Two old-timers have put out really good records in the last few months.
James Taylor's new live record, One Man Band, is really pleasing to listen to even if you've heard "Fire and Rain" and "You've Got a Friend" a million times, as I have. What's different here is that you hear just how excellent JT's guitar-playing and voice are even after all these years. It's pretty much just him and his guitar, although on a few numbers he tries to spice things up with a drum machine (not successfully, in my opinion). He's not much of a talker, but there's no one better at touching the heart and putting together memorable tunes than James Taylor. He's always been my musical inspiration.
Another great thing about this recording is the piano accompaniment of jazz pianist Larry Goldings, who has been with JT since 2001. Sweet.
The other record features the strangest duo since Mary Matalin and James Carville. I'm talking about Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' CD called Raising Sand. I like how one reviewer put it: "this most improbable meeting of musical galaxies." I'd like to know who or what led to the concept of getting these two together. But somehow it works! I must admit, at first I thought it was about the sleepiest record I'd ever heard. But it's been growing on me. The songs are haunting. They are a throwback to the old days of rock & roll and country & western recordings. Creative for its understatedness, it's a beauty.