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Check It Out

Check It Out!: April 19, 2013

Van Morrison – Born to Sing: No Plan B  (Blue Note)

Throughout his solo career, Van Morrison has been a creative dynamo — churning out albums at an almost annual rate. The price he’s paid, particularly in recent years, is a homogenous blandness to his material that’s been the aftereffect of his being so prolific. So when he took a four-year break from recording before returning with this, his 34th studio album, the Belfast Cowboy seems to have picked up lightened up somewhat. Between his wailing away on an alto saxophone and nuance phrasing, these 10 songs are awash in jazz, blues and soul nuances.

It all comes across wonderfully on opener “Open the Door (To Your Heart)” with its steady Hammond B-3 organ pacing the proceedings. But it’s also the first of many nihilistic observations Morrison makes, particularly when he’s slipping in lines like “Money doesn’t make you fulfilled/Money’s just to pay the bill” on the aforementioned “Open You Door.”

“End of the Rainbow” also paints a particularly bleak picture as Morrison’s sax runs have mentions of materialism, social ladders and panhandlers. Likewise the faux countrypolitan of “Education Archie” (the global elite, media influence and the demise of he white middle class are all part of the equation.) Thankfully moments like these are balanced about by gems like the gently swinging “Close Enough for Jazz” and “Pagan Heart,” a meandering dirge that has the Irish native channeling late idol and friend John Lee Hooker.

April 19

Aimee Mann at The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., 8 p.m. $59.50, $49.50, $39.50, $29.50. 631-673-7300

Always one to follow her own muse, Aimee Mann has had a career with twists and turns that have found her fronting a new wave band (’Til Tuesday), singing on albums by Rush (Hold Your Fire) and former Berklee classmate Steve Vai (The Story of Light) while carving out quite an impressive solo career. It’s a trend that’s continued through last year’s Charmer, 11 songs worth of engaging pop that includes “Living a Lie,” a duet with Shins frontman James Mercer.

April 20


Miguel at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, 720 Northern Blvd., 8 p.m. $32. 516-299-3100

Not unlike Maxwell, Miguel is that crazy cool biracial neo-soul crooner with a single moniker that begins with an M. Both artists have also been compared to Prince, another square peg who has fit into the round hole that is contemporary rhythm and blues. But whereas Maxwell was well regarded out of the gate, his younger Los Angeles counterpart wound up getting embroiled in a contract dispute with his first label after signing a deal to release his poorly received 2010 debut, All I Want Is You. While toiling away and writing material for Usher and Musiqsoulchild, Miguel released last year’s follow-up, Kaleidoscope Dream. A mélange of funk, pop, soul and psychedelic rock, the resulting 11 songs wound up on scads of critics’ Best of 2012 lists and garnered a slew of Grammy nominations, winning for Best R&B Song.

April 20

Miranda Lambert/Dierks Bentley at Nassau Coliseum, 1255 Hempstead Tpke., 7:30 p.m. $49.75, $29.75. 866-448-7849

Blake Shelton’s better half, Miranda Lambert has established herself as one of Music Row’s feistier denizens between her work in quasi-supergroup Pistol Annies and her own self-penned character-driven fare that’s light on the pop nuances. With Long Island experiencing a bit of a country music renaissance thanks to the launch of WNSH-94.7, it’s only fitting that Lambert is pulling into Nassau Coliseum with tourmate Dierks Bentley as part of her Four the Record Tour.

April 26

Port Washington

Paul Byrom at Landmark on Main Street, 223 Main St. 8 p.m. $40, $35, $30. 516-767-6444

The stream of crossover Irish culture never seems to abate be it Michael Flatley of Lord of the Dance/Riverdance, the soloists in Celtic Thunder or the gorgeous gaels of Celtic Woman. Add Paul Byrom to the list. An alum of the aforementioned Celtic Thunder, Byrom left in 2010 and subsequently released This is the Moment the following year. Hailed as one of Ireland’s premier young tenor’s, the Dublin-born vocalist has shown the kind of versatility his Celtic brethren have shown, dabbling in everything from opera and standards to Broadway show tunes and pop songs up to and including Billy Joel’s “Lullaby.”