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Bill Bachmann— Big World Out There (Flight of the BumBillB Records)

You’re not likely to find a more perfect song title than the second track on Bill Bachmann’s new album, Big World Out There. With a harrowing slide guitar its driving force, “Just Shoot Me I Hate My Life I Wish I’d Never Been Born Blues” tells an angry tale as amusingly as it’s possible to do.

That angst and a cover shot oddly reminiscent of the Ramones’ debut is about as aggro as Bachmann gets, though the rest of the album contains far more humor and warmth than anyone should reasonably hope for.

“This Band Was Your Band”—based on Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land”—is a far more succinct and loving tribute to the Beatles than what’s seen in collarless coats and shaggy wigs on the stages of county fairs from New York to California, and “Reds That Cincinnati Came to See” should tide baseball fans over at least until spring training rolls around.

The greatest misstep on a largely enjoyable collection comes nine tracks in. “A More Perfect Union 11/4/08” is a cloying, self-congratulatory tune, one which buries the joy many felt in the wake of the presidential election of Barack Obama under a hill of clichéd sentiment. But it’s a solitary miss on a genial album full of more direct hits, one on which the skilled guitar, friendly vocals and general tone are well worth the price of admission.

For what it’s worth, Bachmann recorded, produced and played every note of every instrument on the album, and with the exception of backing vocals by his daughter Alyssa Bachmann, is the lone voice. —Crispin Kott

Ed Shaw and the Light of Day Band— Eyes from the Other Side (Leap of Faith Productions/Kindred Spirits Records)

Three songs into Eyes from the Other Side and something special happens. A flute, of all things, brings everything together. Over the first two tracks on the album, Ed Shaw and the Light of Day Band have put together a theme that, while not disagreeable in a jam/bar band sort of vein, isn’t bound to stand out much in a world full of that sort of thing.

But then Melissa Holland’s flute unfurls, and it’s absolutely the ideal accompaniment to “Ode to Split Rock,” on which Shaw and friends lay back in the sun and get comfortable. It’s a little like something the Rolling Stones might have tried when they got tired of the Aftermath-era rave-ups. And if it’s not the best thing on this album, it’s damn close to it.

Shaw and Kim Carroll trade vocals and harmonize throughout the album’s 15 tracks, and it’s a partnership that works well with the material, much of which is even better suited to be delivered from an overcrowded stage full of people playing music because they love doing it. “Magnetic to Me” is the most fully-realized song when viewed through this prism, one which would almost certainly get butts moving from the edge of the stage to the far end of the room with its boogie rolls and strolls.

There’s something for everyone here, from Bo Diddley shuffles to harmonica and saxophone licks to classic rocks aesthetics. —Crispin Kott

Voodelic— Conjure (Topisaw Dawg Records)

Given the long and winding path Conjure traveled from inception to completion, it’s not unrealistic to wonder if Voodelic’s natural chemistry seen on stages across the Hudson Valley and beyond would have been diluted through studio switches into something less than what it should be. But on the album’s first track, “Dark Times,” those fears are forgotten almost instantly, as Voodelic is alive and well, and no studio walls are built strong enough to keep their fury from escaping.

There’s something to be said for seeing a fantastic live band in the close confines of a club, or out in the open at a festival where it feels like their power might knock a satellite out of orbit. But no matter how perfect the sound might be wherever you’ve seen Voodelic before, it’s likely some of the little things they do so well have been lost somewhere as the band and its fans push and pull as one. On Conjure, those little things become more apparent—the vocal harmonies on “Dark Times” and “Lookin’ Up”, for example—and it’s probable that fans of the band will somehow appreciate even more what Voodelic is capable of.

If you’re unfamiliar with Voodelic, just try to picture a Frankenstein’s monster created from disparate parts. Only this particular monster doesn’t stumble around a la Boris Karloff, but rightly spins and throbs and shakes some serious ass. The aforementioned chemistry of Voodelic flows through Little Earl, not just the band’s frontman, but also its spirit and its soul. Bass guitarist Colin Almquist and drummer Dan Cartwright are Voodelic’s heart, and multi-instrumentalist Ross Rice its nerve center. Together, with or without their many co-conspirators, the core of Voodelic is a killer, and it all comes through on Conjure, as relentless a collection of pure funk and soul as you’re likely to hear in this year or any other. —Crispin Kott

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