CD Reviews for Jan. 13

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Mike Gordon and Leo Kottke

"Sixty Six Steps"

Available at All That Jazz for $16.98

If you wanted me to answer the "what-kind-of-music-is-this" question with this album, I'd have to tell you track by track. Although the same soft acoustic guitar finger picking runs through the entire thing, nothing else is the same.

It opens with "Living in the Country" by Pete Seeger. Theirs is an instrumental interpretation of the kind that has woven itself into our music via the rising popularity of solo male surfers/singers/guitar players.

The next song is an introspective and amusing tale of someone who lives out the fantasy of so many to build a little place far away from civilization and "off the grid."

"I'm alone, but at least I'm off the grid."

But my favorite track is the bluegrass cover of Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion." Stripped to its acoustic elements, Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon offer a chance to appreciate what a different song "Sweet Emotion" can be when it is stripped of Steven Tyler's personality.

Whatever the direction these songs head, they are each a celebration of songwriting -- instrumental and otherwise. Each track is carefully written and just as carefully played.

As a collaboration between Gordon of Phish and Kottke, it's as much a chance for Gordon to introduce his generation to the legendary Kottke as it is a chance for Kottke to introduce his generation to the talented Gordon. This is the second album released by the two.

Rated: Perfect soundtrack for a late night around the beach campfire.

The Strokes

"First Impressions of Earth"

Available at All That Jazz for $16.98

There are two camps in this musical world: those who think The Strokes deserve all the hype and those who think The Strokes suck.

In "First Impressions of Earth," The Strokes have that alt-pop/post-punk/pick-your-label sound that was so popular in the late '80s.

The singer whines along with catchy guitar hooks to create songs that make me want to dance in that Culture Club way.

But for a new generation of ears that can listen to this album without asking, "How can something so new sound so dated?" this is good stuff.

Maybe the two camps of Strokes -- those who love them and those who couldn't care less -- depend on where music has taken you before you put on their album.

Rated: If you think the inclusion of a tambourine is experimental or if you think that dressing like a rebel makes you one --ou'll love this album.

The Darkness

"One Way Ticket to Hell ... and Back"

On sale at All that Jazz for $15.98

The first time I heard The Darkness, I wasn't convinced it was a real band. They were too funny. They didn't take themselves seriously, or it didn't seem that way.

They play the kind of loud guitar that I imagine every guitar player -- no matter how reserved -- loves to play when the door's closed. Following shortly behind the screaming guitar is frontman Justin Hawkins' high octave range.

Because so many people think The Darkness is a joke, they can dabble in all those musical vices that the more pretentious are too afraid to touch.

It's a formula that can produce a rockin', keyboard heavy, screaming song in which Hawkins sings, "I love what you've done with your hair."

It's a simultaneous mocking and celebration of hair metal.

A sense of humor does not a "not a band" make.

Rated: I'm convinced, finally, that The Darkness is a real band.

-- Autumn Phillips

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