Eagle (Real World Records, 2009)
After snagging prime spots and rave reviews on the BBC and National Public Radio for their Mongolian grasslands recording Introducing Hanggai, producers Robin Haller and Matteo Scumaci are back with another fabulous find in the form of singer and musician Mamer with his CD Eagle.
The leader of the China’s alt-country band ‘IZ,’ Mamer steps center stage on this solo debut CD and breathes new life into the traditional grassland sound of his homeland in the Xinjiang province. Keenly innovative and compelling, Mamer, with the help of producers and fellow musicians Haller and Scumaci, remakes a repertoire of grassland song and forges a contemporary Chinese folk sound that is captivating and evocative.
Flavoring the sound with dombra, a whole range of guitars from nylon to electric to 12-string, [wiki:bouzouki], jew’s harp, [wiki:kobuz], hand drums, bass, electronic programming and throat singing by Iichi, Eagle is replete with a sumptuousness that goes far and beyond the origin of these simple tunes that were traditionally sung with just an accompanying dombra. And yet, these lush tracks find the sweet simplicity or big sky temperament of their originals with unerring aim in the expressive vocals by Mamer and the delicate balance between modern technique and the inherent soulfulness of the songs themselves.
Listeners will bask in the elegant rolling rhythm of title track "Eagle," the flute sweet "Iligai" and the hypnotic "Proverbs" with its gravelly lead vocals and dreamy backing vocals by the Ishek Sisters. Tracks like the panoramic soundscape "Kargashai" or "Flute Song" with its clever turns of instrumentation or the ethereal vocals on "Mountain Wind" lure the listener in with tightly drawn compositions and expert execution. Added bonuses are the delightful romp of "Celebration" featuring guest musician Bela Fleck and a version of "Mountain Wind" that was mixed by the late French producer and Mamer fan Hector Zazou.
Eagle is a monumentally satisfying take on the modern grassland sound. Mamer and company haven’t just repackaged a folk tradition but recaptured, renewed and reinvented it for a whole new audience.
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Author: TJ Nelson
TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.
Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.
Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.