Growing Stone (Barbès Records BR033, 2011)
Two core members of Nation Beat, drummer Scott Kettner and vocalist Liliana Araujo, both arrived at the same conclusion in different ways. Kettner, an American, discovered the similarities between northeastern Brazilian music and that of the southeastern U.S. while living and learning in Recife, Brazil. Araujo, a Brazilian, discovered the same thing after relocating to New York. As a result, the sound of Nation Beat is, to put it in Kettner’s words, Americana music from both Americas. Such a description was entirely suitable for their previous album Legends of the Preacher, and their new Growing Stone is an even more seamless fusion of Appalachia and New Orleans with Brazilian maracatu, forro and coco rhythms.
Willie Nelson has taken a liking to the band, even playing an entire set with them at a recent Farm Aid concert and sharing musical insights aboard his tour bus afterward (no, I’m not going to attempt a joke about anything botanical that may have colored those insights). Of course, Nelson is just one of many Nation Beat fans out there, and this most recent disc of theirs goes a long way toward showing just what ropes them in. Once the solid mangue -funk of “Puxa O Boi” gives way to the combination of surf rock and bluegrass that is “Bicu De Lambu,” all bets are off as far as predictability goes.
Kettner anchors jumping, shifting, border-crossing rhythms that accommodate lead instruments ranging from guitar to fiddle to horns to mandolin to harmonica, and the melodies cover such likewise wide ground that the title track would fit right into Carnival time in Brazil or a Mardi Gras celebration in the French Quarter with equal ease. Plus Araujo’s vocals are a party in any language. Growing Stone wastes no time growing on you, and I’m similarly going to do my part by not expending any more time or words trying to describe what a fun, inspired and energizing CD this is.
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