Category Archives: CD Reviews

Rejuvenated Portuguese Folk Music from Coimbra

Diabo A Sete – Figura de Gente (Sons Vadios, 2016)

Figura de Gente is the third album by an excellent Portuguese contemporary folk music band from Coimbra called Diabo A Sete.

The group plays original music inspired by Portuguese folk music. They use a wide-range of traditional instruments ranging from flutes to bagpipes and cavaquinho, featuring modern arrangements and a powerful folk-rock rhythm section including electric bass and drums.

Diabo A Sete was formed in 2003. The current lineup includes Celso Bento on flutes, bagpipes, and background vocals; Eduardo Murta on bass; Luísa Correia on acoustic guitar and background vocals; Miguel Cardina on drums; and Pedro Damasceno on cavaquinho, mandolin, machinho, and background vocals. The band also features a new member, Sara Vidal on lead vocals, Celtic harp, Galician tambourine and adufe. She is currently the lead singer for the group A Presença das Formigas and is the former vocalist of acclaimed Spanish band Luar na Lubre, one of the leading Galician folk music bands.

Figura de Gente also features special guest Julieta Silva on sanfona (hurdy-gurdy), piano and background vocals.

Figura de Gente is a beautifully-crafted album by Diabo A Sete, one of the finest contemporary folk music bands in Portugal.

Buy the album from www.sonsvadios.pt/loja/

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Opposing Extinction

SES – Opoñerse Á Extinción

SES – Opoñerse Á Extinción (Fol Musica, 2016)

Opoñerse Á Extinción is the fourth album by Spanish singer-songwriter Maria Xosé Silvar, who uses the artistic name SES. The album features original songs by SES, written and sung passionately in the Galician language. The songs revolve around love and also have a strong social message.

The majority of the material on this album has American blues, rock, country influences along with some Latin American rhythms.

Buy Opoñerse Á Extinción

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The Enduring Sound of Renato Braz

Renato Braz – Saudade (Living Music, 2015)

Saudade is a collection of beautiful, poetic songs composed by some of Brazil’s greatest songwriters and performed by the remarkable voice of Renato Braz. The album combines Brazilian melodies and rhythms with Paul Winter’s global jazz sound as well as world music elements from Russia and other cultures.

Renato Braz has been an essential member of the Paul Winter Consort family in recent years. Even though he has made recordings in Brazil, Saudade is first release in the United States.

The lineup is quite impressive. His band includes the Paul Winter Consort, the Dmitri Pokrovsky Ensemble, Dori Caymmi, and Ivan Lins.

Saudade is beautifully packaged, featuring an extensive booklet with photos, lyrics and descriptions of the songs.

 

 

 

Buy Saudade

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Gregg Kofi Brown’s Musical Journey

Gregg Kofi Brown – Rock ‘n’ Roll and UFOs

Gregg Kofi Brown – Rock ‘n’ Roll and UFOs (Gonzo Multimedia UK, 2016)

Guitarist and songwriter Gregg Kofi Brown played in a band called Osibisa in the 1970s. Osibisa was one of the pioneers of Afro funk rock and afropop.

Rock ‘n’ Roll and UFOs is a collection of songs from Gregg Kofi Brown’s career. It features unreleased songs, remixes and demos with various musicians, including former band members Osibisa.

The musical influences on Rock ‘n’ Roll and UFOs include pop, acoustic folk, funk, Afropop, disco, and soul.

Guests include guitarists Dominic Miller and Gus Isidore, Bomb da Bass, Osibisa, The cast of the Who’s Tommy, The Chimes’ Pauline Henry, and the Who’s former keyboardist John Rabbit Bundrick.

The album was released in conjunction with Gregg Kofi Brown’s autobiography of the same name that provides details about his early career in Los Angeles and London.

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Explosive Drum and Bass from African Amazons

Les Amazones d’Afrique – République Amazone

République Amazone (Amazon Republic) brings together some of West Africa’s best female singers with highly percussive electronic music.

