Listening Room: What's Been Tickling Our Earholes Lately

As Rocks Off has noted in our periodic Mail Call entries, even though the tide of promo CDs has been greatly reduced by the digital revolution - Rocks Off can count on one finger (the middle one) the times he's actually used the streaming/download email link publicists are ever more fond of these days - he still gets more new CDs via snail mail than any one person can rightfully be expected to audition. Most of these are eliminated either through gut instinct or a quick glance at the accompanying bio, but quite a few still find their way onto the old CD player. Here's what we've been digging most the past couple of weeks. The Boxmasters,




): First of all, we just wanted an excuse to post the hilarious

Sling Blade

prank call we ran across on YouTube the other day (above). More to the point,


- which ever so slightly ramps up the British Invasion influence over the laid-back country-rock trio's self-titled 2008 debut - confirms that Billy Bob Thornton's writing talents aren't confined to his Oscar-winning screenplays. Thornton's originals on Disc 1 ("Ours"), especially "Reasons for Livin'," "That's Why Tammy Has My Car," "New Mexico" and "Two Weeks Notice," deftly balance heartbreak and humor. That, in turn, gives the "Theirs" covers disc a comfortably lived-in feeling that shines on Glen Campbell's "Gentle on My Mind" and Bill Anderson's Sunday-school-teacher rebuke "The Lord Knows I'm Drinkin'." No doubt He does.

The Bellrays,

Ray Charles, Genius: The Ultimate Ray Charles Collection (Concord): Maybe not the ultimate Brother Ray collection, but as a single-disc summary, Genius works well enough. "Busted" sounds more and more prescient each time Rocks Off looks at his bank statement, and most of Charles' R&B ("Hit the Road Jack," "I've Got a Woman"), country ("I Can't Stop Loving You," "Crying Time") and pop ("Georgia On My Mind," "Yesterday") winners are pristinely accounted for. And no matter how many times you've heard it, his "America the Beautiful" - sappy strings and all - will make you stand up and pledge allegiance every time. Look for more where these came from later on this week.  

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