Ya Foy! Sarazino
Cumbancha

Author:
SAS

Ya Foy! means “No problem!” and there is certainly no problem that can’t be solved with Sarazino as your soundtrack. With songs mostly in Spanish, this Ecuadorian band also draws influence from Africa, the Arab world, Jamaica, the U.S. and the rest of Latin America. The beats are up, the topics are conscious and there is a generous sprinkling of innovation amid the sounds spinning off the worldwide musical traditions.

Ya Foy!is a place where reggae meets Latin pop and hip-hop crosses over to Afro-beat. Sarazino would obviously be the leader at any dance party, and its enthusiasm comes out in this recording as well.

Single of the Week: “No Soy Mandela”

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Tribute to a Reggae Legend Various Artists
Putumayo

Author:
SAS

Putumayo, that renowned purveyor of world music, has created a stained-glass portrait of Bob Marley in the form of voices from around the world. Sparkling clear with the spirit of Marley, the album shows just how many ways his songs can be interpreted.

Since so many of his Marley’s songs are blatantly political, they attract artists that have an important message to share. Each interpretation, whether created by a band or a solo artist, uses Marley’s songs to reflect the culture and struggles of people around the world. From a group of Sierra Leone refugees to a Brazilian guitarist, the album is all over the map – except for its adherence to the music and principles of a reggae legend.

Single of the Week: “Concrete Jungle”

Editor’s Note: Bob Marley is known as the person who introduced reggae music to millions in the United States. The man was a fabulously talented songwriter who could mix protest music and undeniable pop as skillfully as any true cultural hero.

Purchase from Amazon

Zeroes QC Suuns
Secretly Canadian

Author:
SAS

If rock is dead and electronica is still on the rise, then Suuns is the waking dead in an electrified world. When first putting on Suuns, a little patience goes a long way. For the first twenty seconds of the album, you’ll be wondering how they ever got a record deal. But it is all part of their plot to get you high on the beats.

Each song is a balance between indie-rock and ingenious beat buildup. There is something truly pleasing about how they shape the beats, adding one odd sound after another to mix. It’s almost like looking through a secret glass panel into an extra-terrestrial music lab. But then the panel shatters, because there is that touch of the earthy, of human voice, of uncontrollable feedback. What actually makes this a great album, though, is that it picks a beat and sticks with it. From Nirvana to Gaga, a good rhythm is all that matters in creating a penetrating song. And a good rhythm is what Suuns has been cooking up in its lab for you to savor.

Single of the Week: “Arena”

Artist to Watch

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Recoil Selected, 2 Disc Set Recoil
Mute

Author:
SAS

Remember how weird Depeche Mode was? Recoil is the band of the guy (Alan Wilder) who played keyboard for Depeche Mode for 14 years. So you can believe that there is more than a touch of the twisted on Recoil Selected. Throughout your journey, you’ll hear Depeche Mode’s signature synths, but there is also so much more. Samples of voices, record scratching and brass and other band instruments are scattered liberally throughout the album. You’ll even hear some unexpectedly deft drum and bass rhythms. Listen for elements of Portishead and My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult.

The lead singer for each songs changes. You’ll hear from an author (Maggie Estep) an experimental jazz singer (Diamanda Galás) and many others. There is even more variety in store, too. The first CD in the this set has the 14 original song cuts, while the second CD has 14 remixes, one for each song. The remixes tend to be a bit more mellow and listenable. Check out this beautiful, dark homage to the best elements of gothic culture – spookiness, beauty, drugs, politics and the exploration of the unknown.

Editor’s Note: Alan Wilder’s departure from Depeche Mode made Recoil what it is today, and Depeche Mode what it was yesterday.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Sing, Chapter 1 Wynonna
Curb

Author:
SAS

Wynonna has a strong country style that fans across the nation have come to love. In the past she’s tended to put out music that adheres to a modern country code. On this album, she takes her expertise in modern country and uses it to review her favorite songs from all genres and time periods. She covers Sippy Wallace, Merle Haggard, Bill Withers, Hank Williams, and eight others.

This is just chapter one, and it shows her love for these great songwriters as well as her ability to adapt songs to her own style while still keeping the spirit of the tune intact. She isn’t afraid of branching out beyond the usual country instruments or vocal styles to get her point across. But her bravery in tackling this project, one that forces her to live up to the standards of masters, simply makes the album even more Wynonna.

