Category Archives: CD Reviews

Anatolia’s Joyful Celebration of Turkish and Arabic Folk Traditions

The Best of Folk Music Group Anatolia (Edward Hines Music, 2018)

The Best of Folk Music Group Anatolia is a compilation that includes recordings from Anatolia’s previous three albums: Folk Songs and Dance Music of Turkey and the Arab World (1996), Lost Songs of Palestine (2001), and Middle Eastern Songs and Dances for Children (2005).

Anatolia is a world music group led by American multi-instrumentalist Edward J. Hines, whose goal is to preserve the folk,classical and dance music traditions of the Middle East.

The Best of Folk Music Group Anatolia presents a fascinating overview of the rich and varied folk traditions of Turkey and the Arab world, using a wide spectrum of traditional musical instruments performed by Hines and his collaborators.

Even if you don’t speak the language, the popular Turkish children’s song “Ali Baban’ın Çiftliği” reels you in right away with its catchy hooks. It’s a lot of fun, featuring various mimicked farm animal sounds.

The lineup includes Edward Hines on ‘ud, divan sazi, kaval, clarinet, zurna, buzuq, cura, sipsi, ocarina and vocals); Taner Okatan on saz, baglama, divan sazi, percussion and vocals; Michel Moushabeck on percussion and vocals; Jamal Sinno on kanun; Jenny Killgore on violin, kasik and vocals; Bruce Rawan on kanun; Mohammed Mejaour on nay, percussion and vocals; Saied Khoury on violin, buzuq, ud and vocals; and V. Tailan Yildiz on accordion.

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The Early Works of the Queen of Mbira

Stella Chiweshe – Kasahwa: Early Singles (Glitterbeat, 2018)

Kasahwa:Early Singles introduces for the first time a set of rare early recordings by Zimbabwean mbira (thumb piano) pioneer Stella Chiweshe. These fascinating singles were only released in Zimbabwe and are very hard to find.

Most of the tracks were recorded in the 1970s and early 1980s, featuring solo mbira as well as mbira with vocals and shakers. Nick Robbins remastered these recordings for Kasahwa and are now available on CD, vinyl and digital.

Playing mbira as a woman was a very difficult task. It was traditionally played by men and Stella Chiweshe had a lot of difficulty finding a teacher and an mbira maker willing to build one for her one. Eventually, she borrowed one and recorded her first single.

Stella Chiweshe became a local sensation. After Zimbabwe became an independent nation in1980,  Chiweshe started touring internationally, first as a soloist of the new National Dance Company of Zimbabwe, and later under her own name.

Kasahwa: Early Singles showcases the pioneering work of Stella Chiweshe on the mesmerizing mbira.

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Quebecois Powerhouse Collaboration

Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan – Notre Album Solo

Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan – Notre Album Solo (La Compagnie du Nord, 2018)

 Two of the greatest acts in the Quebecois music scene, Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan, got together to record Notre Album Solo (Our Solo Album). It’s a delightful collection of recreated traditional music from Quebec (Canada) along with new pieces and some Celtic music elements.

You’ll find outstanding vocal work, including entertaining call and response vocals, foot percussion, fiddles, accordion, hurdy gurdy and more.

Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan

Notre Album Solo is a tribute to the Quebec traditional music revival that has been ongoing for the past decades. The two bands share tradition and family. Two members of each band have a brother in the other.

The CD booklet includes lyrics and song descriptions in French and English.

The artists featured in Notre Album Solo include Éric Beaudry on vocals, bouzouki, guitar; Simon Beaudry on vocals, bouzouki, guitar; Nicolas Boulerice on vocals, hurdy gurdy, piano; André Brunet on fiddle, foot tapping, vocals; Réjean Brunet on basses,button accordion, jaw harp, piano, vocals; Olivier Demers on fiddle, foot tapping, vocals, guitar, mandolin; Pierre-Luc Dupuis on button accordion,harmonica, jaw harp, vocals; and David Boulanger on fiddle, vocals.

Notre Album Solo presents masterful performances by Le Vent du Nord and De Temps Antan, celebrating Quebec’s effervescent Francophone culture.

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Eddie Palmieri’s Loving Tribute to Iraida Palmieri

Eddie Palmieri – Mi Luz Mayor (Uprising Music/Ropeadope, 2018)

Mi Luz Mayor (My Greater Light) is dedicated to Iraida, Eddie Palmieri’s late wife, who was the love of his life. The legendary Latin jazz pianist, composer, arranger and band leader selected the music that Palmieri and his wife relished in their youth. The album features musical pieces by various composers and originals by Palmieri.

“Because this music is in her honor, everything from start to finish had to be of the highest caliber and I am proud to say that it is just that,” says Palmieri about Mi Luz Mayor.

Although Eddie Palmieri is well-known as a Latin jazz composer and performer, his music incorporates a rich variety of influences on salsa, Colombian music, Afro-Latin music, Colombian cumbia, rock, Puerto Rican rural music, mambo and romantic boleros.

