<p>Darius Rucker</p>

Darius Rucker

Album Review: Darius Rucker's 'Charleston, SC 1966'

Brad Paisley and Kara DioGuardi help Hootie with his second country set

Darius Rucker successfully reinvented himself a few ago from a pop singer and leader of Hootie & the Blowfish to a solo country singer. That’s no easy feat given that other mainstream artists like Jessica Simpson tried to make the transition and failed miserably. “Learn to Live” scored him three No. 1 hits and he was named, without the slightest trace of irony, as the CMA Awards’ top new artist last year.

He stays the course on his second Capitol Nashville album, “Charleston, S.C. 1966,” as first single, “Come Back Song,” is already No. 3 on Billboard’s Country Songs chart.

His voice is soulful, fluid and so smooth that he sounds great singing anything (more about that later). Plus, he proves himself way more country than many format longtimers, as he generously sprinkles mandolin, fiddle and pedal steel throughout many of the tunes, especially the jaunty “Love Will Do That.”

Rucker’s sweet spot (and it’s not one he strays from much here) is his penchant for capturing details about every day life in a real, truthful way that makes you nod your head and say, “I’ve been there.” Couples fight, such as on “I Got Nothin’,” but instead of coming up with a magical quip, as they often do in song, Rucker is “just blank/I’m staring into space/praying ‘please, please let me think of something.’”  On “Whiskey and You,” he can’t leave his woman or his liquor (there’s a superior tune about the same subject, “Tequila and You” on Kenny Chesney’s new album, “Hemingway’s Whiskey.”). He’s a man trapped by his own desires.

Those desires pervade other tunes on the album as well, some less successfully. The hokey “Might Get Lucky” is an ungainly tune (although possibly 100% true) about how hard it is for married men with little kids to get themselves a little sumthin-sumthin. Given that Rucker co-wrote this with one of his musical heroes, the great Radney Foster, I’m surprised there’s not a little more sense of irony and a wink in the song as he sings, “There’s a window of opportunity between when the kids are tucked in and I have a glass of Chardonnay.” The underlying message is to “treat her right in the daylight.” (In another nod to Foster, Rucker’s album title is a tribute to Foster’s fine 1992 album, titled “Del Rio, TX 1959” after his birth place and year.)

Conversely, even though it borders on novelty,  Rucker’s duet with Brad Paisley (co-written with Paisley), “I Don’t Know” is hilarious as the two, growing drunker as the song progresses, pokes fun at themselves and males’ baser instincts as they don’t care whether “they’re real or fake” or which one takes the blonde, brunette or redhead.

He overdoes it on a few songs, such as album ender “In a Big Way,” where he  needs “some hanging around my little town/In a big way.” There’s a good song there about life on the road and his desires (“Sometimes I want to be George Jones/Sometimes Charley Pride”) in there, but he ladles it on a little thick when he talks about what he misses. Sweet tea is the only thing missing. Oh, wait. That drink makes its appearance in “Southern State of Mind.” (As a transplanted Southerner, I do love the line about being polite).

The few lyrical quibbles aside, Rucker has a strong command of country music and what makes a fine country song. And unlike many contemporary country artists, he isn’t afraid to make something sound country with no chance of pop crossover. HIs cliches are easily forgiven. 

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<p>Sufjan Stevens</p>

Sufjan Stevens

Belle and Sebastian, Sufjan Stevens, Trent Reznor lead Oct. 12 new music

Darius Rucker, The Orb with David Gilmour and others on tap on release day

Indie rock fans will delight in the Oct. 12 release slate that includes new sets from Antony & the Johnsons, Belle & Sebastian and Sufjan Stevens. Country connoisseurs have a new collection from Darius Rucker and from burgeoning family act The Band Perry.

Antony & the Johnsons, “Swanlights” (Secretly Canadian): Chamber pop group features Bjork on new set, which comes complete with an 144-page book with singer Antony Hegarty’s artwork and photography.

The Band Perry, “The Band Perry” (Republic Nashville): Awkwardly-named brothers/sister country act already have two hits on their hands from their debut set, “Hip to My Heart” and “If I Die Young.”

