Welcome to Extended Play, a new feature here on the Music Mix wherein our intrepid staffers review albums and album-related products that didn’t fit into this week’s magazine. Think of these as nuggets that didn’t quite make it into the Happy Meal, or those fries that lurk in the bottom of the bag. Those are often times the best fries.
This week: The Hold Steady, A Positive Rage; Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm; and Jason Aldean, Wide Open.
A Positive Rage
The Hold Steady
Live CD/DVD (Vagrant)
You can make your Springsteen references, you can write them off as a glorified bar band, but anyone who’s ever jumped up and down at a Hold Steady show for two hours straight knows this group has the potential to save lives – and the converted faithful can now more effectively evangelize with A Positive Rage, recorded during 2006’s Boys and Girls in America tour. The interviews and behind-the-scenes footage on the DVD are nice, but it’s the infectious on-stage joy of Craig Finn and his cohorts that draws chills, especially on raised-fist singalongs like “Massive Nights” and “Chips Ahoy.” And while the live album itself is no marvel of technical musicianship – Finn has a tendency to spaz himself right off the mic, and enthusiasm often makes for lousy mixes – the audible mass of humanity in attendance for the exuberant, sloppy set practically sweats through the speakers. Early in the documentary, Finn explains the mission of the band as “We try to have a really good time, and hope the audience will join us.” A Positive Rage is proof that they’re succeeding. A- – Whitney Pastorek
Download This: “Chips Ahoy”
Watch the full clip of “Stuck Between Stations” on the Music Mix
Keep Your Soul: A Tribute to Doug Sahm
A decade after Doug Sahm’s passing, a passel of Americana vets (and a few young ‘uns) pay their respects to the Tex-Mex trailblazer of the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornados. The results lean toward rootsy predictability, as on son Shawn’s too-faithful rendering of his pop’s paisley-era gem “Mendocino.” Happily, the late rocker’s eclectic spirit busts out on tracks like Greg Dulli’s sludgy confessional “You Was for Real,” or squeezebox king Flaco Jimenez’s brassy fiesta-starter “Ta Bueno Compadre.” For bonus-track obsessives, Billy Bob Thornton’s Boxmasters bring competently jangly flourishes to “Yesterday Got in the Way,” but the real treat is Sarah Borges’ tender, twangy “I Wanna Be Your Mamma Again.” B+ –Ben Spier
Download This: “I Wanna Be Your Mamma Again”
Country (Broken Bow)
This Georgia native might not write many songs, but he does know how to pick ‘em, and his ear for storytelling is getting stronger: “Fast” feels like a sequel to 2006’s “Amarillo Sky,” and the wayward waitress protagonist of the title track is specific enough to make up for the lazy lists in first single “She’s Country.” Aldean’s a likeable character who’s always been hard to pin down as he toggled vigorously between southern rocker and sensitive soul; Wide Open melds his two halves better than ever before. And while this album breaks no new stylistic ground, it does prove that the old good hat + good tunes formula still works. B – Whitney Pastorek
Download This: “Wide Open”