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Music reviews: Zac Brown Band, Muddy Waters, Rolling Stones, Serj Tankian

(Courtesy photo)
"Uncaged" is the third major label studio album from the Zac Brown Band.

Here is a look at new music out this week.

Zac Brown Band, "Uncaged"

Being a crossover artist goes a long way in the country music scene these days. Zac Brown Band is a enough country and rock to satisfy fans of both genres. The band definitely sticks to what it does best on “Uncaged,” their third major label studio album. The album begins with the aptly-titled “Jump Right In.” The track is fairly bland even with song-writing assistance from Jason Mraz. But the album gets better. The title track “Uncaged” has the band at it’s sharpest while taking on more of a rock sound. But in typical Zac Brown Band fashion, the song is still country enough to appeal to those listeners as well. The band takes on bluegrass on the toe-tapper “The Wind.” The upbeat temp is a curious choice as it’s paired lyrics that sound as if they were ripped from a sappy love song. Of course what would a Zac Brown Band album be without a Buffett-esque drinking song? “Island Song” is a rum-soaked reggae number that fits that requirement. At the same time, the bouncy reggae vibe seems a little out of place among the other tracks on “Uncaged.” It’s among a handful of times on the album when the band steps outside of its country-meets-rock comfort zone and is met with somewhat mediocre results. But let’s not over-analyze this. It’s a party song meant to get people to raise their glasses. “Uncaged” also features sincere moments of reflection when the partying stops. “Lance’s Song” is a touching tribute to a past drummer who played with the band. The song also features some of the better lyrics among the tracks on the album. In all, “Uncaged” is saved by having more instances of the Zac Brown Band perfectly toeing the line between country and rock than it does stumbles into other genres.

Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones, ”Live at the Checkerboard Lounge Chicago 1981”

There should be no shortage of Rolling Stones releases coming out this year as the band celebrates its 50th anniversary. A DVD/CD release out this week of the Stones playing with Muddy Waters in Buddy Guy’s crowded Chicago club, The Checkerboard Lounge, in 1981 illustrates the band’s musicianship outside playing in crowded stadiums. About 25 minutes into Waters’ set, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and others seat themselves at a table in front of the stage. The group passes around bottle of whiskey before Jagger is called on stage three minutes later to sing “Baby Please Don’t Go” with Waters and his band. Another three minutes passes before Waters asks “What about Keith?” The Richards joins the crowded stage and is soon followed by Wood and piano player Ian Stewart. Drummer Charlie Watts is nowhere to be seen. The smiles on the faces of Waters, Jagger and Richards while on stage hopefully had more to do with playing together than the whiskey as it seemed as though they’re having a lot of fun crammed up there with their instruments. Waters even takes a break and lets Guy and Junior Wells get in on the act. This project should be seen as more than just another piece to celebrate the Rolling Stones as it also captures an extraordinary night of blues music from some of the best in the business.

Serj Tankian, “Harakiri”

Serj Tankian has followed up his symphonic metal album by getting back to his roots of punk-infused metal. The sound of “Harakiri” is akin to Tankian’s work as lead singer of System Of A Down. The album sounds as closer to SOAD than any of Tankian’s past releases. But “Harakiri” probably has a little more depth than any of the SOAD material. Tankian chooses beauty over brutality. For the most part it pays off. However, there are times when the lyrics get a little out there. “Twenty afternoons in utopia, kiss an ugly turtle and make it cry,” Tankian sings on “Cornucopia.” Some of the lyrics may be hard to follow, but Tankian presents it in a way that makes his weirdness accessible. It’s not just weird for the sake of being weird. It’s weird for the sake of making a notable rock album.

Also out this week: The Capitol Steps, “Take the Money and Run for President”; Martin Creed, “Love to You”; The Early November, “In Currents”; Holograms, “Holograms”; Brendan James, “Hope in Transition”; Dan Le Sac, “Space Between the Words”; Marina and The Diamonds, “Electra Heart”; Mission of Burma, “Unsound”; P.O.D., “Murdered Love”; Rebecca & Fiona, “I Love You, Man”; Reverend Horton Heat, “25 to Life”; Staind, “Live From Mohegan Sun”; Suit of Lights, “Shine On Forever”; Twin Shadow, “Confess”; Rhonda Vincent, “Sunday Mornin’ Singin’ Live”; Rhett Walker Band, “Come to the River”; Hank Williams Jr., “Old School, New Rules.”

Out July 17: The Alchemist, “Russian Roulette”; Baroness, “Yellow & Green”; Boys Like Girls, “Crazy World”; Citizen Cope, “One Lovely Day”; Jimmy Cliff, “Rebirth”; Com Truise, “In Decay”; The Drowning Men, “All of the Unknown”; The Fixx, “Beautiful Friction”; Gatekeeper, “Exo”; Jon Dee Graham. “Garage Sale”; HELLYEAH, “Band of Brothers”; Missy Higgins, “The Ol’ Razzle Dazzle”; Susanna Hoffs, “Someday”; Cosmo Jarvis, “Think Bigger”; JEFF the Neighborhood, “Hypnotic Nights”; Jimbo Mathus, “Blue Light”; Matisyahu, “Spark Seeker”;  Nas, “Life Is Good”; Frank Ocean, “channel ORANGE”; Old Crow Medicine Show, “Carry Me Back”; Phillip Phillips, “American Idol Season 11 Highlights”; Pierce the Veil, “Collide With the Sky”; Saving Abel, “Bringing Down the Giant”; Soul Asylum, “Delayed Reaction.”

   • Rob Carroll writes about pop culture and entertainment for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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