Belle & Sebastian, “Write About Love” (Matador): Scottish band’s eighth full-length set is its first in four years and reteams the Stuart Murdoch-led group with “The Life Pursuit’s” producer Tony Hoffer. Guests include actress Carey Mulligan, as well as Norah Jones.

Far East Movement, “Free Wired” (Cherrytree/Interscope): Electro hop group has a smash on its hands with “Like a G6,” and there’s likely more where that came from with such guests as Keri Hilson, Lil Jon and Snoop Dogg.
The Orb feat. David Gilmour, "Metallic Spheres" (Columbia): Electronica pioneers pair with Pink Floyd’s Gilmour on this double set; the second disc is recorded in 3D surround sound, for what it’s worth.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, “The Social Network” soundtrack (Null/Alliance Entertainment): Edgy, electronic soundtrack to “The Social Network” has Oscar buzz.

Darius Rucker,
“Charleston, SC 1966” (Capitol Nashville): Hootie & the Blowfish leader follows up his first country album with a new self-penned set that hits all the usual country cliches.

The Secret Sisters, “The Secret Sisters” (Beladroit/Universal): Muscle Shoals, Ala.-based siblings, Laura and Lydia Rogers bring that old family spirit to a largely acoustic classic country set. The album was produced by T Bone Burnett, while Jack White produced first single, “Big River.”

Sufjan Stevens, The Age of Adz” (Asthmatic Kitty): Stevens turns in his familiar, largely acoustic sound  for a new groove with hip-hop beats and layered electronics.

Various Artists, “The Vampire Dairies” soundtrack (Virgin/EMI): Why should “Twilight” and “True Blood” have all the fun? Hit TV show’s soundtrack features previously-unreleased tracks from Smashing Pumpkins and Gorillaz, as well as cuts from Tears for Fears, Kate Bush, Bat for Lashes and others.

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<p>Miley Cyrus</p>

Miley Cyrus

Credit: AP

Watch: Miley Cyrus is in da club in 'Who Owns My Heart' video

She can't seem to find her pants

Wouldn’t it be funny if when Miley Cyrus turns 18 next month, she turned into this chaste thing who doesn’t feel the need to force her sexuality on anyone who comes within 100 yards?

In the video for “Who Owns My Heart,” the new single from the already DOA “Can’t Be Tamed” album,  little Miley is hangin’ in da club and writhing away in a limo one crotch shot away from being a Perez Hilton post with rude little drawings on it.

We see Miley in a doo rag getting ready to go out. She looks great. The girl has awesome, awesome legs and we see every inch of them....repeatedly.

In the club scenes she’s basically rubbing up against anyone who will let her-- guys, girls, guys and girls together in a Miley sandwich... it doesn’t matter.

The song has a very retro, ‘80s, Euro-disco feel--think Stacey Q’s “Two of Hearts.” In a different time, it would have been a huge radio hit and is one of the best tracks from “Can’t Be Tamed.”

We know we’re pretty harsh on Cyrus, but once she’s an adult, we can’t rag her for being a teenager-going-on-35, as she has ever since she pole-danced in the video for “Party in the U.S.A.” Maybe with the right to vote, she’ll also develop a sense of knowing that a little bit goes a long way and that sometimes the sexiest thing is to leave a little to the imagination.


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<p>Toby Keth's new album</p>

Toby Keth's new album

Does Kenny Chesney keep Toby Keith out of the top spot on the Billboard 200?

Eminem hangs in there in the top 5

Kenny Chesney is poised to spend a second week at No. 1  on the Billboard 200 next week as “Hemingway’s Whiskey” will sell around 80,000 copies. That’s enough to keep fellow country superstar Toby Keith and his latest, “Bullets in the Gun,”  from reaching the summit. That title will shift around 70,000 units, according to Hits Daily Double.

In addition to Keith, two other sets will bow in the Top 10: Bruno Mars’ “Doo Wops and Hooligans” will come in at No. 4, right below Eminem’s “Recovery” (although as of Friday, Mars is in a dead heat with Zac Brown Band, so he may come in at No. 5).

Rapper and Gucci Mane compadre Waka Flocka Flame will bow at No. 7, nestled between Linkin Park and Katy Perry, with “Flockaveli,” our favorite title of the week.

