Category Archives: CD Reviews

Third Meeting of the Mandolin Virtuosos

Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg – Third Journey (Adventure Music, 2018)

Two of the leading American mandolin players, Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg, reconnect again for the third time. Third Journey contains a set of superb mandolin duos showcasing the virtuosity of both musicians. The music is inspired by bluegrass and other forms of American traditional music, along with Brazilian sounds, Bach and jazz-infused improvisation.

Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg met in 2007 at the Mandolin Symposium in Santa Cruz, California. Although they had heard about each other, had each other’s albums and respected each other’s playing, they had not met formally. The duo’s first collaborations was titled Mike Marshall & Caterina Lichtenberg (Adventure Music, 2018) with a focus on Bach, Brazilian music, Bulgarian traditions and bluegrass music. The second album, JS Bach (Adventure Music (2015) was dedicated to their favorite composer Johann Sebastian Bach.

On Third Journey, Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg deliver impeccable mandolin virtuosity and intuitive interplay.


An Instructive Representation of Black Cowboy Music

Dom Flemons – Black Cowboys


Dom Flemons – Black Cowboys (Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2018)

Celebrated multi-instrumentalist, singer and musicologist Dom Flemons, a founding of the seminal Carolina Chocolate Drops, explores and honors the African American cowboy songs of the Old West.

Dom Flemons used poems, rearranged traditional songs and composed new material using a mix of American folk, country and other American roots music forms.

On Black Cowboys, Dom Flemons is joined by various blues and folk musicians from the Washington Dc area as well as members of the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Dom Flemons played a wide-range of musical instruments from various traditions: 6-string banjo; background vocal; cow “rhythm” bones; fiddle; fife; Fraulini Angelina 6-string guitar; Fraulini Angelina 6-string guitar-banjo; Mexican guitarrón; harmonica; Hawaiian guitar; kazoo; mandolin; marching bass drum; original Hound Dog resonator guitar; Plectrum 4-string banjo; quills (musical instrument); recitation; snare drum; Stella 12-String Guitar; upright bass; and vocals.



Flemons’ earlier recording include Prospect Hill (Music Maker, 2014) and American Songster (2009).

The extensive Black Cowboys CD booklet contains a history of black culture in the American West, details about the songs, vintage photos and biographical information about the artists.


Early Psychedelia, Jazz and Beyond from the former Czechoslovakia

Various Artists – Czech Up! Vol. 2: We’d Be Happy

Various Artists – Czech Up! Vol. 2: We’d Be Happy (Vampisoul VAMPI 178CD, 2018)

The Vampisoul label is bringing back music from various countries and genres in a series of compilations. Czech Up! Vol. 2: We’d Be Happyy is a collection of widely-diverse tracks extracted from the Supraphon label in the former Czechoslovakia.

Although Czechoslovakia was behind the Iron Curtain, the artists at the time were deeply influenced by western music: pop, rock, psychedelia, funk and jazz.

On Czech Up! Vol. 2: We’d Be Happy you’ll find primarily a set of catchy pop and rock songs with psychedelic guitars and the classic brass sounds of the era, as well as some great funk jazz and contemporary jazz pieces.

The highlights on the album are the tasty funk jazz of Mahagon; the rhythm of Blues of Blue Effect, a band that later evolved towards progressive rock and became on the leading prog rock acts in Central Europe; the organ-fueled jazz of SHQ; the progressive jazz band Jazz Q featuring Joan Duggan; the blues and funk rock of Flamingo featuring Narie Rotrová; the quirky global fusion and prog rock of Barnodaj; and the Procol Harum-inspired sound of Hana Zagorová.

The CD booklet includes vintage photos and album covers with biographies of the artists featured, with in depth liner notes by Lukás Machata.

Purchase Czech Up! Vol. 2: We’d Be Happy


Woven Threads, a Remarkable Connection of Cutting Edge Jazz and Chilean Folk

Stu Mindeman – Woven Threads (Sunnyside Records, 2018)

Pianist and composer Stu Mindeman intertwines the sounds of North and South America in Woven Threads. The Chicago-based musician spent his childhood in Chile when his father played with the Santiago Symphony. At the time, Stu was exposed to South American folk music and he celebrates Chilean music with various collaborations with Chilean artists. He returned to South America to record some of the sessions in Santiago, Chile.

