Columbia Masterworks probably thought they were signing Kristin Chenoweth as a Broadway/cabaret belter, but Chenoweth's coming on like a new-age, more spiritually driven Dolly Parton (she even name-checks the star) on "Some Lessons Learned" (Masterworks, B-). Local guy Eric Bazilian helped write one of the better tracks, "Mine to Love."
FUSION FUN: Their benchmark was the 1920s New Orleans ragtime jazz and blues of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, one of the earliest recorded-music supergroups. But as "Wynton Marsalis and Eric Clapton Play the Blues - Live From Jazz at Lincoln Center" (Rhino CD &DVD, A), there's room for stylistically veering off course, mid-song, as one guy or another in the brassy 10-piece ensemble takes a solo and "goes modern" on us. Mostly they're hitting on oldies but goodies like W.C. Handy's "Careless Love." But how 'bout that slowed-down version of Clapton's "Layla"! The DVD version bundled with the CD boasts a super DTS surround mix and special guest Taj Mahal.
MORE TO SCORE: On "We Are the Tide" (Blind Pilot, B+) the blended voices and well-buffed tunes of Blind Pilot sometimes sound like a cross between Simon & Garfunkel and Vampire Weekend. Not a bad place to be.
A.A. Bondy's got that "sensitive new age balladeer" thing down quite well on "Believers" (Fat Possum, B).
Ladytron might fill your craving for dreamy, female-fronted synthpop on "Gravity the Seducer" (Nettwerk, C+), but you'll probably be hungry an hour later.
Fans of growly Dust Bowl rock (à la J.J. Cale 'n' Clapton) should beg for an infusion of Ray Bonneville on "Bad Man's Blood" (Red House, A), a "sleeper" of a set that really woke me up.
GLOBAL BEATS: Also catching me by surprise: Renolds Jazz Orchestra's double-disc take on "Three Penny Opera" (Shanti, B+); florid keyboardist Avishai Cohen's journey on the "Seven Seas" (Sunnyside, B); the haunting, multi-language Afro-reggae grooves of Tiken Jah Fakoly on "African Revolution" (Wrasse, B); and the raga rave-ups of "Rock the Tabla" (ARC Music, B) featuring Hossam Ramzy and an all-star crew (Billy Cobham, A.R. Rahman, Manu Katche).