Single of the Week: “Are the Good Times Really Over”

Late but Great

Editor’s Note: As one-half of the Judds, Wynonna has become one of the most popular and respected female country stars of her time. On her own since the early 1990s, she has demonstrated an eclecticism that has increasingly confounded hardcore country fans and radio programmers. Wynonna can extraordinarily cover country, blues, gospel, pop and folk. And cover it she does.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Unpredictable John McVey
Independent

Author:
SAS

This is some easy-listening music. We don’t have to think too hard to take in its simple chord progressions and unadorned vocals. No one could be offended by these compositions, their picked, sometimes distorted guitar, their plunked piano keys and its laid-back beats.

However, the lyrics do have a surprise in store. Rather than just rehashing the usual love themes,  there are at least two songs about thieving and a couple more about wandering the world. This is going to be a hard sell for anyone who loves a dose of character in music, but if you like chill sounds with easily comprehensible lyrics that venture past the ordinary, you’ll enjoy John McVey. Plus, a portion of the sale of each album goes to Kids’ Food Basket.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Dead to This World Arma Gathas
Metal Blade

Author:
SAS

This isn’t the nicest album, but then, it’s not supposed to be nice. “Born to kiiiiiillllllllllll/Born for bloooooooooood!” is the opening war-cry. The guitar chords of Arma Gathas do not leave you hanging – rather, they hype you up into a frenzy. This isn’t super thoughtful music. It’s fast and furious. The music has hardcore elements to it. It’s speedier and more shouty than a lot of other metal. But it does break into searing solos here and there, bringing it back to the land of fire and metal. It’s a brutal album, preoccupied with death and violence and a wrathful God. It’s not anything utterly new and different, but it certainly will fit into your “apocalyptic music and books” library.

Mighty Mighty

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Awake But Dreaming Laura Cash
Cash House

Author:
SAS

Laura Cash could be playing off her husband’s parents’ fame (they were Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, after all). And she does, to some extent. How could she not? But she is a masterful fiddle player in her own right, and has been winning awards for her playing since age 17. In fact, she met her husband while touring with June. Would anyone else have been accepted into the Carter-Cash family?

On Awake But Dreaming, Cash belts out songs from across the country music world. She covers tunes by Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and many others. This album gives Laura Cash a chance to share her love for traditional country music. While her voice isn’t what’s going to make her famous, it is a nice, down-home kind of voice that fits well with the twanging music and her expressive fiddling.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Come and Get It Eli “Paperboy” Reed
Parlophone / Capitol /EMI

Author:
SAS

This is a fantastic soul album coming from an unexpected face. Eli Reed is a Jewish boy from Massachusetts, newly on the scene and seriously tearing it up. He seems to have it all – his persona is utterly convincing, his baby-face will get all the young ladies and his voice will surprise lovers of both old-school and new-school soul and R&B. He is simply able to belt these songs out with a kind of fervor and point-on pitch that you haven’t heard in a long time.

The songs, overall, are sweet and often simple in theme. But that counterbalances just perfectly the complex expressions Reed creates with the sound of his voice. The musical accompaniment is raucous yet practiced, and it knows when to quiet down. The Paperboy is a phenomenon that’s been waiting to happen in this ’50s-crazed world of rockabilly. And happily, it manifested in the best possible way.

Let the Good Times Roll

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Elaine’s Song Chris Colangelo
C-Note

Author:
SAS

Chris Colangelo and his band make that kind of jazz that holds you on edge as wait, wait for the bass to drop. Colangelo himself plays the acoustic bass, which is the twist in this music – it’s not too often that the bass is the lead instrument. However, the other instruments in the band are in no way hidden, and keep this album from sounding too off-the-wall.

The overall feel of Elaine’s Songis basic light jazz. It’s not startling; rather it would go well in a dim lounge over a bourbon on ice after a long hard day. It’s accessible, and it’s for those who seek jazz that won’t overwhelm, jazz to soothe the soul.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

War and Civil Disobedience Howard Zinn
PM / Trade Root

Author:
SAS

Howard Zinn’s voice has been caught on radio and is now available in CD form so that you can suck up his gems of political wisdom. On War and Civil Disobedience, Zinn argues that it is the responsibility of the citizens of a country to practice civil disobedience in order to end government wars that serve only the rich.

According to Zinn, that “it is the right of the people to alter or abolish the government,” is actually articulated in the Declaration of Independence. It’s interesting to think about how the Tea Party folks on the far right might use the same excuse to break down social security nets. It would be great to hear Zinn speak about the Tea Party phenomenon. But for now, you’ll have to piece things together for yourself after listening to this informative, motivating recording.

