Jay Clark and the Jones – Blue Cholera (Death of Cash)

Soul singer Ray Charles once described his roots as “what he’d dug up from his childhood, musical roots buried in the deepest soil.” This mantra can be applied to Toronto’s Jay Clark and the Jones, who stay faithful to their roots on their third full-length album Blue Cholera. The album is an earthy combination of North American folk rock legends Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Neil Young, and Gordon Lightfoot.

Yet Jay Clark and the Jones are no throwback band, pandering to the over-sixty demographic with kitsch redressings of classic sounds. Nor are they a nostalgia outfit, unashamedly gnawing at the corpses of their predecessors (does anyone remember The Darkness?). Rather, this nine-song collection is a wonderful conflation of past and present—an album both faithful to its influences and relevant to the present day, an amalgam which often fails similar projects. Here the combination is tasteful, attractive, and ultimately pleasing.

The album’s best tracks are, without a doubt, the spirited opener “Last to Know” and its successor “Don’t Wanna Leave It.” While this pair constitutes the most upbeat part of the album, fans will want to listen on for the wistful moments that come later. The slow, pensive atmosphere of “Ghosts” and “Neighbours” evoke the quiet seclusion of a Sunday afternoon, or the tortuous placation that accompanies a bad breakup.

In the end, Blue Cholera is an exceptional project that reaches out to roots lovers and contemporary indie-pop fans alike. Anyone inclined towards either of these sounds should give this one a spin.

—Luke Savage

Various Artists – War Child: Heroes (Parlophone)

It’s a winning concept: 16 legendary musicians select a defining song in their canon, then nominate an artist of the next generation to cover it. The result? An inspired album for a great cause.

Hardcore enthusiasts can rest assured that their musical heroes have chosen well. Paul McCartney nabbed Duffy before she hit the charts, and the Welsh sensation stars with her soulful crooning on a stripped down “Live and Let Die.” High energy marks the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ spontaneous “Sheena Is A Punk Rocker” (they knocked out their cover in one night) and Franz Ferdinand’s electrifying live rendition of Blondie’s “Call Me,” which pulses with stomping sexual tension. The record is also not without its share of ballads, with Elbow and The Hold Steady faithfully keeping to U2 and Bruce Springsteen originals.

But the tracks that really steal the show are those that candidly take a risk (Joy Division gone reggae? Yes). Bob Dylan’s “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat” is completely revamped by Beck, and Lily Allen teams up with The Clash’s Mick Jones to deliver a charming reworking of “Straight to Hell,” complete with xylophones.

TV on the Radio’s anthemic interpretation of Bowie’s classic “Heroes” is an empowering finish to an album that proves a great song remains a great song, even with a few tweaks.

—Victoria Wang

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