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CD reviews

NY Times News Service

Pionner, by The Band Perry.

Pionner

The Band Perry

Universal Republic

Thoughts of death have been good to The Band Perry, the three Perry siblings: Kimberly (vocals), Reid (on bass) and Neil (on mandolin). In Better Dig Two, the banjo-centered single that opens its second album, Pioneer, and has already sold 1 million copies, Kimberly Perry sings that she’s “gonna love you ‘til I’s dead,” and that either her husband’s “divorce or death” would kill her: “If you go before I do/ I’m gonna tell the gravedigger that he better dig two.”

That song follows through on the band’s first No. 1 country hit, If I Die Young from 2010, about a girl’s life cut short; that single sold 4 million copies. Not that mortality is the band’s only fixation; it also has a gift for sad and angry kiss-offs, which fill half of Pioneer.

That awareness of irreparable change separates The Band Perry from more treacly Nashville rivals like Lady Antebellum; so do Kimberly Perry’s smoke-edged voice and her determinedly spunky persona. The song Pioneer builds from a folksy tribute to US settlers to a first-person vow: “Send the dark but it won’t break me/ You can try but you can’t change me.” And in one of the album’s kiss-offs, the emphatically capitalized DONE, Perry taunts: “You play with dynamite, don’t be surprised/ When I blow up in your face.”

Pioneer, produced by Dann Huff (Rascal Flatts’ producer since 2006), enlarges The Band Perry’s sound. Its self-titled 2010 debut album was country-rock with a string-band core; Pioneer is well aware of both 1970s West Coast rock and the arena-folk foot-stompers of Mumford & Sons. The band has learned from Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Heart how to segue acoustic picking and strumming into electric guitars and tiered vocal harmonies. In Forever Mine Nevermind, written by the Perrys with Brad Paisley, they push even further; once they’ve worked up to a vigorous chorus of Na na na na, the tempo suddenly halves, guitar parts and voices stack up and The Band Perry briefly turns into Queen as Kimberly Perry snarls, “You piece of dirt/ I trusted you.”

She’s not always so combative. Pioneer also includes a loving parental tribute, “Mother Like Mine,” and happier love songs. But Perry is in her element with goodbyes, whether she’s taking a Chainsaw to a tree where she and a sweetheart once carved their names or contemplating separation in Back to Me Without You and End of Time. A sense of loss keeps these polished songs from getting too sweet.

— Jon Pareles, NY Times News Service

Nomad

Bombino

Nonesuch

In 2007, the Tuareg guitarist Bombino, real name Omara Moctar, was recorded live at a wedding by the documentarian Hisham Mayet for the startling album Guitars of Agadez Vol. 2. Now 33, Bombino still lives in that Saharan city but is ready for global consumption: a soloist and singer, a star, set up with US studio musicians and handsomely produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

Bombino’s playing is full of fast, stuttery, rhythmic hammering, coiling lines inside lines. But it also comes out in soft strums and battering single-note attacks, and its tone and phrasing have a flexible identity. In his playing, besides the sound of the pioneering Tuareg band Tinariwen, you might be reminded of Ali Farka Toure, Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler, Jerry Garcia electric, Jerry Garcia acoustic. Bombino is never just one thing.

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