sound check

By Michael Swanger


Carley Wolf
“Set Sail”
Independent release

Texas music is a melting pot of musical forms, as we’re reminded by Austin-based singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Carley Wolf’s new album, “Set Sail,” a stylistic mix of gypsy, folk, Mexican and Americana music. She and her band, The Howls, jangle their way through “Gypsy Soul Blues” and “To Bee” with the spirit of an itinerant group of musicians playing their way through the world for tips. But true to Wolf’s eclectic musical form, she and The Howls are equally at ease downshifting and gracefully gliding through tender ballads like “Cold Dead Fingers” and the chilling “Funeral Pyre.” Wolf’s acoustic sound has been compared to the likes of Tom Waits, Norah Jones, Lucinda Williams, Cat Power and Feist. But her lilting and breathy vocals remind me of Iowa’s own Iris DeMent.

(Carley Wolf and The Howls open for The Hot Seats on Tuesday, Dec. 8 at the Vaudeville Mews at 10 p.m. $7.) CV


The Brian Setzer Orchestra
“Songs From Lonely Avenue”
Surfdog Inc.

Typically when a new CD from The Brian Setzer Orchestra arrives this time of year, it’s a collection of revved up holiday music. This time the former Stray Cats leader and rockabilly revolutionist has released an album that can be enjoyed the whole year with “Songs From Lonely Avenue.” With pulsating rhythms, razor-sharp instrumentation and expressive vocals, Setzer sets the tempo and tone for his new album with the opening number, “Trouble Train,” complete with echoes of Charlie Daniels’ “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” Throughout the rest of the album, as his press materials claim, “thugs prowl the street, young couples dance the night away, hearts are broken and lives are taken, all over the pitch-perfect melodies and arrangements.” Highlights include “Gimme Some Rhythm Daddy” and the back-to-back instrumentals “Mr. Jazzer Goes Surfin’” and “Mr. Surfer Goes Jazzin’”. Timeless tunes with the scope of an Orson Welles film. CV

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