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New Releases 

Reviews of releases by The Blue-Hots and R. Cook

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The Blue-Hots
Collection Three 2014-2015: Spells

The laughter at the end of “Gimme Something” conveys the excitement and pleasure the Blue-Hots must have felt in the studio. This opening track presents their skill at jazz vocalese, adding lyrics to a line that might normally be played by trumpet or saxophone. From there, these locals move into exotica territory, playing slow vamps that create a languid, sensual atmosphere, which get embellished with layers of harmonies, counter-melodies and some sharp scat singing. They also pull off a major accomplishment: adding occasional spoken-word sections that sound like neither beatnik-poetry parodies nor overly sincere attempts at that antiquated style. The reverb on the entire production gives the music a nice dreamy sheen, but the voices often get a little lost, as if everyone were leaning in toward the same microphone. It might work onstage, but it loses a little clarity in the studio. – Mike Shanley 

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R. Cook
Grey Matter

The last we heard from singer/songwriter Robert Cook, he’d just released a collection of endearingly off-center Christmas songs. Here, he’s less focused but equally charming. Much of Grey Matter engages in rambly ’60s folk-rock looseness. But the prolific Cook, who writes between 30 and 40 songs a year, isn’t afraid to experiment: The well-executed, if sappy, “Paris” features the requisite accordion, and a barn dance is really the only appropriate forum for “Fiddle And Banjo.” Such variety on one record risks feeling disjointed and tiresome. But even when seemingly dabbling in genre clichés, Cook creates unexpected moments in each song, making for an engaging listen. – Margaret Welsh



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