Debuting within the top 15 will be rapper Faith Evans’ first album in five years, “Something About Faith.”  http://www.hitsdailydouble.com/home/home.cgi

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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: AP Photo

Music Power Rankings: Lady Gaga and 'Glee' battle for No. 1

Kenny Chesney and Nas make their first appearances on the list

It feels a bit like we’re in topsy-turvy land in the music industry this week as the “Glee” cast surpasses the Beatles for charting the most songs on the Billboard 100 by a non-solo act and Lady Gaga lands in the Top 10 of Forbes’ list of most powerful women alongside Michele Obama and ahead of Supreme Court justices. In a year when ticket sales take a nose dive, England’s Glastonbury Festival manages to sell 140,000 ducats without announcing a single participating act.

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<p>The album art for Lee Dewyze's &quot;Live it Up&quot;</p>

The album art for Lee Dewyze's "Live it Up"

Sneak Peek: 'American Idol' champ Lee DeWyze's new album

How does 'Live It Up' sound?

Hitfix got a sneak peak at four songs from “American Idol” season 9 winner Lee DeWyze’s  forthcoming album today and we couldn’t wait to share it with you. “Live It Up” will come out Nov. 16, but first single, the title track, will hit radio on Oct. 13.

Here are the four songs we heard:

“Live It Up” (Written by Lee DeWyze, Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins; Produced by Toby Gad): The first single is a positive, mid-tempo tune about making the most of the time that you have. DeWyze’s raspy vocals work well here; he’s got a little bit of a John Mayer-thing going on.  We’re not sure we would have picked it as a first single, but conventional wisdom is you never release your strongest single first and this tune will be a good bridge from his “Idol” to his post-”Idol” career.

“Beautiful Like You” (written by Thomas "Tawgs" Salter & Andy Stochansky, produced by Chris DeStefano):  This mid-tempo love song opens with a solo piano and builds. There’s a certain wistfulness to the lyrics as he is waiting for his love to come around. DeWyze sounds more confident here than he ever did on “American Idol.”

“Me & My Jealousy” (written by DeWyze, John Shanks, Zac Maloy, produced by Shanks): A nice shift from the previous two tracks, “Jealousy” is a fast-paced, dynamic tune that starts with a synthesizer and builds to a full-bodied production, complete with strings. The cascading chorus gallops along and DeWyze’s spirited vocals show off some considerable chops.

 “Dear Isabelle” (written by DeWyze, Gad, Robbins, produced by Gad). If you liked the Plain White T’s’ “Hey There Delilah,” you’ll love “Dear Isabelle.”  The loping, acoustic guitar intros a bittersweet tale about losing a love because of your own doing.

"Live it Up" comes out on Nov. 16.  Will you buy it?

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<p>Aaron Johnson discusses playing John Lennon in &quot;Nowhere Boy.&quot;</p>

Aaron Johnson discusses playing John Lennon in "Nowhere Boy."

Watch: Aaron Johnson talks about becoming John Lennon in 'Nowhere Boy'

Does he have any aspirations to become a musician himself?

Oct. 9 marks what would have been John Lennon’s 70th birthday. There are a number of tributes and reissues planned, but perhaps the most insightful is “Nowhere Boy,” a British film that examines two extremely pivotal years in the future Beatle’s life.

In the movie, helmed by first-time director Sam Taylor-Wood, we see Lennon from the ages of 15 to 17. At the start of the film, he is living in Liverpool with his aunt, Mimi, and uncle, George, who have raised him since the age of 5. A tragic event reunites him with his mother, Julia. She is the exact opposite of her sister, the strict, stoic Julia.  She is a flighty dreamer who teaches a young Lennon how to play banjo, which leads him to guitar, which leads him to start the Quarryman, which leads him to Paul McCartney. You get the idea.

Aaron Johnson, best known stateside for his role in “Kick-Ass,” does a remarkable job as a young Lennon. He nails his accent and mannerisms, but artfully dodges the line between portrayal and imitation.  The movie is a must-see for Beatles fans.  

Check out my interview with Johnson, Taylor-Wood and a clip from the film embedded below.

"Nowhere Boy" is now playing in limited release.

