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THE ERIN HOBSON COMPACT—Fortune Cookie Philosophy(Choking Chicken Records)

Hobson and Co.’s last album, Talk Radio, evokes an era when alternative radio was all the rage, when Jewel and Alanis and Sarah MacLachlan led a mild revolution into the poetic folkhouse of the soul. Fortune Cookie Philosophy picks up where its predecessor left off, at least over the first two tracks (“Fortune Cookie Philosophy”, “Material Things”). But that’s where Fortune Cookie Philosophy crumbles, though rather than falling apart altogether, it hits the roots and the dirt.

“Purple Crayon” is where the album goes off the plan, shuffling along a loose Stones-y trail that opens up the remainder of the set to new worlds. “Not a Love Song” is about as far away from the shrill post-punk cacophony of the similarly named decades-old number by Public Image, Ltd., and unless shrill post-punk cacophony is your thing, that’s probably a great relief.

“Water Signs” is awash in light rhythms and guitars and vocals that sound like they were recorded on the other side of a lake, while “Everyone’s a Critic” is about the friendliest-sounding angst anyone’s heard this side of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.”

Fortune Cookie Philosophy is a collective work, though it’s really a showcase for Hobson’s smooth voice and guitar and her musical and songwriting partnership with Steven Ross. In the latter, fans of plaintive, soulful sounds will find a wealth of pleasure to behold. —Crispin Kott

Erin Hobson Compact has their CD release party for Fortune Cookie Philosophy at Keegan Ales, 20 St. James St., Kingston, Friday February 25, at 8 PM.

LOVE EAT SLEEP—Love Eat Sleep(Bernsteini Music)

There’s so little available to let the world know who Love Eat Sleep is—if you happen to not be familiar with bandleader/songwriter Jeremy Bernstein’s work with Woodstock favorite, Stoney Clove Lane—we’re left to rely almost solely on the music. That’s not necessarily the worst thing in the world, unless the last thing you want to hear is crunchy guitars, vocals that blend the rough with the smooth, and mid-tempo rock ‘n’ roll that goes almost anywhere but up. But if that idea sounds good to you, jump right in, because Love Eat Sleep may be one of the great unheralded albums of late 2010.

Bernstein has a pretty terrific beard, if his Facebook profile is to be believed. You might think that doesn’t much matter, but when you think of all the ironic indie beards roaming the streets of Brooklyn, it’s nice to see some facial hair given an air of authenticity by some seriously earthy music. Witness “Glow,” which ambles in like a coherent Devendra Banhart backed by a kick-ass band. Dig the country-fried harmonies and unashamed positivity of “Let Go,” or the backwoods Sparklehorse fuzz of “Ruby Dog” (including a reference not lost on anyone who’s seen The Wiz.)

Love Eat Sleep is a curious and odd animal, but one you’re going to want to let stay a while if it comes through the front door. —Crispin Kott

Love Eat Sleep will be performing at Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble, Woodstock, Saturday February 26. Please visit for ticket info.

C.B. SMITH—Flesh & Bone(C.B. Smith Music)

Guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist C.B. Smith isn’t an anomaly, though he is an original. The Catskills are rife with rootsy Americana music, and Smith—host of a long-running songwriters night at Woodstock’s Colony Café—certainly falls into that broad category. But he also approaches his music from an angle that’s absolutely genuine, and that’s always worth a listen regardless of the genre.

Make no mistake, though: Flesh & Bone is authentic, alright, so much so that you can hear the picks and fingertips on the metal of guitar strings. The production is spare enough that it’s like you’re right there in the room, feeling the electricity flash.

Though the album bears his name alone, Smith is generous with his fellow musicians, including Matt Bowe (mandolin), Andy Bing (dobro) and Chuck Jacob (upright bass). They not only get plenty of face time on the CD artwork, but they’re also right there in the mix, an integral part of the music as it’s heard just as they clearly were in its inception.

“Limelight (Three Kings)” is a jaunty acoustic shuffle almost tailor-made for intimate stages, while “Something ‘Bout a Train” does in three minutes what most films can’t accomplish in two hours in evoking the romance of rail travel.

Though the group’s sound is as tightly knit as a wool sweater, a few guest appearances blend seamlessly into the overall aesthetic, including the somber heartbreak of “Blue Sky Girl,” a duet with Leslie Ritter. —Crispin Kott

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