Record Reviews 

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Villain

Jamie Randolph

(Marauder)

Jamie Randolph: a man in the

shadows.

The title and cover imagery alone of Jamie Randolph's Villain blatantly evokes a dark, sinister vibe. And lyrically, Randolph's debut solo album does contain the shadowy evidence of hard living, love gone wrong, and the wasting away that follows, but don't be scared away. Villain is much more sweet than sour.

Recorded in Memphis at Ardent Studios and produced/engineered by Matt Martone (of 3 Doors Down fame), Villain falls less into the vaguely defined, rapidly dissolving alt-country genre that it's promoted as being than into the popular-music arena inhabited by the likes of John Mayer and Gavin DeGraw. "Wine Kings," "Christian Girls," and "Rock N' Roll Kids" could each be a radio hit. The country influence is still there, especially on "Speak To Me," which recalls Bill Mallonee and the Vigilantes of Love. But Villain also runs the gamut between dark indie rock ("Chanson du Vampire") and moody, orchestrated dirges ("Not Crazy").

More than anything, the standout of Villain is Randolph's puritanical voice that manages to evoke Jeff Buckley on "South of France." Raised Baptist, Randolph grew up honing his music talents on church pianos and in the choir. And it's the paradox of hearing a sincere and almost sickeningly sweet voice singing about heartbreak and vampires that makes the record so addictive.

The release of Jamie Randolph's Villain marks not only the debut of a new Memphis-based artist, but also serves as the first shot from Seattle's Marauder Records, a label founded and managed by 26-year-old Memphis native, Josh Horton. It's worth mentioning Marauder if only for the sheer flawlessness of the label's promotion of their debut artist's work. Like Villain, Marauder is so professional in its execution that it's easy to forget that this is a double debut. Both Randolph and Marauder seem to have their sights set on the top of the charts. -- Matthew Cole

Grade: A-

Jamie Randolph and the Bloodsuckers CD-release party Thursday, June 8th, at the Hi-Tone Café. Doors open at 9 p.m.; cover is $8. Visit www.villainthealbum.com for more info.

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Old School Hot Wings

Jimbo Mathus' Knockdown South

(219 Records)

As the leader of Knockdown South, former Squirrel Nut Zipper Jimbo Mathus delves into funky noir, hickory-smoked soul, and country heartache. Mathus is backed up on Hot Wings by Luther and Cody Dickinson, aka the North Mississippi Allstars, Andrew Bird, the quirky bard and fiddle virtuoso, and an enviable host of stellar players, who plunk guitars, pound keys, blow kazoos, and do their level best to give the recording authentic gutbucket appeal. The result is a beautifully woozy and warbling collection of songs that range from the shucking minstrelsy of "Voice of the Pork Chop" and "No Monkey Business" to an earnestly moving rendition of "The Old Rugged Cross" and a lonesome, defeated stab at "Dixie."

If there's fault to be found in Old School Hot Wings, it's the phenomenally gifted players' extreme reverence for source material that is -- mercifully -- quite good. -- Chris Davis

Grade: A-

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Long Live The King

While I Breathe, I Hope

(Armada In Flames/SmithSeven Records)

Long Live The King is the debut full-length album by Memphis' five-piece punk outfit, While I Breathe, I Hope. Touted on the band's Web site as "pure, raw indie rock," Long Live falls closer to the melodic punk sound of mid- to late-'90s bands like Hot Water Music, Boy Sets Fire, and Memphis' own long-standing punk tradition, Pezz. As their name would lead one to believe, While I Breathe, I Hope push a positive message through lyrics dealing with coming-of-age struggles (faith, friendships, relationships, etc.). The one detraction to Long Live is that the second half of the record seems to meld into one song, each track sounding somewhat similar (except for the Youth of Today-esque, "Let's Roll") and losing some of the steam the first half built up. But Long Live is still a refreshing punk offering that avoids the cookie-cutter molds of floor-punching hardcore and whiny pop-punk. ("Long Live The King," "You Play, You Lose") -- MC

Grade: B+

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