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story.lead_photo.caption "Falling Again" by Barrett Baber

B+ Barrett Baber

Falling Again

"Sound and Color" Alabama Shakes

Self-released

Fayetteville singer-songwriter Barrett Baber goes all-in with this EP, the followup to the long-player Battlefield Us, and it sounds like he's on the verge of a commercial breakthrough.

The six songs (of which Baber co-wrote five) on Falling Again are solid, mainstream country radio gold. It's the record that should be blasting at the lake and out of pickups all summer long. "6 Beers and a Dream" is one of those feel-good-about-yourself tracks; the title cut is a sweet ballad about a love that lasts; "Something 'Bout the Summertime" is a breezy slice of nostalgia; and Baber, a former American Idol contestant, flashes a bit of blue-eyed soul on "Tipsy on Wine."

Falling Again is a well-played, wonderfully produced package and Baber's confidence and talents are obvious. Hopefully Nashville is paying attention.

Hot tracks: "6 Beers and a Dream," "Falling Again."

-- SEAN CLANCY

A- Alabama Shakes

Sound & Color

ATO

In 2012, when Alabama Shakes released its debut, Boys & Girls, the melodies were strong but fell into a retro pocket, evoking soul and roots-rock dynamics from the '60s and '70s. But Brittany Howard's towering voice was undeniable.

Howard's voice is more formidable than ever on Sound & Color. Now she sounds like a different vocalist on virtually every tune. On the title track she evokes the dreamy drift of '70s Marvin Gaye, "Don't Wanna Fight" struts and wheezes with James Brown-like bravado, "This Feeling" channels doo-wop and finger-snapping swing and "Future People" is almost operatic. She imbues the music with a lonesome shiver, frequently singing at the top edge of her voice. But when she drops down an octave or more, her voice becomes a howl, and "Gimme All Your Love" transforms a plea into a demand.

The band's Southern-soul roots haven't been abandoned. "Future People" repurposes the riff from Booker T and the MG's "Time Is Tight," and the slow-burn "Miss You" suggests a lost Otis Redding ballad. Keyboards play a bigger role in creating a new sonic architecture and the rhythm section veers from the midtempo country-soul reliability of the debut to explore more abstract, orchestral coloring.

Hot tracks: "Gimme All Your Love," "Future People," "Don't Wanna Fight."

-- GREG KOT

Chicago Tribune (TNS)

B Built to Spill

Untethered Moon

Warner Bros.

On the lead track of Built to Spill's latest album, Doug Martsch sighs, "And now we settle for this complicated metaphor and leave this simple truth unsaid." His sentiment gets at the center of Untethered Moon, a record flush with blustery guitar passages, hooks and heart.

"All Our Songs" rumbles out of the gate with pounding percussion before giving way to a quip from Martsch's boyish, high register: "It's so hard to tell a face that never rang a bell." Along the way, three different solos torch the verses. "Living Zoo" grazes on everything from early R.E.M. to Dinosaur Jr. before settling into one of his bleary-eyed choruses that never gets old.

A few songs are grounded in a more classic Pacific Northwest sound, but pull back or morph into chugging ramblers with psych moves and serpentine melodies. The blazing "So" seesaws between campfire ballad and towering shards of incendiary guitar.

Eight albums deep and after a recent lineup shuffle, the simple welcome truth is, Built to Spill hasn't changed much.

Hot tracks: "All Our Songs," "Living Zoo," "So."

-- JAKE O'CONNELL

The Associated Press

A Jon Regen

Stop Time

Motema

A pianist who started out in jazz, Jon Regen has gone on to establish himself as a master of smart, sturdily melodic pop with some rootsy shades -- a cross between, say, Billy Joel and Randy Newman. Stop Time shows the onetime protege of pianist Kenny Barron taking another major leap forward.

This time, Regen works mainly in a trio format, with his piano accompanied by Elvis Costello's rhythm section. Guitar appears on just two tracks, and producer Mitchell Froom provides some subtle keyboard coloring. The stripped-down approach suits the nature of Regen's plainspoken and down-to-earth songs, enhancing their emotional immediacy and the urbane grace, reminiscent at times of Allen Toussaint, that the singer exudes throughout these easy-rolling performances.

"How the hell did I go so wrong?" Regen sings on the New Orleans-flavored title song, the album's liveliest number. But it's clear that, from the songs to the execution, Regen has made all the right moves.

Hot tracks: "Morning Papers," "Stop Time," "These Are the Days."

-- NICK CRISTIANO

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Style on 05/12/2015

Print Headline: Baber's new country EP sounds like summer hit

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