Musically, Woven Threads takes the listener to a marvelous voyage where contemporary jazz, Chilean folk music, Latin American beats and Latin jazz fusion come together.

The highlights of the album are the songs that feature outstanding Chilean singer Francesca Ancarola; Stu Mineman’s fine piano and electronic keyboard work, soundscapes and delightful string arrangements; Kurt Elling’s exquisite vocals, Matt Gold’s fabulous guitar, and Marquis Hill’s trumpet solo. The album flows beautifully, except for the tiresome rapping by Ana Tijoux.

Woven Threads showcases masterfully-crafted world fusion by talented jazz musician and musical explorer Stu Mindeman.


Affirmative Reggae from Guam

For Peace Band – Always Love

For Peace Band – Always Love (Rootfire Cooperative, 2018)

Award-winning For Peace Band is a rising act in the American reggae field. The band from the island of Guam in the Pacific plays a mix of roots reggae, pop and dub. It is feel good reggae with a positive message.

For Peace Band was founded in 2012. Members include Jacob Iosa on keyboards and vocals; Freddy Bordallo on drums and vocals; Danton Cruz on bass and vocals; and Ronald “RJ” Pereira on guitar and vocals. Guests on the album include Star Alaniz of Hawaiian reggae band The Steppas and Iya Terra vocalist Nathan Feinstein.

Always Love is a superbly -crafted modern reggae album by one of the finest acts in the American reggae scene.

Buy the digital download edition of Always Love


The Portuguese Guitar Visits Disregarded Spaces

Henrique Borges – Incursão (Henrique Borges, 2018)

Virtuoso musician Henrique Borges explores the versatility of the Portuguese guitar on Incursão (Incursion). The original musical pieces are composed and arranged by Borges. Incursão features fine solos by Borges along with fascinating interplay with the accordion and cello. Musical influences include Portuguese folk music, chamber music and tango.

Incursão is part of a larger urban exploration project of derelict places that includes photography. Henrique Borges traveled to various countries and came back with photographs in various vacated locations such as an abandoned nuclear power plant in Belgium. The photos were compiled in a book titled Urbex.

The lineup on Incursão includes Henrique Borges on Portuguese guitar; Vânia Moreira on cello, Pedro Santos on accordion, and Luís Teixeira classical guitar.

Incursão is a fascinating musical depiction of urban decay by Portuguese guitar maestro Henrique Borges.

The album Incursão and the book Urbex can be purchased at and record stores.


Agricantus’ Wondrous Mediterranean Journey

Agricantus – Akoustikòs Vol. 1 (CNI Music, 2018)

Celebrated Sicilian ensemble Agricantus has been making wonderful amalgamations of Italian and world music mixed with electronics since 1993. Although Akoustikòs still contains some electronic elements, it is very subdued and the focus is on enhancing the acoustic side of the band.

Akoustikòs recreates some of Agricantus’ earlier material under a new perspective. The vocalist here is pianist and singer Anita Vitale. She has a multifaceted style that ranges from soul influences to theatrical ourbursts.

The instrumentalists are Mario Crispi on various wind instruments from across the globe, bassist Mario Rivera and percussionist Giovanni Lo Cascio. Crispi and Rivera are the main composers of the ensemble and their creations are an exquisite set of songs rooted in Sicilian traditions, Turkish and North African music, and Australian aboriginal didgeridoo.

The musicians on the album include Anita Vitale on lead vocals, Fender Rhodes and piano; Mario Crispi on archaic wind instruments and vocals; Mario Rivera on 6 string acoustic bass, double bass, guimbri and vocals; and Giovanni Lo Cascio on drum set and percussion.

Guests featured: Massimo Laguardia on frame drums and vocals; Enzo Rao on violin and oud; and Seby Burgio on piano and keyboards.



Akoustikòs showcases the talent of world music alchemists Agricantus in their quest to explore new musical territories.

Buy Akoustikòs Vol. 1


Extraordinary Southern Hemisphere Island Music Fair Trade Connections

Various Artists – Small Island Big Song (Small Island Big Song, 2018)

Small Island Big Song is a remarkable musical project envisioned by Australian music producer and filmmaker Tim Cole and his partner BaoBao Chen.

Concerned about the rising seas due to climate change and how this alteration will have a devastating effect on the inhabitants of many islands that have managed to live a sustainable existence, Cole and Chen spent three years recording the music of various cultures and indigenous groups from countries and island nations in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean.

