Listening Log 

Time Well Wasted

Brad Paisley

(Arista Nashville)

Two lines into the cross-generational domestic intimacy anthem "Waitin' on a Woman" (think Randy Travis' "Forever and Ever, Amen"), you know the song is going to do exactly what it wants to do, and it's going to take you along for the ride whether you want to go or not. One spin through "Alcohol," you know it's an insta-standard, the new "Friends in Low Places," coming soon to wedding receptions, frat parties, and karaoke bars around the country. You might call this shameless calculation. I call it songcraft, and about half of this record is as good as the contemporary country version gets. ("Alcohol," "Out in the Parkin' Lot," "You Need a Man Around Here") -- CH

Grade: A-

The Outsider

Rodney Crowell

(Sugar Hill)

When Crowell tries to get in the head of a right-wing narcissist, it makes you wish Randy Newman would get back in a recording studio. When he covers Dylan, it makes you want to pull Blood on the Tracks off the shelf. When he rages against the dying of the democratic light, you (probably) agree but wonder what can come of it. When he gets personal, he keeps your attention.

("Say You Love Me," "We Can't Turn Back")

-- CH

Grade: B

Cripple Crow

Devendra Banhart

(XL/Beggars Banquet)

Of all the guitar strummers in the freak-folk upswing, Devendra Banhart has the most indie/critical cachet, but in a scene that prizes earthy nonconformity, he proves just as image-conscious as either of the Simpson sisters. On his fourth album, Cripple Crow, he paints himself again as the ultimate folk freak, the scene's poster boy. But Banhart's hippie-dippie shtick clogs the album with songs such as "Long Haired Child." Whenever he drops the act, the songs reveal a command of retro mood and melody, but that's all too rare an occurrence. ("Now That I Know")

-- Stephen Deusner

Grade: C-

Love Comes in Spurts:

The Richard Hell Story

Richard Hell

(Rhino)

With his ripped T-shirts, hiccupping vocals, and inspired songwriting, Hell was the quintessential punk. However, Love Comes in Spurts implies -- perhaps correctly -- that he was only as good as his guitar player. Fortunately, he worked with some of New York's finest: Tom Verlaine in the Neon Boys and Television, Johnny Thunders in the Heartbreakers, Robert Quine in the Voidoids, even Thurston Moore in the '90s one-off Dim Stars. ("Love Comes in Spurts," "Blank Generation," "Chinese Rocks") -- SD

Grade: A-

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