Clearing Out The Mailroom: Monday, November 1, 2010

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We've got quite a backlog of CDs we've never gotten around to, so we're going to try to chip away at the pile with this regular feature. The plan: to take a few at a time and play each CD for as long as I can stand it.

Bertell (Houston, TX)

Goin Hard (EMI)

We often get some odd items sent to us here in the mailroom. The most recent example is a promo CD from Houston R&B crooner Bertell. It's safe to guess that this was sent out as a teaser for his full-length album, but we don't have that disc, just the sampler with two full-length tunes and four of its self-described "snippets." Some things here are relatively formulaic--but they're still be enjoyable. Bertell's obvious take on the tough-guy love song, which is really about knocking boots, is an apt example: "Beat It Up" does little to disguise what Bertell's message with its lyrics of "Shorty never done it like this / or had it like that / I beat it up." Let's just say that subtlety isn't one of the knobs that was twisted in the studio for this record. Want another example? Even the "snippet" of the promo-disc's softer "love song" is entitled "Goin Hard." Unfortunately, the four "snippets" were more sonically diverse and engaging than the two complete tracks were--even if they do fit all too squarely in the realm of bad-boy R&B.
I made it: all the way through the disc of two full songs and four one-minute "snippets."

The Weepies (Los Angeles, CA)
Be My Thrill (Nettwerk)

On the surface, everything about this album is cavity-inducing sweet. There's the cutely-colored artwork, the precious, ukulele-cradling picture of the hubby/wife duo (Deb Talan and Steve Tannen) and then there's the opening track, "Please Speak Well of Me." That number is way too reminiscent of when Bernadette Peters sang "Tonight You Belong To Me" to Steve Martin in The Jerk. But, hey, as the album progresses, so does the overall pace of the songs--not that the syrupy hair-stroking between the enamored lovers slows at all. It's not difficult to imagine more than a few eye-rolls when "Be My Honeypie" releases its Cupid's arrow onto the album. All in all, though, this has the makings of an agreeable folk effort--especially for those who just need something a bit more congenial than Bertell's humping-in-the-closet anthems.
I made it: 1:21 into track No. 9, "Hummingbird."

Left Lane Cruiser (Fort Wayne, IN)
Gettin' Down On It (Hillgrass Bluebilly)

Demonic grunts and Vaseline-thick licks are ready to greet when this re-released disc opens with the startling "Big Mama." In this age where The Black Keys are legitimate festival headliners, this is a two-man blues-rock band that doesn't seem to be concerned with much else than frightening those who dare listen. The mix of delta blues, surging punk and the greasy drippings from a well-worn frying pan manages to produce a pace that ebbs at times, yet always seems to be flowing profusely, regardless. In what is obviously a trend in the mailroom this week, the titles contained in this collection are beyond telling. Among them? "That Ass," "Pork N' Beans," and "Shotgun Wedding." As with so many two-man acts, the sound can devolve into a one-dimensional state after a few tracks, but the incendiary slide guitar that scorches many of the songs keeps things just dangerous enough, so as to continually engage rather than bore.
I made it: all the way through track No. 11, "Heart and Soul."

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