Political Album of the Week

Editor’s Note: Along with his friend and colleague Noam Chomsky, the late Howard Zinn may well have been the greatest anarachist of all time. What are citizens to do when confronted by unjust laws and when their government embroils them in unjust wars? Delievered in the context of the current US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a scintillating lecture and discussion by the legendary teacher, historian, playwright and activist. If you don’t buy this album, I’m gonna kick your ass.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Lack of a Better Name Deadmau5
Three Six Zero / Ultra / EMI / Mau5trap

Author:
SAS

Deadmau5 uses all the various tricks in the electronic music book to create a moody and pondering path to the future. In particular, you’ll hear from outer space in the form of warped house beats in the vein of radical electronicists Justice and associated Ed Records acts. Deadmau5 is a bit less crass and more loopy, forcing you into a trance as each song pulses its course.

Rather than saying it all with the music or with random voice samples, Deadmau5 sometimes resorts to actual vocals. When they kick in, you’ll be kicked in the teeth by a strange combination of clubby chanting, 1980s goth singing and entirely modern AutoTuned modulation. All-in-all, this album sounds like it comes from someone who would be making electronic music no matter what, but he luckily happens to be making it at a time when it is coming back into vogue.

Single of the Week: “The 16th Hour”

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Beachcomber’s Windowsill Stornoway
4AD / Beggars

Author:
SAS

Stornoway are sure a bunch of lusciously creative musicians. They’ve got a ton of different instruments going on, banjos and bells and who knows what else, and interesting lyrical tales that are perfectly excerpted from your own life. In one song, forlorn workers stare at the nice day outside, longing to be free range humans instead of being kept in a factory or office cage. In another, we hear that all-too-familiar story about calling an ex in the middle of the night on a weeknight just to say “I miss you,” to your one-time soul mate.

The sound combines British and American folk in the broadest sense – it’s hard to pigeon-hole Stornoway. The band has carefully crafted an album that is able to jump around in vibe without disrupting your entrancement throughout. Thank goodness these folksters are leading the way in weird, smart independent music.

New Album of the Week

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

John Dokes Sings, George Gee Swings John Dokes & George Gee
Independent

Author:
SAS

With songs arranged and conducted by David Gibson, and a deliciously full orchestra led by George Gee, this swing album swings its way to the top, hand over hand, trumpet over trumpet. You’ll love the deep, sexy voice of John Dokes as he sends your longings into a tailspin. You’ll be helpless but to find a partner and get dancing.

This sounds like it is straight out of the olden days, and swing isn’t one of the most redone genres these days. It’s fun to hear the clean production of today used on a style of music that usually comes to your ears in the form of a gritty, mildewed vinyl recording. John Dokes Sings, George Gee Swings will inspire you to get dressed up and leave the house for once for a night on the town, preferably in New York City.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Mammal or Machine Moksha
Moksha Music / Groove House

Author:
SAS

This is some jam jazz to jostle your mind and body. As the title Mammal or Machineindicates, this is as thoughtful an album as it is groovy. Often letting the riffs shine on their own, this full band allows you to dig deeply into its musical themes until you are either pondering the purpose of human love for music or dancing your brains out.

When the vocals do kick in more, echoes give them an eerie sound, and you are meant to meditate on each line. The album is at its height when the spoken philosophies get especially political and stoney. There is copious rhyming and mental wanderings to keep you interested through the whole thing.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Decisive Steps Tia Fuller
Mack Avenue

Author:
SAS

It’s not everyday that you get a woman saxophonist, much less an all-female jazz band. This absence is just another byproduct of our sexist culture. But Tia Fuller and her band is breaking the rules and making it happen in real color. With influences from modern jazz, funk and hop-hop, Tia Fuller blows away your cares with all her might.

The jazz on the recording is generally upbeat and often even danceable. It’s also fun to know that Fuller has toured with Beyoncé for the last two years. Let Decisive Steps help you take decisive steps to exploring your forgotten love for jazz, whether as a listener or a player.

