003. Sure, it’s jangly and sure, it sounds like amped-up coffeehouse fare much of the time, but here is something Ayer has that allow us to mention him in the same breath as those guys above without flinching—really good songs. And it’s those songs that will keep you listening to this album and keep you tapping your feet and bopping in your chair like a kid who ate too much candy. It’s also ironic that the Brooklyn-based Ayer recorded this album in Nashville, a city that claims to be about the song but churns out way too much crap—and many of these tunes are better than the bulk of Music City’s collective output. Much of Don’t Go Back to Sleep is similar in tone and tempo, but there really are no clunkers on here. The best of the bunch, though, are the uber-catchy “Lost & Found” and “Pretty Poison,” but don’t overlook the beautiful guitar/vocal gem, “In the Silence.” (LABEL: Another Record Company)

Chris Ayer MySpace Page

  

Crosby Loggins: Time to Move

Despite often unrealistic expectations, there’s been an abundance of musical offspring all too anxious to enter their parents’ trade. Take the Wainwright kids, Ben Taylor, Teddy Thompson and, of course, the Bobster’s boy Jakob as examples of those who have secured successful careers based on both talent and a famous surname. Then there’s those unfortunate few who were named after iconic associates apparently near and dear to daddy’s heart. (Justin Townes Earle, anyone?) How’s that for a not so subtle sign the folks expect success in the family business? Talk about parental pressure! Take note, then, that Crosby Loggins is Kenny’s kid, not another combo combination appropriated by the Cros, sans Stills and Nash. In truth, young Mr. Loggins doesn’t sound a whole lot like papa, although it could be said he shares a similar penchant for pure pop fare and radio-ready intents. Still, it’s a shame that this debut disc belies its title and settles instead for a generic sound that does nothing to bend the boundaries. John Mayer and Jason Mraz appear to have set the standard here (the former even contributes a guitar solo on the title track) and while aptly dubbed songs such as “Good Enough” and “Radio Heart” raise expectation for regular rotation on the airwaves, there’s little that leaves a mark for the long term. A decent beginning perhaps, but if Loggins is truly anxious to fill his father’s shoes, let’s hope the time to move forward isn’t long in coming. (Jive) – Lee Zimmerman

Crosby Loggins MySpace page

  

Eric Hutchinson: Sounds Like This

Sometimes a record company, you know, steps in it. Because breaking new artists these days has become practically foreign to major labels, it sometimes takes a stroke of luck, or in the case of pop singer and songwriter Eric Hutchinson, the stroke of a buddy’s computer keyboard. Hutchinson, whose infectious, R&B-laced pop runs in the same musical circles as Gavin DeGraw and Maroon 5, was signed to Maverick Records before parent company Warner Brothers closed Maverick’s doors, leaving this talented dude with a sparkling product and no label to pimp it. But not to worry, he kept touring and then found overnight success when a high school buddy e-mailed a link to Eric’s music to celebrity gossip dude Perez Hilton. Just like that, Hutchinson went from no-name to peaking at #5 on the iTunes album chart, making him the highest charting unsigned act in the digital age. It’s no fluke, either. Sounds Like This, originally released on Hutchinson’s aptly titled Let’s Break Records, is just dripping with hooks, especially on the incredibly upbeat and soulful “You Don’t Have to Believe Me” and on “Rock & Roll,” the kind of track Jason Mraz wishes he could write. But even when Hutchinson brings down the volume, as he does on “Food Chain,” he can’t help but put you in a good mood. (Warner Bros./Let’s Break)

Eric Hutchinson MySpace Page

  

Lisa Hannigan: Sea Sew

She rose to prominence as a member of Damien Rice’s band and she’s out touring with Jason Mraz right now, but don’t hold either of those things against Lisa Hannigan – her solo debut, Sea Sew, is far better than her most high-profile associations might lead you to expect. To be certain, Rice fans will find a lot to love here; many of the songs are built on the same delicate acoustic framework that caused such a swoon over O and, to a lesser extent, 9. But where Rice rarely seems interested in much besides plumbing the emotional depths, Hannigan provides a gentler, more tuneful gateway into the world of Nick Drake fetishists – and has the good sense to surround her songs with warmer, more colorful arrangements. The music is fine, but the real star of the show is Hannigan’s voice, which purrs and flutters across Sea Sew’s 10 tracks, lending a coiled sensuality to what could easily have been just another collection of introspective ballads for moody twentysomethings. Hannigan’s presence even lends weight to trifles like “Splishy Splashy,” and keeps the dirge-y stuff (“Courting Blues”) from taking itself too seriously – and when she hits on all cylinders, as on the ethereal, gently driving “I Don’t Know,” it’s awfully difficult not to get caught up in all the hype that’s surrounded her for the last few years. There’s a glut of this type of stuff right now, but Sea Sew proves that, when it’s done right, it can still pack a punch. An extremely polite punch, but still. (ATO 2009)

Lisa Hannigan MySpace page

  

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