Tidawt – “Agamgam ” – [Nomad Foundation]

ArtCrimes   6/5/2007   CD, International

Tidawt are Tuareg musicians from Niger. This is not traditional music, but original songs that are informed by the nomadic lifestyle of the Tuareg, where family and traditional customs keep them going, despite political disruptions to their way of life. Although Tidawt exists as a larger group in their homeland, the recording here is by the touring group of three members, singing and playing acoustic guitars and some percussion???the trot of the camel serves as the rhythmic influence for many of these songs. Entirely sung in a Tuareg dialect, with guitar work at times suggests a Malian style, but often the chordal sequences are just as much western as they are African.

Baird, Meg – “Dear Companion ” – [Drag City]

ArtCrimes   6/5/2007   A Library, CD

Meg Baird
???Dear Companion???

Meg Baird???s full length, following up on the 7??? added at KFJC in the Fall of 2006. Both those tracks are here, as well as a mixture of original, traditional, and 70???s-era covers. This is a solo project recorded at home with no other musicians, with the steady, assured style of British folk pioneers like Anne Briggs, with virtually none of the psych-folk of Espers. Meg accompanies herself competently on guitar and dulcimer, as well as turning in a couple of acapella tracks (as in the unlisted track that reprises the title tune). Her original tunes are fully compatible with the traditional material, while the covers have a bit more pop sheen applied, such as multi-tracked voices. ???Waltze of the Tennis Players??? is a Fraser & Debolt tune (huh?), and ???All I Ever Wanted??? will be familiar to middle-aged hippies as a New Riders of the Purple Sage ballad.

Crash of Thunder [coll] – [Vampi Soul]

ArtCrimes   5/22/2007   CD, Soul

[collection] Crash of Thunder ???Boss Soul, Funk and R&B sides from the vaults of the King, Federal and DeLuxe labels???
Sid Nathan???s King label, based in Cleveland, was James Brown???s original home, but the output from King and its affiliates covered a wide range of artists, including R&B, Doo Wop, Soul and Blues. This collection covers deep soul, funk and dance tracks from fairly obscure vocalists and combos, most of which feature some very hip horn charts. These tracks for the most part are closer to the laid-back Southern soul sound than Motown, and other than Mickey Murray, none are much like James Brown. The instrumental tracks are pretty hot, and some have charmingly out-of-tune guitars, like The Presidents??? ???Which Way??? (an instrumental knock-off of Eddie Floyd???s ???Big Bird???). And some great shoutin??? here.

Tamburitza! [coll] – [Arhoolie Productions]

ArtCrimes   5/9/2007   CD, International

[coll] Tamburitza! Hot String Band Music
From the Balkans to America 1910-1950

The tamburitza is a stringed instrument, similar to a mandolin or bazouki, associated with the Balkans, especially Serbia and Croatia. ???Orchestras??? employing various sizes of these instruments were once all the rage among communities of Serb and Croat immigrants in America who clung to the musical traditions of their homelands. This collection presents close to fifty examples of tamburitza music recorded in the US from 1910 to 1950, with some of the earliest selections recorded without use of electricity, before the introduction of microphones. There are many sprightly instrumental dance tunes, one jazz number from 1950, and vocal numbers covering topics like farming, drunkeness, baking, and romance, although not necessarily in that order.

Bats’i Son [coll] – [Locust Music]

ArtCrimes   4/10/2007   CD, International

Field recordings made in the Chiapas mountains of Mexico back in the seventies, made by Richard Alderson for Folkways???he has gone back to the masters and spiffed them up for CD. Although a collection, no individual artists are credited here. The tracklist shows the indigenous group name and the type of song (or event). This is mostly social music, some specifically for public events (religious festivals, carnivals, funerals). This is indigenous music of the region, but the influences include some European instrumentation (violin, guitar) and styles in addition to the local languages and customs. The recording quality is amazingly good, often with a clear stereo field so you can hear individual instruments. Some tracks (like #8, 9) feature fireworks as a percussive motif! Track #7 is an acapella duet of professional prayers, who seem to enjoy their work. Tracks #19-20 are segued.

Valencia, Cant D’estil – Singing Contests [coll] – [Ocora | Radio France]

ArtCrimes   3/28/2007   CD, International

It???s ???American Idol??? as they do it in Valencia, Spain…competitive singing, done in the streets, with small backing groups. You can be overweight and plus-50 and still have a chance to win big time, as long as you can warble like a Valencian thrush. Men (Xiquet del Carme is a dude) and women both compete, and some tracks here are duets. The repertoire is limited to about 6 different backing themes (note the repetition of song titles), but the singing is mostly improvised, with lyrics made up by each performer about subjects ranging from what their nickname is, or how awful the parking is in Valencia, or ???let???s parteeeee???. The singing style is very florid and demanding, and there???s some jaw dropping moments here. The backing group, using guitar strums and brass instruments, hangs on tight, as each singer determines when the chords should change and when the song is over. (Track #13 is an instrumental interlude.)