 

So Nice Gotta Do It Up Twice! (created by the original NYC D.J., Jocko, 1955)

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Kvarnresan: Journey to the Mill – Rural Swedish Fiddle Music Nils Olof Söderbäck & Peter Michaelsen
Soulfelt Music / Hearth

Author:
SAS

Twin fiddling: one fiddle focuses on melody, while the other plays harmony. This duo hails from Oregon, but their music comes from rural Sweden. As the two fantastic folk fiddles play the music of their cultural background, echoing the sounds made by the people of Sweden 150 years ago, you will be transported.

The music seethes and speaks, as if you were hearing tales spoken by the fiddles themselves. The occasional addition of an accordion adds variety, but mostly, this is delicious fiddle music completely distinct from Irish or old-time styles. It is sometimes solemn and other times playful, and is perfect for someone who wants something a little different in the way of fiddle music or instrumental world-folk. A short description of each tune’s meaning is printed on the album cover.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

Bloodline Darrell Webb Band
Rural Rhythm

Author:
SAS

Fast and furious, both in musical tone and in attitude, the Darrell Webb band express themselves in traditional bluegrass hootin’ and sawing and picking. They’d do well at a country fair or on any street corner.

These guys aren’t fooling around. They want you to dance, and they want you to dance hard. A full string band surrounds the drawling vocals, with clean finger picking on the guitar and banjo often pulling to the front and center of the sound. It’s clear that these guys are religious, and several songs on the album have a truly Christian stance. However, religion isn’t the focus of the entire recording, nor does the band abolish every trace of sin from their song themes.

Single of the Week: “Poor Ramblin’ Boy”

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

6 String Theory Lee Ritenour
Monster Music / Concord

Author:
SAS

Lee Ritenour, long-time guitarist known for his recordings, session playing and work with his contemporary jazz band Fourplay, doesn’t actually perform all of the songs on this album. But that’s where things get interesting. In spite of his accomplished musicianship, he has created this album specifically to showcase some of the greatest guitarists of our time, as well as guitar geniuses that are just getting started. He does not discriminate in genre. Slash from Guns N’ Roses is right up there with Taj Mahal.

Ritenour has really created a monster with 6 String Theory. This will be an album for all guitar geeks worldwide, whether they enjoy the musical theory of metal or the engrained emotion of blues solos. The album features more than twenty artists, also including Vince Gill, Keb’ Mo’, B.B. King and Robert Cray. Some of the artists have fronted a band, while others have “just” been guitarists. Well, now is the guitarist’s time to shine.

If You Love Music, You’ll Love This!

Editor’s Note: Lee Ritenour has long been the perfect studio musician, one who can melt into the background without making any impact. Here, he is the lead guitarist with many of his friends and admirers helping his out.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

The Guitar Song, 2 Disc Set Jamey Johnson
Mercury / Nashville / Universal

Author:
SAS

Jamey Johnson’s deep, comforting throatiness rides through this album like a canoe in deep water. It carries us over the difficult parts of life with great sturdiness and sensitivity. But the sound of his voice isn’t the only important thing. His lyrics also display a multi-layered understanding of the world – they are a combination of poetry and storytelling.

For example, he sings about playing an Ernest Tubb record over and over: “All my neon neighbors, they like what I play / Cause they’ve heard it every night since you've walked away / Every day they replace old B24 / ’Cause every night I run a needle through ‘Walking the Floor.’” He sings about the poor man’s blues, checks that can’t be cashed, the violence of the world and his wish that bedtimes stories could still solve problems for his grown daughter. In the title song, he writes from a pawn shop guitar’s point of view. It’s brilliant, multidimensional country music that leaves its pop-style cousins in the dust.

Single of the Week: “Lonely at the Top”

Best Album of the Week

 

Editor’s Note: Falling in love with a singer is like being a teenager every time it happens.

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes

God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs
RCA / Sony / Red

Author:
Sophia A. Strosberg

Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs have melded vintage and modern in a the well-executed time-alchemy experiment God Willin’ & The Creek Don’t Rise. On the side of the vintage: the singer’s arm garters and tweed vest; lyrics about the Devil; the use of old blues styles; and delectable pedal steel. On the side of the modern: influences as varied as Joni Mitchell’s voice and funk guitar; lyrics about repo men and New York City.

Beyond this eclectic temporality, Ray is able to steal our attention with his breathy voice, colorfully poetic lyrics and ability to let his charisma pour into his voice. The band isn’t too shabby either. They have mastery of their instruments, from banjo to bass, and they manage to walk that thin line that allows them to borrow from old-time music while maintaining an original edge.

Single of the Week: “New York City’s Killin’ Me”

Purchase from AmazonDownload from iTunes