The list of musicians who participated in Mi Luz Mayor is impressive. In addition to his regular band, Eddie Palmieri invited some of the finest musicians and vocalists in the Latin jazz and salsa scene, hailing from the US, Puerto Rico and Cuba.

Three special guests appear on Mi Luz Mayor, Puerto Rican salsa and bolero star Gilberto Santa Rosa on vocals; famed Puerto Rican-American salsa singer Hermán Olivera; and the fabulous Carlos Santana on electric guitar, injecting a remarkable solo on Mr. Congo, which makes this piece sound like top of the line Cuban timba.

Eddie Palmieri

The lineup on Mi Luz Mayor includes Eddie Palmieri on piano; Luques Curtis on bass; Karl Perazzo on timbales; Camilo Molina on timbales, drums and itótele; Pequeño Johnny Rivero on congas; Anthony Carrillo on bongos, cowbell and iyá; Nelson González on tres; Gabriel Lugo on okónkolo; Jerry Medina on backing vocals ; Juan Pablo Díaz on backing vocals; Brian Lynch on trumpet; Jonathan Powell on trumpet; John Walsh on trumpet; Pete Nater on trumpet; Chris Rogers on trumpet; Conrad Herwig on trombone; Jimmy Bosch on trombone; Joe Fiedler on trombone; Chris Washburne on trombone; Doug Beavers on trombone; Tokinori Kajiwara on trombone; Louis Fouché on alto saxophone; Yosvany Terry on alto saxophone; Ralph Moore on alto saxophone; Ivan Renta on tenor saxophone; Craig Handy on tenor saxophone; Jeremy Powell on tenor saxophone; Gary Smulyan on baritone saxophone; and Ronnie Cuber on baritone saxophone.

Special guests: Giberto Santa Rosa on lead and backing vocals; Carlos Santana on electric guitar; and Hermán Olivera on lead vocals.

Mi Luz Mayor features exceptionally good, timelessly crafted Latin big band songs by one of the brightest Latin Jazz artists of our time.

Buy the Mi Luz Mayor CD and download in Europe

Buy Mi Luz Mayor digital download in North America


Multifaceted Ud with an Indian Cultural Foundation

Dhafer Youssef – Sounds of Mirrors (Anteprima, 2018)

Seasoned Vienna-based Tunisian ud (lute) player, composer and vocalist Dhafer Youssef has been working for the past years on a variety of fusions, mixing Arabic ud with jazz and other musical forms. On Sounds of Mirrors, Dhafer Youssef invited famed Indian percussionist Zakir Hussain, fulfilling his dream of working with the acclaimed tabla player. He also recruited another colleague, Turkish clarinetist Hüsnü Şenlendirici.

 The third guest of honor on Sounds of Mirrors is Norwegian jazz guitar virtuoso EivindAarset, who contributes atmospheric electric guitar and electronics.

Sounds of Mirrors is a reflective album of great beauty, showcasing the versatility of the ud in a fascinating dialogue with the rhythms of the tabla and clarinet melodies, enriched with “aerial guitar.” Although Dhafer Youssef is the composer and arranger of the album, he gives plenty of space to HüsnüŞenlendirici.

Even though Sounds of Mirrors was originally meant to be a tribute to ZakirHussain and tabla, the album took a twist. Shafer felt that “working with and from an Indian cultural base, we could approach a more universal speech…”

Dhafer Youssef’s earlier albums include Malak (Enja), Electric Sufi (Enja), Digital Prophecy, Divine Shadows, Glow (Material), Abu Nawas Rhapsody (EmArcy), Birds Requiem (Okeh), and Diwan of Beauty and Odd.

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Superb Anthology of Mónica Giraldo’s Songs

Mónica Giraldo – Al Oido -The best of Mónica Giraldo (GLP Music, 2018)

Al Oido -The best of Mónica Giraldo presents one of the finest singer-songwriters in the current Colombian scene. Mónica Giraldo delivers a set of beautiful songs, accessible and exquisite at the same time.

Mónica Giraldo has an engaging vocal style that immediately hooks you in. She’s also an excellent guitar player and her intention is to highlight the role of the guitar in Colombian music.

Mestizaje (hybridization) has been a focus for Mónica Giraldo for several years. She incorporates Colombian traditional genres such as cumbia and bullerengue along with Cuban and Brazilian musical influences.

The CD version of this album is highly recommended. It includes a nicely-designed booklet with notes, lyrics and credits in Spanish and English.

Al Oido – The best of Mónica Giraldo is an excellent introduction to the beautifully-crafted songs of Mónica Giraldo.

Buy Al Oido -The best of Mónica Giraldo


Global Visions of Ska

Various Artists – Ska Around the World (Putumayo World Music, 2018)

Putumayo compilation Ska Around the World takes the listener on a lively trip throughout the world, showcasing artists who have incorporated ska into their music, including the famed Jamaican band The Skatalites. Ska is the upbeat Jamaican dance music style born in the late 1960s that preceded reggae.

