Columbia's Legacy arm continues to unearth material from the late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley. The latest is So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley which includes 14 of his best recordings, including two previously unreleased tracks. The label has also issued a new entry in its “Essential” series, from Ray Price. Celebrating Price's ‘80 th birthday, The Essential Ray Price is a two-disc album including 40 tracks and containing all of his ‘50s and ‘60s hits, from “Crazy Arms,” “Heartaches by the Number,” “For the Good Times,” and Faded Love” with Willie Nelson.

Bad PlusFans of both jazz and popular progressive rock bands may be interested in picking up the new disc from The Bad Plus. Since their first album back in 2001 covered Nirvana's “Smells Like Teen Spirit” with a jazz attack, the band has continually garnered critical acclaim while releasing four discs through Columbia Records. Prog, continues that popular music turned jazzy trend, but is released on the band's own Do The Math Records. It features the bass, piano and drums jazz trio performing interpretations of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” from Simple Minds, “Life on Mars” from David Bowie, “Tom Sawyer” from Rush, and “This Guy's in Love with You” from Burt Bacharach, interspersed with original jazz explorations from the band. It's kind of like listening to classic rock radio through the lens of the Dave Clark Five. For more information, check their site at www.thebadplus.com.

In a similar jazzy covers vein, earlier this year Harry Connick, Jr., paid tribute to his influences, celebrating the music of New Orleans he grew up with on his latest disc, Oh, My Nola from Columbia. While Connick's take on these tracks sometimes seems a little overly polished and lacking in the raw soul that made these songs oft-covered bayou standards, overall this is an entertaining run through piano- and horn-backed takes on “Working in the Coal Mine,” “Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey,” “Elijah Rock,” “Hello Dolly,” and more. His original “Oh My Nola,” is a nice parade-ready bit of tuba-augmented marching jazz with a Sinatra-esque vocal. This sounds more authentically like a classic ‘30s or ‘40s era N'awlins classic (he even references Satchmo) than some of the actual tracks he covers on the CD. Also included are a couple of Connick originals that prove the singer-songwriter-pianist-actor still can do it all. For more information check his site at www.harryconnick.com.

Daisy MayhemRani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem
Big Old Life
(Signature Sounds Recording Company)


A great organic companion to Connick's disc is Big Old Life from Rani Arbo & Daisy Mayhem. While Connick is performing polished jazz covers of classics, Arbo and Mayhem offer a back porch jug-and-fiddle style sound on songs like Sean Staples' gospel-tinged “Joy Comes Back,” the traditional Irish folk song “Red Haired Boy,” Leonard Cohen's “Heart with No Companion,” Bob Dylan's “Farewell Angelina” and the traditional “Oil in My Vessel” which includes a brief break into “Amazing Grace.”

The band intersperses original material amid the covers, and all of their wide-ranging recordings are well worth hearing.

The Boston Globe called their sound “Neo old-timey with cosmopolitan splashes of modern pop and jazz..." which is as good a description as any. You can't lock them into any one stylistic label – they play earthy, folksy, fun music with a world of influences.

Arbo's original character portrait “Roses” is a touching folk song about an old woman who's been around the block a decade or five who is now “pulling weeds for Jesus,” while the CD's title track “Big Old Life,” also an Arbo original, will have your toe tapping as she sings about “spinning light into every dark hole.”

This is an album of celebratory music with great harmonies, a good dose of twang and timeless melodies. I can't listen without wanting to settle back into a porch rocker with a cold drink and a long brim hat. Don't miss this marvelous Americana music release – for more information and to order the disc check www.raniarbo.com.

The band is currently touring, but won't be in Chicago until this fall – they'll play the Midnight Special Folk Festival on the afternoon of September 9 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park, Chicago.