The fascinating musical voyage traces ancient migration and trade routes that connect the islands. The producers captured an enormous amount of film footage and audio recordings, featuring over 100 musicians from 16 countries.

The collection on Small Island Big Song contains multi-tracked performances and jams between musicians from diverse cultures. Some of these include the sape lute from the Dayak people of Borneo (Malaysia) with a bamboo ensemble in Papua New Guinea; Maori music combined with Taiwanese Indigenous harmonies; Easter Island Jaiwaian reggae along with a Kompang group from Singapore; and the mesmerizing water music of Leweton Village in Vanuatu.

The extensive list of artists includes:

Madagascar: Bosco Rakoto, Clara Andrianaivo, Monja Manitsindava, Sammy Andriamalalaharijaona, Rajery, Ankivio Village Band, Nofy Be, Belo sur Mer, Saroba and Sandro.
Taiwan: Piteyo Ukah, Ado Kaliting Pacidal, Siao-Chun Tai, Djanav Zengror and Luona Cultural Group
Singapore: Kompang Hut
Indonesia: Gus Teja
Vanuatu: Leweton Village
Tahiti: O Tahiti E and Poemoana
Malaysia: Alena Murang, Arthur Borman, Tepu’ Doo’ Ilah, Pahin Lusang and Uko Usun
Solomon Islands: Charles Maimarosia
Papua New Guinea: Airileke, Ben Hakalitz, Markham Galut, Koyawa, Yumi Yet Bamboo Band, Richard Mogu and Mongal String Band.
Hawaii (USA): Kekuhi Kealiikanakaoleohaililani and Kuana Torres Kahele
Rapa Nui/Easter Island (Chile): Yoyo Tuki
Torres Strait Australia: Mau Power, Will Kepa, Gabriel Bani and Tommy Billy
Aotearoa/New Zealand: Waimihi Hotere and Horomona Horo

The physical edition is beautifully packaged and designed with lyrics, numerous photos and credits. It’s fair trade music, where 50% of the net profit goes back to the musicians and communities.


A Remarkable Meeting of Mexican and Chinese Plucked Strings

Wu Man & Son de San Diego – Fingertip Carnival (Wind Music, 2018)

Acclaimed Chinese pipa player Wu Man enjoys musical journeys, collaborating with musicians from other cultures as a member of the Silk Road Ensemble and other projects. On Fingertip Carnival she collaborates with Son de San Diego, a son jarocho ensemble from San Diego in California.

Fingertip Carnival celebrates the plucked string traditions of China and Veracruz State in Mexico. The album includes six traditional son jarocho songs along with with two recreated Chinese songs.
Wu Man & Son de San Diego provide beautiful interactions between the pipa and the traditional Mexican guitars: the jarana, guitarra de son, leoncita (a larger version of guitarra de son) and punteador (a small guitar).

The musicians that appear on Fingertip Carnival include Wu Man on pipa; Eduardo García on guitarra de son, jarana segunda, panpipes, vocals; Chris Mena on leoncita, punteador and vocals; Germain Lita on jarana tercera and vocals; Verónica Pacheco on guitarra de son and zapateado; Cindy Cox on jarana segunda, vocals, zapateado; Cris Juárez on jarana mosquito, vocals and zapateado.
Fingertip Carnival is an extraordinary meeting of cultures that brings together the beautiful traditions of southeastern Mexico and China.

Get the album from


Briliant Accordion Work by Matti Kallio

Matti Kallio – Waltz for Better Times (Matti Kallio, 2018)

Waltz for Better Times is the first solo album from accordionist, composer, arranger and music producer Matti Kallio. It’s a set of delightful contemporary instrumental pieces inspired by Finnish folk music.

Matti Kallio is a superb instrumentalist who extracts a wide-range of expressions from the accordion, from dazzling speed to delicate slow tempo performances. Throughout the album he’s joined by equally talented musicians on various string instruments who contribute finely crafted solos and interplay with the accordion.

The last track on the album features one of the finest accordion players from Finland, Maria Kalaniemi who engages with Matti Kallio in an exciting dual accordion interaction.

The lineup includes Matti Kallio on accordion; Petri Hakala on mandolin, guitar, and mandocello; Hannu Rantanen on double bass. Special guest: Maria Kalaniemi on accordion.


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