A weekly roundup of must-hear music from The Times’ music staff. This week’s picks include some twang from Dale & Ray as well as a teen pop musician transitioning into adulthood and the latest surprise release from the late, great David Bowie.
Dale & Ray, “Write Your Own Songs” (Ameripolitan/Home)
By way of introduction, Dale & Ray are roots country singer-songwriter-guitarist Dale Watson and Asleep at the Wheel founding member Ray Benson, two Texas veterans who share an abiding passion for the kind of traditional country music that fuels this fleet-footed duo project.
Texas swing, raucous honky-tonk, heartfelt balladry — it’s all here. And when Watson and Benson engage in a little name-dropping, it’s with a loving wink to Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and one especially hilarious shout-out to Hank Williams in the witty album opening track, “The Ballad of Dale & Ray.” Take note all you bro-country dudes: This is how trad-country is done. — Randy Lewis
Jacob Latimore, “Connection” (FTE / Jacob's Ink Inc. / Empire)
Jacob Latimore spent a decade stuck in the throes of teen pop after catching the attention of Disney with a syrupy ode to prepubescent courtship called “Best Friend,” which was released when he was 9. Precociousness is often stifling, especially in the R&B landscape where bedroom knockers and club-ready jams have long dominated the genre. So, he spent most of his time primarily as an actor (“Black Nativity,” “Ride Along”) before independently releasing his debut, “Connection,” late last year.
“Connection” sees Latimore, now 20, in full lothario mode. He ditched the saccharine teen pop and embraced heady trap&B for a set that’s heavy on bedroom bangers. The beats are menacing, and mood-setting and sex — not lovemaking — is a major thread of the material.
There’s some brief flirtation with R&B balladry and dance grooves, but he’s at his best when he’s seducing. We’ve seen all of this plenty of times before from former child stars, but “Connection” never gets lost in cliches. — Gerrick D. Kennedy
David Bowie, “No Plan” EP (Jones Tintarro/Lazarus/Columbia)
Issued by the David Bowie estate to celebrate what would have been the artist’s 70th birthday, this four-song EP features some of his final recordings. Bowie released the first song, “Lazarus,” on his final studio album, “Blackstar.” Like that one, the other three confirm that the artist, who died on Jan. 10, 2016, was in the midst of another creative peak.
Produced, as usual, by Tony Visconti, “No Plan” covers a lot of musical ground in its 18-odd minutes. The title song is a moody, bass-driven work that opens with Bowie singing in present tense that “Here, there’s no music here/ I’m lost in streams of sound,” and asking, “Am I nowhere now?”
Another, “Killing a Little Time,” hits the distortion pedal. Only the final song, titled “When I Met You,” falls short. It feels a little unfinished, as though Bowie hadn’t signed off on the mix just yet, but this is still a release to be treasured. — Randall Roberts