American Primitive Vol. 2 [coll] – [Revenant Records]

ArtCrimes   3/28/2007   Blues, CD

50 great moments in recording history, ranging from blues, gospel, country, & jazz, to the just-plain-indescribable (one man band Tommy Settlers, for instance). Most folks here get 2-3 tracks each, and in some cases you can barely believe it???s the same artist. In collections like this, it???s always hard to pick the highlights, since many of these artists may not have recorded much more than what???s included here, but for immediate goose flesh, I direct you to The NuGrape Twins, Geeshie Wiley, Blues Birdhead & Mattie May Thomas. As in all Revenant products, this collection of Pre-War recordings is more than just old songs on CDs…the nicely-designed booklet not only has plentiful track info but also extensive historical and philosophical background into the project, and some great John Fahey anecdotes. For instance … John Fahey was obsessed with the past, to the extreme of releasing some of his recordings on 78s and then sticking copies into stacks of old records in thrift stores, sort of negative-shoplifting, in hopes of … well, we aren???t sure.

Art of Field Recording Sampler [coll] – [Dust-To-Digital]

ArtCrimes   3/7/2007   CD, Country

Art of Field Recording Sampler [coll]

As a teaser for an upcoming multi-disc box set, this sampler covers a lot of ground with many fairly short examples of country, bluegrass, blues, gospel and a field holler or two. Art Rosenbaum is an archivist, as well as an artist and banjo picker, and he’s made field recordings for 50 years, from Iowa to Michigan to New Hampshire and all through the south. His approach is simple and effective, along the lines of the great John & Alan Lomax recording trips in the US that are still revered today. But whereas the Lomaxes sometimes viewed their subjects through a scholarly lens, Rosenbaum clearly puts his subjects at ease, as you hear in the bits of dialog that appear on some tracks. The result is a lot of great music played by regular folks, including Ollie Gilbert, who Alan Lomax previously recorded in the late 50s. And the late Rev. Howard Finster, who once painted folk art record covers for R.E.M. and Talking Heads, is here playing banjo and singing.

Los Donnenos – “Grabaciones Originales 1950-1954 ” – [Arhoolie Productions]

ArtCrimes   3/7/2007   CD, International

Los Donnenos “Grabaciones Originales 1950-1954”

The Norteno style is found in its most basic form here, with Ramiro Cavazos and Mario Montes playing accordion and guitar (or bajo sexto, the chunky sounding Mexican 12 string). There are many story songs, typically about bad-ass gunmen or unobtainable senoritas of great mystery. Each song is tagged with its style: the ranchera has that peppy and relentless Tex-Mex beat well known to anyone within range of a Spanish speaking radio station; Corridos are text-heavy ballads about heroic deeds of both well-known and obscure characters. Track 14 is an instrumental polka.

This music is what one might have heard at a dance or saloon in southern Texas 50 years ago, far more authentic to these styles than anything one hears today.

Harris, Eddie – “Silver Cycles ” – [Atlantic (Jazz)]

ArtCrimes   2/20/2007   12-inch, Jazz

Eddie Harris ???Silver Cycles??? 1969

Eddie Harris is probably most remembered as Les McCann???s running partner on the ???Swiss Movement??? live LP, also from 1969, that featured ???Compared to What???. While that gig had more of a soul/ jazz flavor, this Harris-led studio LP is a showcase for electric sax experimentations in a variety of settings, including solo, with a straight-ahead quartet, a small group augmented by Latin percussion and larger bands adding expanded brass, a string section, and (on 3 tracks) a vocal group as sort of a ???soul pillow??? (a bit over the top production-wise, the sort of thing Creed Taylor would become notorious for a few years later on his CTI label). The solo track, ???Electric Ballad???, is pretty heavy on echo effects and may seem a little dated. The quartet tracks point towards Coltrane???s latter-day spiritual material. The larger group tackles some grooves that suggest a path to funk.

How Low Can You Go? [coll] – [Dust-To-Digital]

ArtCrimes   2/7/2007   CD, Jazz

“How Low Can You Go?” [coll]
From the fine folks at D2D who brought you the “Goodbye Babylon” gospel box, this new collection highlights the role of the string bass in jazz, blues, hokum, calypso, country, western swing, and gospel recordings from 1925 thru 1941 (prior to 1925, recording technology couldn’t accurately capture the sound of the string bass…usually the tuba performed that function instead, which was far more audible in pre-electric recordings). Probably half this collection falls unders a general “jazz” style, so the collection will reside there, but don’t let that prevent you from examining the other genres represented here. With close to 80 tracks, it’s hard to pick just a few winners, but don’t miss Wilmoth Houdini, Washboard Sam, The Spirits of Rhythm, Tampa Red’s Hokum Jug Band, Chippie Hill…and all 26 tracks on CD3 feature the same bass player, Bill Johnson, who could work in virtually any style. If there’s a general theme here, it’s all about the rhythm, with the bass getting plucked, bowed, and slapped six ways to Thursday. Nice book too, you’ll learn a thing or two.