While the women provide the lead and background vocals, Irish producer Liam Farrell, also known as Doctor L, contributes most of the instruments in the form of electronic bass and beats. The focus is on powerful, deep bass sounds, developing a hybrid sound that combines traditional world music vocals and club-style dance beats.

Les Amazones d’Afrique (the African amazons) include Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita, Mariam Doumbia, Mariam Koné, Massan Coulibaly, Mouneissa Tandina, Nneka, Pamela Badjogo and Rokia Koné.

Additional instrumentalists on some of the songs include Mouneissa Tandina on drums, Mamadou Diakité on guitar, Harouna Samaké on kamele ngoni, Vincent Courtois on cello, Patrick Ruffino on bass.

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The Thunderous Sound of Red Baraat

Red Baraat – Bhangra Pirates (Rhyme & Reason Records, 2017)

American brass band Red Baraat is heading in an exciting new direction. Their 2017 album, Bhangra Pirates is an explosive mix of irresistible bhangra beats, funk, jazz and the mighty sound of a brass band. Now that they’ve gotten rid of the annoying rapping that appeared in some of the previous albums, Red Baraat’s South Asian sound is more musical, fluid and much easier to enjoy.

The lineup on this album includes Sunny Jain on dhol, effects and vocals; Rohin Khemani on percussion; Sonny Singh on trumpet; Ernest Stuart on trombone; Jonathan Goldberger on guitar; Delicate Steve on guitar; MiWi La Lupa on bass trumpet and vocals; Chris Eddleton on drum set; Tomas Fujiwara on drum set; John Altieri on sousaphone and effects; Jon Lampley on sousaphone and effects; Jonathon Haffner on soprano and alto saxophone; and Mike Bomwell on soprano and baritone saxophone.

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Old Time Balkan from Lapland

Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha – Näennäinen

Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha – Näennäinen (Playground Music, 2016)

Jaakko Laitinen and his band Väärä Raha hail from Lapland in northern Finland and they have a fascination with nostalgic Roma and Balkan music, brass band music, and other musical traditions such as Finnish tango and humppa, as well as Russian and Greek love songs.

Most of the material performed by Jaakko Laitinen & Väärä Raha is original, ranging from old fashioned love songs to progressively fast brass music.

The lineup includes Jaakko Laitinen on vocals; Marko Roininen on accordion; Jarkko Niemelä on trumpet, bouzouki and altohorn; Tuomo Kuure on double bass; and Janne Hast on drums.

Guests featured: Bjonko Stoisic on clarinet; Morgan Nickolay on balalaika; Matti Pitkänen on violin; Tuomas Timonen on percussion; Valtteri Bruun on guitar, mandolin, ukulele and synthesizer.

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Blue Harp Perspectives

Amelia Romano – New Perspectives

 

Amelia Romano – New Perspectives (indie release, 2017)

American harpist Amelia Romano plays a mix of instrumentals and songs on New Perspectives, scheduled for release later this month. I was drawn to her instrumentals, which is where she shows her talent as a harp player and composer.

Romano’s music combines blues, jazz, classical and Latin American music elements like joropo from Venezuela, Argentine tango and Mexican-style bolero. She likes to explore unpredictable rhythms from Latin America, a region with a remarkable harp tradition, although she breaks stereotypes by playing what is normally a man’s instrument.

 

 

Amelia Romano enjoys using her beautiful cobalt blue harp to extract new sounds, textures and also as an attractive visual element.

 

 

With New Perspectives, Amelia Romano shows great potential as a genre-defying composer and arranger.

 

Amelia Romano

 

Buy the digital version of New Perspectives

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Paris Texas via Tucson

Naïm Amor and John Convertino – The Western Suite and Siesta Songs (Living Music Duplication, 2016)

The first thing that springs to mind listening to Naïm Amor and John Convertino’s new instrumental album, The Western Suite and Siesta Songs, is the 1984 movie, Paris, Texas and Ry Cooder’s atmospheric soundtrack. It’s a coincidence, given Amor is a Parisian musician living in Tucson, while Convertino still works in Tucson but resides in El Paso, Texas. The duo’s new album was recorded in Arizona and Ohio, mixed and finished in Tucson and released by Albuquerque label, Living Music Duplication.

