Correction to This Article
A Jan. 29 Style review of a new CD by the Blind Boys of Alabama incorrectly said that group member Clarence Fountain had recently died. Fountain still performs with the group as his health permits.
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(Courtesy Of Time - Life Music)
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The album more or less picks up where Metheny's previous trio (with Larry Grenadier and Bill Stewart) left off: at a brisk clip, the guitarist out front, fluidly improvising. Yet the latest incarnation of the group soon projects its own personality, distinguished by McBride's wit and lyricism and Sanchez's clattering, tumbling rhythms. While razor-sharp interplay abounds, nothing proves more engaging than Metheny's soul-jazz cooker "Calvin's Keys."

-- Mike Joyce

DOWNLOAD THESE:"Day Trip," "Calvin's Keys"


Thao with the Get Down Stay Down

A refreshing vibrancy permeates Thao Nguyen's splendid sophomore album. The 24-year-old Falls Church native comes off as the world's cheeriest depressed person, singing her jaunty indie-folk tunes with such infectious glee that it takes a few listens to realize everything isn't always rosy in her world.

Loss and uncertainty never sounded so fun. "Beat my brow/Beat my chest/Beat the ones who love me the best/Oh, how could they be liars?" Nguyen sings on opener "Beat (Health, Life and Fire)." But with backing band the Get Down Stay Down, she keeps things upbeat and interesting throughout. Banjo, ukulele, piano and horn spice up songs such as "Beat" and "Feet Asleep," turning them into rollicking front porch jamborees. On standout "Bag of Hammers," she talks, presumably, to an ex-lover: "I am all in a ball in your front yard/I have this bag of hammers." Perfect words for a weepy lament, but the song is a propulsive indie-pop delight, sounding like a miraculously well-matched Edie Brickell/Modest Mouse collaboration.

The band does a fine job of keeping the arrangements from getting too cluttered; the songs always have plenty of room to breathe, and the focus remains on Nguyen's voice. Smart move, since it's her elastic vocal style that produces the best moments. She rarely stays on the same note for consecutive syllables, zigging and zagging and creating memorable melodies out of thin air. The guessing game of whether she'll go up or down, or how she'll rephrase a repeated lyric, is a unique thrill and one that doesn't wear off quickly.

-- David Malitz

DOWNLOAD THESE:"Bag of Hammers," "Feet Asleep," "Swimming Pools"

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down perform at Iota Club & Cafe on Thursday and at the Black Cat on March 27.

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