Ska was “rediscovered” in the early 1980s when some British pop acts (part of what was called New Wave) integrated it into their music. Later, it was also adopted by French-Spanish artist Manu Chao and many of his followers, who made what is known as mestizo music, a hybridization of various musical genres.

Ska Around the World includes various fascinating interpretations of ska, ranging from rootsy, brass-fueled songs and instrumentals, to ska-pop forms. The artists sing in English, Spanish and Dutch.

The artists featured include Orquestra Brasileira de Música Jamaicana (Brazil); Chris Murray (Canada); Akatz (Spain); The Skatalites (Jamaica); Zazí (The Netherlands); The Pepper Pots feat. ASPO (Spain); Playing for Change (USA); The New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble (USA); Sarazino (Algeria/Ecuador); and St. Petersburg Ska-Jazz Review (Russia).

The CD booklet includes an introduction to ska music and profiles of each artist.

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The Entertaining Crosscultural Brass Sounds of Salento

Cesare Dell’Anna and GirodiBanda – Guerra

Cesare Dell’Anna and GirodiBanda – Guerra (11/8 Records, 2018)

On the album Guerra, Italian trumpeter Cesare Dell’Anna explores various musical genres from a brass band perspective. The album features an odd mix of Italian street marches and sounds, Balkan brass sections, reggae beats, Middle Eastern street references, pizzica, dub, Salento folk dance songs, and the voices of street vendors.

There is a lot of fun and social criticism as well. American president Trump is disapproved on the song “Trump@, cavallo di ritorno palestinese.”

Cesare Dell’Anna directs the show, on vocals and playing trumpet, bombardino, drums, percussion and Moog synth. He is joined by a band from Puglia and the brass ensemble Opa Cupa. On Guerra, Cesare Dell’Anna also enlisted the most charming and expressive voices of the Salento tradition: Enzo Petrachi, Claudio Cavallo, Irene Lungo, Rachele Andrioli, Maria Mazzotta, Pino Ingrosso, Puccia, and Talla.

During live concerts, the cast of musicians and vocalists is joined by jugglers and street artists who create an amusing traveling street parade show.

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A Chiseled Bluegrass Sound Grounded By Tradition

NewTown – Old World (Mountain Home Music, 2018)

The group NewTown has on tap Old World on the Mountain Home Music label and this sweet little bluegrass recording will certainly get the juices flowing. Following up on recordings Harlan Road and Time Machine, this Lexington, Kentucky based group gathers up all the goodness of bluegrass by way of fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar and still manages to put a fresh voice on the genre. Putting polish on NewTown’s bright sparkly sound is producer Barry Bales from Alison Krauss and Union Station fame.

NewTown members, fiddler and vocalist Kati Penn, banjo player and vocalist Jr. Williams, guitarist and vocalist Aaron Ramsey, bassist Travis Anderson and mandolin player Mitchell Cannon have crafted a fine sound that is grounded by tradition and set free from those traditions by degrees through their own sound. NewTown is fresh and inviting.

Opening with “Fly Away,” NewTown takes flight with Ms. Penn’s vocals sure to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, add in fiddle, guitar, mandolin and bass and all is right with the world.

Moving through tracks like “Evangeline,” “Heart of Stone,” “Laura Lee” and “Forgotten War” NewTown grows as sweet and comfortable as driving down a long road in a old truck with a good dog.

“The Harvest” is certainly a standout with soulful vocals and some brilliant fiddle lines, just as “Naomi Wise” shimmers bright and clear with Ms. Penn’s crystalline vocals against a truly twangy goodness.

Closing out with “Never Miss the Sun.” Old World wraps up potent mix that sure to snag fans.

Old World puts NewTown squarely on the musical map and we can’t wait to see where we’re going next.

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Straight to the Heart, the Passionate and Depressive Side of Macha

Macha y El Bloque Depresivo – El Bloque Depresivo (Barbès Records, 2018)

El Bloque Depresivo is the debut album from Macha (Aldo Enrique Asenjo Cubillos), the lead singer of acclaimed Chilean cumbia and roots music band Chico Trujillo. As the melancholic band name indicates, this project founded in 2012 specializes in the most depressing, slow songs that Macha and his colleagues performed during Chico Trujillo’s live sets. The idea was to sing passionate boleros and romantic despair ballads to soothe overexcited audiences.

Bloque Depresivo’s song set is intensely rooted in the traditions of Valparaiso, Macha’s birthplace. Valparaiso is a port city where you’ll find musical influences from across the South American region and overseas. Songs about longing, romance and rebellious happiness of poets and sailors.

El Bloque Depresivo features a number of the finest musicians in Chile and several guests including Chilean vocalist Álvaro Henríquez of the band Los Tres; Mexican band Son Rompe Pera; Brazilian artist Luciano Cardoso, better known as Maluco de Café con Leche; and Argentine actress Juli Laso.

Buy El Bloque Depresivo