It”s another slow release week as February comes to an end with Sade and Lady Antebellum unchallenged at the top of the charts by any new debuts. However, there are some fine sets hitting the street Feb. 23. Of greatest note is “American VI: Ain”t No Grave,” the third posthumous set from Johnny Cash since his death in 2003. Also noteworthy are “Have One on Me,” a 3-CD collection from harpist Joanna Newsome, retro-pop singer Daniel Merriweather”s “Love & War” and Butch Walker”s “I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart,” which, hands down, wins the award for best album title of the week.
Alkaline Trio, “This Addiction” (Heart & Skull/Epitaph): Punk rock band releases its seventh studio album, the first on its own imprint following its departure from Epic Records. Take the title literally: the album”s lyrical content deals with the band member”s addiction issues, as well as such weighty topics as suicide and failed relationships.
Johnny Cash, “American VI: Ain”t No Grave” (American Recordings/Lost Highway): Cash”s allegedly final posthumous release is one of his finest as he, under the tutelage of producer Rick Rubin, ruminates on death and its sting. The set includes one Cash original, “First Corinthians, 15:55.” At this point, shouldn”t we just add Cash”s face to Mount Rushmore?
Daniel Merriweather, “Love & War” (J/Allido): Australian pop singer with an old-school, R&B flair tries to make it as big here as he has at home and in the U.K. with his debut set. Highlights include smooth ballad “Red,” which has already been a mega-smash in the U.K., and “Water and a Flame,” a duet with Adele. Coming up next, Merriweather opens for Corinne Bailey Rae on her U.S. tour. Dates start in April.
Joanna Newsom, “Have One on Me” (Drag City): Good lord, could she be any more ambitious? Literate, intense harpist follows up 2006″s “Ys” (with its gorgeous Van Dyke Parks arrangements) with more than two hours of music, including “Go Long,” which is a duet between her harp and a kora. There”s something fearless about Newsom”s musical embrace and the way she mixes styles and instruments.
Shout Out Louds, “Work” (Merge): Swedish indie rock band recently featured in music-heavy “Nick and Norah”s Infinite Playlist” returns with its third solo album. The coed quintet turned to producer Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Shins) for its most stripped-down effort
Butch Walker and the Black Widows, “I Liked It Better When You Had No Heart” (One Haven Music): Following his wacky video spoof of “American Psycho” with Panic@ At the Disco”s Brandon Urie, Walker gets back to what he does best. Even though he works more as a producer/songwriter these days for acts likes of Avril Lavigne, Weezer, Fall Out Boy, and Dashboard Confessional, the former Marvelous 3 front man makes great pop records. Each CD includes a free download card of Walker”s version of Taylor Swift”s “You Belong with Me,” which has become a YouTube sensation (Walker backed Swift during her Grammy performance).