Luther Russell: 'The Invisible Audience' (Ungawa Records)
With 25 songs spread out over two discs, perhaps it's only natural that "The Invisible Audience" covers a lot of musical territory. Its songs range from barroom ready roots rock ("Sidekick Reverb") to ringing Byrds-ish guitar pop ("Everything You Do") to Beatles-esque pop ("Somewhere In Between") to acoustic songs that lean toward pop ("Better Off Dead"), folk ("In This Time") and blues ("A World Unknown"). The great news, especially with so much music in one package, is that Luther Russell proves adept at all of these styles.
"Better Off Dead" has a spot-on winsome melody, while "Sidekick Reverb" is a great chunk of riffy rock. "A World Unknown" uses slide guitar to help create a tangy and highly appealing song. For most artists, two full CDs of music would seem like overkill. For Russell, it just illustrates the breadth and depth of his songwriting and performing talent. There simply isn't much filler here. If there's any justice, Russell will be playing soon to audiences that are both very visible and large. — Alan Sculley
Buy if you like: Wilco, Bon Iver.
Mike Zito: 'Greyhound' (Electro Groove)
Had Bob Seger decided to pursue a bluesier sound, he might have made a CD like "Greyhound." Like that Detroit rocker, Mike Zito shares an appealingly gruff voice and favors a muscular guitar-heavy sound. And while there is a good deal of blues to Zito's sound, there's also enough no-frills rock to make his music appeal to more than the blues crowd.
Tracks like "Roll On," "Judgment Day" and the title song are sturdy rockers whose immediacy and energy are matched by hooks that sink in on first listen. Far from a one-trick artist, Zito diversifies things considerably on the rest of "Greyhound." "Show Me The Way" has a sleeker groove and more of a funky feel. "The Hard Way" hits the mark with its assertive beat and some tangy guitar work. "The Southern Side" indeed has a bit of a Southern tinge to its chunky sound. There are a couple of misses as well. "Please, Please, Please" is a by-the-book slow blues tune, while Zito's attempt at acoustic blues on "Motel Blues," while not a total loss, is dragged down by a lackluster melody. Clearly, Zito is at his best when he's letting it rock. And on "Greyhound," he does that often and does it well. — Alan Sculley