A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
Jason Isbell, the Varsity. Touring in support of his brilliant new album, “Southeastern,” he played everything from decade-old Drive-By Truckers songs that he wrote to goose-bump-inducing new tunes. Isbell passionately performed alongside his beautiful and talented fiddle-playing wife, Amanda Shires.
Lou Reed, RIP. The godfather of punk was a hero to generations of musicians. Thank you, Lou, for leaving a masterful body of work.
Tony Joe White, “Hoodoo.” At age 70, he recently released a mighty fine blues album that drips Bayou swamp water. The nine laid-back but funky tracks mix strong songwriting, a solid rhythm section and Tony Joe’s distinctive low, embracing growl and fuzzy guitar.
MATT REINARTZ, St. Paul
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Jay Z, Xcel Energy Center. He showed the power of presence, which was more impressive than his occasionally choppy live performance. Loved the way he gave shout-outs to fans based on their outfits. And can’t quarrel with his hit recordings, though his new “Magna Carta … Holy Grail” album didn’t add any songs of value to this mammoth production in a half-full arena.
Shemekia Copeland, the Dakota. She demonstrated a big voice, big personality and big sense of entertainment. She’s a vocal powerhouse with great control whether doing blues, rock or gospel. No wonder Mick Jagger likes to sing with her.
Brandy Clark, “12 Stories.” Already a hit songwriter for Miranda Lambert, the Band Perry and others, she offers some smart, witty, modern-thinking, classic-sounding country on this triumphant debut.
Jon Bream, Star Tribune