BassDrumBone – “Line Up, The ” – [Clean Feed]

ArtCrimes   1/31/2007   CD, Jazz

BassDrumBone ???The Line Up??? Jazz

Three-piece with bassist Mark Helias, drummer Gerry Hemingway and trombonist Ray Anderson. Not a complete improv job, most tunes have heads of a sort. The trombone has to carry a lot of the melodic drive here, and Anderson is up to that challenge, with great tone and finesse. A good mixture of slow and fast grooves, and some ride one or two tempo changes before they run their course. Track #3 ponders a blues-ish strategy. The mixing here forces the instruments into their respective corners so that the individual playing gets lots of sonic detail, with the rhythm section often split at opposite sides of the stereo field. The trombone and drums sound very rich but I would have preferred a little more meat on the acoustic bass, as it seems a bit thin in comparison (until he switches to an electric on a couple of tracks).

I Belong to This Band [coll] – [Dust-To-Digital]

ArtCrimes   1/31/2007   CD, Country

[coll] ???I Belong to This Band Country

The “Sacred Harp” is a collection of religious songs written in “shape note” notation, a simplification of standard musical notation that was developed in the US about a hundred years ago to facilitate untrained singers. This collection presents versions of those Sacred Harp songs over an 85-year span. Although often recorded commercially in the ???20s (as you will hear on this collection), it???s now usually heard only live (or via private recordings) made at singing conventions throughout the US. Shape note singing is every bit a truly American musical tradition as jazz and bluegrass are, but shape note remains a lesser-heard side-route due to its purely religious focus and its lack of commercial exposure.

The shape note sound uses a limited number of musical notes, giving the music an angular quality, with rhythms that are almost martial, and a vocal approach best described as ???unrestrained???. The singing is typically split between 3 or 4 distinct parts which interlock in unusual ways. The performances here range from simple quartet settings to a large contemporary group at a singing convention recorded in 2006. The older tracks show more regional flavor in the singing, especially the quartets where the singing parts are more distinctly heard. Try tracks #12, 13, 22, 24 to get your feet wet. Let us UNITE in SONG!

Desperate Man Blues [coll] – [Dust-To-Digital]

ArtCrimes   1/31/2007   CD, Soundtrack

???Desperate Man Blues??? [soundtrack]

Record collector Joe Bussard (rhymes w/ ???Buzzard???) is already represented at KFJC by his ???Down in the Basement??? collection and the Fonotone box set collecting his own 78 r.p.m. label releases. This new collection of tracks covering about a 30 year span accompanies a documentary detailing his exploits as the uber-collector of 78 r.p.m. discs in the United States, with Joe constantly referencing one great forgotten artist after another. There are a few overlaps with other collections via acknowledged classics such as ???Cross Road Blues??? and Blind Willie Johnson???s chilling ???Dark Was the Night???, but many tracks here will be new to the average listener. It???s a near-even split between country and blues artists, along with one jazz track. His tastes regarding this music are impeccable, so every track has its virtues, but you???ll no doubt have a favorite or two of your own. For immediate relief from contemporary doldrums, try #5, 9, 10, 15, 19. Tracks #1 and 3 kick off with little audio snippets of Joe from the film.

Mustafa Ozkent ve Orkestrasi “Genclik Ili Elele” [Finders Keepers] (full length CD)

ArtCrimes   11/28/2006   CD, Format, International

It’s easy to see how this fell through the cracks of the Turkish pop scene in 1973, with the insane-chimp-in-studio cover photo and the 3-D type bursts proudly declaring “Rhythm’n’Soul”, “Blues’n’Jazz”, “Rock’n’Pop” and most charmingly, “Folc”…as if this recording easily fit all those genres. Strangely, it nearly does, and without a word ever being sung.

This instrumental combo, recorded without overdubs in what we can only assume were Spartan recording conditions, falls somewhere along the lines of Booker T & the MGs doing a student exchange program with Frank Zappa circa Hot Rats, with Hammond organ, extremely busy electric bass, and two drummers backing the ethnically psychedelic guitar work of Mustafa Ozkent and Cahit Oben. The album title translates as “Hand in Hand With Youth”, and so it’s got to have all the hip, new sounds of the era, with wah wah and other guitar effects, but it also draws heavily on traditional Turkish melodies, which utilize non-Western tunings and apparently additional guitar frets.

Master tape damage is apparent here and there, with some tape speed changes, but we’re lucky to have this at all, the liner notes suggest, due to the recycling of much Turkish vinyl during 70s oil shortages.

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