The late Ray Price titled his final studio recording Beauty Is after an opening duet with Vince Gill that draws on the axiom about the eye of the beholder. But it would be hard to imagine anyone not recognizing the sublime beauty of the late Ray Price’s singing.
Price died in December, and when he entered the studio earlier in 2013 with producer Fred Foster, he realized Beauty Is likely would be his last. At age 87, Price’s voice had remained a remarkable instrument, yet there are moments on Beauty Is where age, for the first time, appears to limit his breath and range.
But Foster arranges these love songs to capitalize on the tonal quality of Price’s voice. Set to string orchestrations accented by country instrumentation, Price sounds like a wise sage with a big heart and a gentle soul on touching songs such as Willie Nelson’s It Always Will Be, a romantic duet with Martina McBride on the standard An Affair To Remember and a second duet with Gill on the lovely Until Then.
Graceful to the end, Price takes a final bow with an elegant collection that nicely caps a great musical legacy.
— Michael McCall
A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power
In A Call to Action, former President Jimmy Carter says prejudice and discrimination against women and girls is perpetuated in America and around the world by religious authorities who twist holy texts to assert male dominance.
The 89-year-old Carter recalls how in his Deep South childhood the Bible was cited to justify white supremacy and asserts that patriarchs now use the Bible, Quran and other holy books to denigrate and control women.
As a Bible teacher for more than 70 years, he tackles some of the passages cited by male supremacist Christians, contrasting them with the four Gospels that “never report any instance of Jesus’ condoning sexual discrimination or the implied subservience or inferiority of women.”
After assigning the cause of much of today’s discrimination to religious intolerance meant to preserve male dominance, Carter documents the vast array of effects.
He notes that prenatal screening has enabled parents in patriarchal societies to prevent the birth of girls. Chapter titles offer a bleak summary of the price that women and girls pay for patriarchy: Sexual Assault and Rape, Violence and War, Slavery and Prostitution, Spouse Abuse, “Honor” Killings, Genital Cutting, Child Marriage and Dowry Deaths, and Politics, Pay and Maternal Health, in which Carter focuses on problems of economic and health-care inequality in the United States.
But he cites hopeful efforts against genital cutting and child marriage in African communities. And he writes that by bringing men into the discussion and enlisting fair-minded religious leaders, some progress has been made.
— Peter James Spielmann
Going Back Home
Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey
Wilko Johnson, former guitarist of rabble-rousing 1970s British rockers Dr. Feelgood, is enjoying a bittersweet late-career surge.
Johnson’s jagged playing and menacing stare helped give Dr. Feelgood’s bluesy rock an infectious, raucous energy. Then the group imploded and Johnson spent years as a cult hero. Last year he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Inspired by a shared love of early British rockers like Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, Johnson and Roger Daltrey, lead singer of The Who, have recorded the deliberately rough-edged and retro Going Back Home. Its 11 tracks include 10 Johnson compositions.
The title track sets the tone of robust, rocking R&B. Daltrey growls lustily over Johnson’s choppy riffs and it’s spiced with lashings of dirty harmonica from Steve Weston and galumphing piano from ex-Style Council keyboardist Mick Talbot.
Songs like Keep it Out of Sight and All Through the City have a swaggering energy and raw yearning. Some Kind of Hero is a meaty slice of the blues about a cheatin’ woman, but the lyrical bravado is laced with British self-deprecation: “I wish I was some kind of hero.”
The album’s rough-hewn quality is less of an asset on a ballad like Turned 21 or a cover of Bob Dylan’s Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window.
Going Back Home is feisty fun and a rousing testament to a distinctive figure in British rock history.
— Jill Lawless