WHY I LOVE ...
MUMFORD & SONS
When this British band's debut, Sigh No More, hit the States last February, it slipped through the cracks on this critic. Since then, the alt-folk quartet-which can go from the gentle beauty on "I Gave You All" to the rocking rowdiness of "Little Lion Man," one of the most bitchin' tunes ever to feature a banjo-has been steadily building buzz: Their songs have been featured on Grey's Anatomy, they have received two Grammy nods (including Best New Artist), and their album, now gold, finally made the Billboard Top 10 this month. They are the little indie band that could-a faith-affirming case of great music being discovered.
Some Kind of Trouble |
"Times like these, I don't want to be a superstar," sings James Blunt on his third album. Indeed, the "You're Beautiful" bloke feels like a pop star from another era with his soft-rock stylings. This follow-up to 2007's underappreciated All the Lost Souls harks back to the '70s-singer-songwriter heyday of that other James (Taylor). On AM-ready standouts like "Dangerous," there are even soulful shades of Hall & Oates. But with the gift for melody and rainy-day melancholy displayed on ballads like "Best Laid Plans," Blunt comes off more like the Phil Collins of his generation.
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This Irishman's evocative debut features haunting cello and heavenly backup vocals by Lisa Hannigan.
Key track: the aching "The Blower's Daughter."
I'M WIDE AWAKE, IT'S MORNING (2005)
Conor Oberst's outfit burns with romantic and political passion.
Key track: "First Day of My Life," a sweetly twangy tune.
I SPEAK BECAUSE I CAN (2010)
This was nominated for the U.K.'s prestigious Mercury Prize last year.
Key track: the richly warm "Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)."
BEEN LISTENING (2010)
Clearly this British troubadour has an ear for traditional sounds, including Celtic influences.
Key track: the lovely, lilting title song.
Science & Faith
The Irish trio tried to inject a little flavor into their second set by bringing in B.o.B on the Maroon 5-lite "Walk Away." Even so, this generic pop-rock makes them sound more like the Nondescript.
Before she was a reality-TV star on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Kandi was in the R&B girl group Xscape. Cuts like the ballad "Haven't Loved Right" prove she's still got the goods.
These real-life lovebirds-winners of CMT's Can You Duet in 2009-exhibit some nice chemistry on this solid if unspectacular country debut.
All I Want Is You
This R&B debut got lost in last fall's releases, but it impresses with the Princely "Teach Me" and bits of hip-hop, jazz and soft rock.
REVIEWED BY CHUCK ARNOLD AND IVORY JEFF CLINTON
Catch the 53rd Annual GRAMMY AWARDS Sunday, Feb. 13, 8/7c on CBS
Up for six awards, including Album of the Year for Need You Now, the country trio spill behind-the-scenes Grammy secrets
ON THEIR BIGGEST GRAMMY MOMENT
Dave Haywood (above left): Last year when we won an award [Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group for "I Run to You"] and performed "Need You Now." It's so neat to see what that song has done since.
Hillary Scott: And also, a big curtain fell on my head [after] the performance!
Dave: We'll never forget that either.
ON WHAT IT'S LIKE BACKSTAGE
Charles Kelley: We took a shot of whiskey with Wyclef Jean in our dressing room. Afterwards his friend goes, "Y'all are Kings of Leon, right?" I was like, "Close enough."
ON THEIR ALBUM OF THE YEAR COMPETITION
Hillary: The Eminem record [Recovery] is amazing, but Lady Gaga ... It's hard to pick. We're fans of all of them.
Charles: That Katy Perry record [Teenage Dream] is my guilty pleasure. Not every dude would admit that, but I crank it in the car with my wife.
ON "NEED YOU NOW" FATIGUE:
Hillary: I heard it Christmas shopping at T.J. Maxx. I was like, "I sang this how many times? I'm on vacation!"
ON THEIR NEXT ALBUM
Dave: We're starting to record now, and it might come out in late summer.
Hillary: We can't set out for another "Need You Now," because when we wrote that song we had no idea what we had. We'd love another like it, but that may never happen again. Instead of dwelling on that, we just keep moving forward and living our lives.