Sparklehorse (Capitol)
Grade: B
Toward the top of the pile of praiseworthy records I didn't get around to praising in 2006 is Sparklehorse's "Dreamt for Light Years in the Belly of A Mountain."
Mark Linkous -- the off-kilter auteur who, for all intents and purposes, is Sparklehorse -- didn't actually spend light-years working on this ghostly, gothic album, but he did labor over it for five.
Befitting the title, Linkous songs like "See the Light" and "Shade and Honey" have a disquieting, dreamlike quality. Linkous revs himself up for the energetic, Beatlesque opener, "Don't Take My Sunshine Away," but thereafter he lets the darkness descend as he partners with Danger Mouse ("Getting It All Wrong") and Tom Waits ("Morning Hollow") on subsequent songs that are sleepy and strangely beautiful.
Dan DeLuca, Philadelphia Inquirer
Trent Summar and the New Row Mob (Palo Duro)
Grade: B
Trent Summar co-wrote the recent Jack Ingram single "Love You," a clever kiss-off in which "love" stands in for another four-letter word (it works better than it might sound).
Summar does his own version of the song here, and his second solo set has plenty more colorfully swaggering country-rockers like that one. They include other originals first done by better-known singers -- "She Knows What to Do [With a Saturday Night"], by Billy Currington, and "Guys Like Me," by Gary Allan.
With a studio mob that includes Dan Baird, Summar puts a twang-fired charge into these tunes, although "Supposed to Do" shows he also knows how to wrench a heart with a straight-up ballad. His only misstep: lovin' around with George Jones' immortal "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer
Lonesome Spurs
Grade: B
They're described as the White Stripes of country, a come-on that does nothing for this listener. As it turns out, this male-female duo brings a whole lot more for us than that other, more famous pair.
Linda Kay Parker plays acoustic guitar and "Samsonite suitcase kick drum," but first and foremost she's a striking torch-and-twang singer, the Patsy Cline richness of her voice augmented by some Wanda Jackson fire and Dusty Springfield smokiness. Danny B. Harvey's dynamic electric guitar, meanwhile, veers from crisp, Merle Travis-style finger-picking to hot rockabilly runs. Together, Parker and Harvey give this retro-fueled set of nearly all originals an excitingly fresh blend of rawness and polish.
Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer

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