Listen to this

Critic Sean Daly takes on Harry Connick Jr., Clipse and more.

Published February 11, 2007

Harry Connick Jr.

Album: Oh, My Nola Columbia

In stores: Now

Why we care: Crescent City's native son just released two albums dedicated to his post-Katrina home, this and the instrumental vamp Chanson du Vieux Carre. Both are fun, but Oh, My Nola is more user-friendly, brassy party music with a big, defiant heart.

Why we like it: In celebrating a city that needs more smiles than tears, Connick keeps the mood high, the beat swinging and the horn section jacked up. A rare exception is the chilling All These People, which Connick wrote "for all those people" stranded at the New Orleans convention center. The city-themed songs range from street corner blues to big-band jazz romps. Sales of Connick's new albums will benefit the New Orleans Habitat Musicians Village, an organization for displaced jazzmen he co-founded with Branford Marsalis.

Reminds us of: Getting les bon temps rolling again

Download these: Jambalaya (On the Bayou), Oh, My Nola and Hello Dolly

Grade: B



Album: Hell Hath No Fury (Zomba)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Virginia Beach sibs Pusha T and Malice hook up with hometown producing pals the Neptunes, this time for a warts-and-all look at the cocaine trade: the highs, the lows, the guilt. No glamorizing here, but no preaching, either. This is severe rap, as smart as it is tough.

Why we like it: The Neptunes (Pharrell Williams and partner Chad Hugo) build big beats for some of pop and hip-hop's heaviest hitters: Gwen Stefani, Jay-Z, Nelly, you name it. But the music they make for Clipse has always been different: smaller, tighter, more organic. This is the sound of back alleys and bad deals, sin city at night. Combined with the clever rhymes of the MCs, the mix is mesmerizing.

Reminds us of: Scarface: The Musical

Download these: Mr. Me Too and Wamp Wamp (What It Do)

Grade: A



Album: Friend Opportunity (Kill Rock Stars)

In stores: Now

Why we care: This San Francisco trio couldn't decide if they wanted to play garage rock, Japanese pop, psychedelia or mariachi music. So they decided to play all of them - often in the same song. Deerhoof is sooo bizarre, but sooo good.

Why we like it: The songs commence with Japanese singer Satomi Matsuzaki's cooing like a melodious Bo Peep, but her guy mates soon get restless. Drummer Greg Saunier often sounds like he's trying out for a Who cover band, while guitarist John Dieterich prefers time-traveling between '60s rock, '80s pop . . . and music from the year 2525.

Reminds us of: A wedding DJ on acid

Download these: +81 and The Galaxist

Grade: B+



Travis Tritt

Song: T-R-O-U-B-L-E

Album: The Very Best of Travis Tritt (Warner Bros./Rhino)

Why we care: When country went pop in the '90s, this Georgia outlaw's career went kerplunk. That's too bad: We always thought Tritt sounded like the human barroom brawl, all fists and guitars and last-call growls. On a new hits compilation, Tritt's remastered songs sound louder and rowdier, especially this 1992 cover of Elvis Presley's raucous spelling bee.

Why we like it: It takes six seconds for T-R-O-U-B-L-E to explode in a scrum of bare-knuckle drums and furious piano pounding. The King would be proud.

Reminds us of: Smokey and the Bandit (but with more chest hair)

Song grade: A

Album grade: B

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467. His blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.