It’s a collaboration of open possibilities, a strong sense of place and a deep love of landscape. And it’s the openness that makes it stand out – their openness to cross cultures and continents in pursuit of their own sound. On his website, Amor describes the record as “the perfect soundtrack to a drive through the desert Southwest”.

The record opens with “Round Em Up”, a pared back western soundtrack a la “The Good The Bad and The Ugly” complete with a whistled theme. “Rye Grass Waltz” has a whimsical feel, all blue sky and golden grasses dancing, though you could equally be sipping a crisp vin blanc in Montmartre. The haunting “Of Dust and Wind” evokes the unease and isolation of the desert. “Jelly-Roll Tango” was a piece touted for Convertino’s band Calexico, but works beautifully in this collection – get that red rose between your teeth.

Both of these multi-talented guys play numerous instruments on the record: Amor the guitars, strings, lapsteel voices and whistles, and Convertino the drums, pianos, marimba, vibraphone and glockenspiel. They penned half the tracks each, then added their own influences to each other’s. It’s not the first time they’ve collaborated, with Amor having contributed to Calexico’s Feast of Wire and Convertino having played in ABBC (Amor Belhom Burns Convertino). It’s a fun listen, perfect for daydreaming and a siesta.

Buy The Western Suite and Siesta Songs in the Americas and rest of the world

Buy The Western Suite and Siesta Songs in Europe

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Tamikrest, The Sahara Desert as a Place of Freedom

Tamikrest – Kidal (Glitterbeat Records, 2017)

Sitting back and listening to the latest recording Kidal by Mali’s desert blues/rock group Tamikrest, I wondered if I would have even heard about the continuing struggles of the Tuareg and other desert peoples if it weren’t for the lush music spilling out of the Sahara by way of groups like Tamikrest and other musician groups like Terakaft, Tinariwen and Etran Finatawa or the powerful Sahrawi singer and musician Mariem Hassan. Sadly, I think few would even know that people live and travel these remote parts of the Sahara much less know about the struggle to maintain their nomadic identity if it weren’t for the music.

Fortunately for us Glitterbeat Records has got all the little music junkies out there covered with Tamikrest and their latest Kidal set for release on March 17th. Following up on previous recordings Adagh, Toumastin, Chatma and Taksera, Tamikrest again wraps up listeners in the familiar sleek guitars, rolling rhythms and meaty vocals on Kidal.

Recorded in Bamako, Mali, Kidal gets some extra special treatment with producer Mark Mulholland from Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra and mixer David Odlum who earned a Grammy for his work with the group Tinariwen. Two years in the making, Kidal is worth every single track.

Tamikrest leader Ousmane Ag Mossa says of the recording, “Kidal talks about dignity. We consider the desert as an area of freedom to live in. But many people consider it as just a market to sell multinational companies, and for me, that is a major threat to the survival of our nomadic people.”

Opening with those familiar desert blues riffs on “Mawarniha Tartit,” Tamikrest lays down a sound that’s hypnotic and driven. Packed with guitar, percussion and drums, Kidal kicks some serious rock riffs. Tracks like “Manhouy Inerizhan,” “War Toyed” and “War Tila Eridaran” are brilliantly fiery, but its tracks like slower and bluesy “Atwitas” that blow the listener away with its sleek, edgy guitar, laced in kora lines and roughed over vocals.

Kidal is chocked full of goodies like the acoustic guitar led “Tanakra,” the fabulously trippy and immensely satisfying “Ehad Wad Nadorhan” and the folksy, homey “Erres Hin Atouan” with its call and response vocals. There’s also the rocking “Adoutat Salilagh” and the sweetly worked closing track “Adad Osan Itibat” to satisfy all your desert blues/rock needs.

Kidal is power to the people through music and it doesn’t get any better than that.

Buy Kidal in the Americas

Buy Kidal in Europe

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