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<p>Lee DeWyze</p>

Lee DeWyze

Credit: FOX

'American Idol' winner Lee DeWyze sets name, release date for his new album

First single premieres on Oct. 13

American Idol” season 9 winner Lee DeWyze will release his 19/RCA debut, “Live It Up,” on Nov. 16.

First single, the title track, will debut on “On Air with Ryan Seacrest on Oct. 13.

DeWyze worked with such writers/ producers as John Shanks, Toby Gad and Espionage on the set, much of which he co-wrote while on the road during this summer’s “American Idol” tour.

Putting out an album on a major label is truly a dream come true,” said 24-year-old DeWyze, in a statement. “I’m excited for all the people who supported me throughout Idol to hear what I can do with my own songs. The album shows a whole different side of me and I’m so proud of it.”

DeWyze has previously labeled his brand of music “chill rock,” based, in part, on his influences. “I grew up listening to Simon & Garfunkel, The Mamas & the Papas, Cat Stevens, and Kris Kristofferson,” DeWyze says. “I love hard-edged vocals over pretty melodies — that’s what I’m about. I really admire guys like Dave Matthews and Ray LaMontagne, and to now be on the same record label as them — it just blows my mind.”

Hitfix is getting a sneak listen to DeWyze’s album on Friday, so we’ll post what we think.

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<p>Lady Gaga</p>

Lady Gaga

Credit: AP Photo

Lady Gaga comes in at No. 7 on Forbes' Most Powerful Women list

Where do Beyonce and Madonna come in?

In case we needed any further proof that it’s Lady Gaga’s world and we just live in it, the singer just landed at No. 7 on Forbes’ list of the 2010 World’s 100 Most Powerful Women. We’re sure Michele Obama and Hilary Clinton -- both of whom somehow, miraculously, came in ahead of Lady Gaga -- are breathing a sigh of relief. Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin, who come in behind LG, not so much. Beyonce also makes the Top 10, skirting in at No. 9.

Madonna, who comes in at No. 29, is the only other music artist on the list. The overall list was compiled by slotting women into particular categories, such as politics, business, media and the odd designation of “lifestyle,” into which Lady Gaga falls. The lists were then merged to come up with a master list.

Lady Gaga is also, at 24, the youngest woman on the list. To see a complete list, click here.

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<p>Bruno Mars sees you</p>

Bruno Mars sees you

Credit: AP Photo

Bruno Mars makes it three in a row on the Hot 100

Will Far*East Movement move him out of the top spot?

Bruno Mars makes it three in a row as “Just the Way You Are” stays atop the Billboard Hot 100 for another week.  His debut album, “Doo Wops & Hooligans,” streeted on Tuesday and is poised to come in around No. 3.

Gaining fast on Mars is Far*East Movement’s “Like a G6,” which flies 6-2. The song knocks “Just the Way You Are” out of the top spot on the Hot Digital Songs chart and increased radio play earns it the Airplay Gainer tag.

As we already wrote here, in many ways this week’s chart belongs to “Glee.”  This is the week in music history when the “Glee” cast earns the dubious distinction of surpassing the Beatles for the non-solo act with the most songs on the Hot 100. “Glee” has six songs on this week’s chart, ratcheting its overall tally up to 75, which tops the Beatles’ 71.

Also benefiting from “Glee” is Paramore, whose song “The Only Exception” was performed on the Sept. 28 episode. The “Glee” version debuts at No. 26 on the Hot 100, while the original leaps 57-25 on the Digital Songs chart.

Were it not for “Glee’s” six debuts on the Hot 100, Lil Wayne would be the leader this week as four tunes from “I Am Not a Human Being” bow this week. None can match the No. 2 bow for the album on the Billboard 200, but the unappetizingly-titled “Gonorrhea” hits No. 17 on the Hot 100.  A round of applause to Lil Wayne and a dose of penicillin.

It’s way to early to call it any kind of comeback for alternative rock-- which is generally missing from the upper reaches of the Hot 100 lately--but Neon Tree’s “Animal” hits No. 20 on Hot 100. According to Billboard, this makes it the first song to do so since Linkin Park’s “New Divide” in June 2009.

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