Hear & Now
This week on the music beat
Gang of More Maybe it’s nostalgia for the early ’90s — when Bruce Springsteen and GN’R issued pairs of distinct albums — but suddenly, twins are springing up all over. On May 7, Tom Waits will simultaneously birth separate releases, Blood Money and Alice. That same day, Jim Lauderdale will father two albums, one contemporary country, one bluegrass. Then there’s Paul Westerberg, back with the cranked-up Mono and balladic Stereo. The former was already released in a limited edition, while Stereo comes out this month, with Mono appended as a bonus disc. ”I went to great lengths to illustrate the two facets of my brain,” says Westerberg. ”There’s this kick-you-in-the-teeth rock & roll guy, and this more thoughtful, adult songwriter. I can’t shake either.” Some might consider it an indulgence, releasing two succinct, stylistically disparate albums instead of one long, varied one. But for Westerberg, ”it’s indulgent to cram 85 minutes on one CD. This time, you can put on one if you feel more in the rock & roll mood and the other if you feel like listening to the words.” As Axl might say: Use your disunion.
Duo-Right Woman Bob Dylan has recorded few duets in his career, but he’s adding a promising one to the canon. The bard went into an L.A. studio with his touring band in early March to cut a version of the Slow Train Coming oldie ”Gonna Change My Way of Thinking,” joined on lead vocals by his friend of 40-plus years Mavis Staples. The track is destined for a spiritual tribute album that has such artists as the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Shirley Caesar, and the Fairfield Four largely covering songs from Dylan’s black-gospel-influenced album, 1980’s Saved. As with all things Dylan, lips are tight around the new duet. Exec producer Jeffrey Gaskill, who doesn’t yet have a distributor for the nearly completed project, ”can’t remember” whose idea it was for Dylan to contribute a track; Staples says she was ordered not to talk about it, but sounded thrilled by their long-overdue summit meeting.