Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Afro-Latin from Austin - Brownout

Freestyle (www.freestylerecords.co.uk)

Austin, Texas, long a pace-setter, has more recently broadened its horizons to boast a growing contingent of Latino bands. Tapping its South Texas roots, Brownout serves up a sizzling, mostly instrumental repertoire heavy on guitar, sax, brass, and congas, recalling but never imitating precursors like Joe Bataan, Santana, Tower of Power, Dr. Loco's Rockin' Jalapeño Band, Los Lobos, Los Mocosos, and Grupo Fantasma (where some players do double duty). No wonder the Austin Chronicle named Brownout the city's "Best Live Act," nodding to a dance frenesí of boogaloo, soul funk, salsa, Afro-Latin, Afro-beat, and acid jazz sounds. To wit, "Con el Brownout no se juega" ("don't mess with Brownout") could be a latter-day reincarnation of Cal Tjader and Mongo Santamaria, while "Chafa Khan Artistry" constitutes a head-on collision between Willie Bobo, King Tubby, James Brown, and a sonic barrage of unidentified flying objects. Take cover! - Michael Stone

CD available from Amazon.com

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Tango, or something like it....

The 1930s brought recording technology to Argentina, which sparked local exposure to jazz via the big-band recordings of Ellington, Basie, Goodman, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw and others. In rough chronological order, guitarist Oscar Alemán (who backed Josephine Baker and played with Django Reinhardt), bandoneon master Dino Saluzzi, Juan Carlos Cáceres (piano, trombone, voice), saxophonist Gato Barbieri, and composer Lalo Schrifrin are important seminal figures in Argentine jazz. It was only in the 1960s, however, after visits by Dizzy Gillespie among others, that local figures like Schifrin, Caceres, Barbieri, and Astor Piazzolla began to garner international notice. Military dictatorship suppressed jazz's development, although Piazzolla recorded with the likes of Gerry Mulligan and Gary Burton in the 1970s and 1980s. Today a younger generation has enjoyed the benefits of conservatory training and broad exposure to international jazz. Argentina boasts numerous jazz festivals and radio stations, and a lively club scene that values originality over slavish emulation of the neo-bebop canon.... RootsWorld world music reporter Micheal Stone explores a parcel of recent recording of the new century's tango, or something like it

Read More in RootsWorld

Monday, March 23, 2009

Galician chanteuse offers beach-warmed songs with elegant arrangements

Eterno Navegar
World Village/ Nordesia (worldvillagemusic.com)

It's -6° F in Cleveland as I write this. Eterno Navegar gave me a little over an hour's holiday from the bone-biting cold here on America's North Coast. It's a breezy collection (just try writing a review of an Uxia CD without using the word breezy; it can't be done) of beach-warmed songs with elegantly light-handed arrangements. A little samba, a little fado, a little tango, a little cabaret, all wrapped in gauzy layers of piano, guitar, accordion, muted trumpet, with a little bagpipe and hurdy-gurdy thrown in for color.

The Galician chanteuse has been knocking around for over 20 years, and she knows her way around a song. She keeps things playful and full of delightful surprises. Each track here is a little gem. "Unha noite na eira do trigo" is a loopy waltz with a hint of cabaret and tasteful touches of theremin. "Alalá de Muxia" has the tender restraint of a lullaby, with vocals that go barely above a whisper and gentle piano, cello, and soprano sax. "A lira" is a traditional song from the Azores with a simple, almost child-like melody. It starts out quietly with just a little piano, and then builds to a big sing-along with a full chorus, bagpipe, and a Tom Waits sound-alike on harmony vocals.

The packaging is as beautiful as the music, with some gorgeous and inspired seashore photography by Quim Farinha. Rarely are the aural and the visual so charmingly paired. You'll want to dig your toes into this one like warm sand. - Peggy Latkovich

CD available from cdRoots

Read more about Uxia's past recordings in RootsWorld

Friday, March 20, 2009

Quebec's band of tricksters: Genticorum

cd coverGenticorum is a band of trickster conjurers, performing rhythmic sleight-of-hand on the dance music of their native Quebec. They have the wry, slightly skewed attitude of a cabaret emcee, dropping the occasional naughty joke into their songs just to watch the audience titter in guilty delight. Even the band's name is nonsensical, evoking what? A quorum of gentle folk? A gentleman's forum? Who knows?

The trio has three albums under its belt, the second of which, Malins Plaisirs, garnered a Best Ensemble award at the 2005 Canadian Folk Music Awards. The band is currently globe-hopping in support of its latest release, La Bibournoise. RootsWorld reporter Peggy latkovich caught up with flute/fiddle/bass player Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand by phone between tours.... Read the full interview and see a liver video performance

Buy their new CD

Listen to La grondeuse opossum

RootsWorld, cdRoots

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuaregs are roots-rocking the world: Tinarwen on tour

Tuareg roots-rock band Tinariwen tour the U.K. and U.S. in March and April 2009

18 De La Warr Pavilion Bexhill
19 De Montfort Hall Leicester
20 Manchester Academy Manchester
21 Edinburgh Picture House Edinburgh
22 Liverpool Philharmonic Hall Liverpool
23 Leeds Irish Centre Leeds
25 Komedia Bath
26 Koko London
27 Reading Town Hall Reading
28 The Rainbow Warehouse Birmingham

16 Palace of Fine Arts Theatre San Francisco
17 Rio Theatre Santa Cruz
18 Coachella: Empire Polo Field Indio
19 Santa Fe Brewing Company Santa Fe
21 KTAOS Solar Center Taos
22 Old Town School Chicago
24 Le Poisson Rouge New York
25 Heineken TransAtlantic Festival Miami

Read the latest RootsWorld review

Tinarwen: Live in London (DVD)

Other fine rock-and-blues-influenced Saharan guitar bands have followed in their wake (including Etran Finatawa, Toumast and Terakaft), but Tinariwen beat the rest to wider recognition and remain either the best of the bunch or the first among equals depending on how you look at it. Great though their albums are, Tinariwen also deliver in concert. I caught them live at the Houston International Festival in 2006, and they managed to do a lot with a little. Standing in an all but stock-still row on the stage and barely speaking between songs, they attracted a large and attentive crowd in remarkably short order with nothing but pure hypnotic guitar and bass riffs, sparse percussion and vocals that split the difference between Timbuktu and the Mississippi Delta.

The group's new Live in London DVD similarly finds them making magic with the simplest of ingredients, though here the lineup is expanded to include female backup vocals (which they didn't have on their '06 U.S. jaunt), a guest turn by Justin Adams (the versatile U.K. guitarist and producer who helped bring Tinariwen to the attention of the world) and of course production values including cameras zooming in on the little nuances that make the music all the more persuasive. By and large, though, the presentation of the concert portion of the DVD is as simple as the music, so the featured songs from Tinariwen's three albums get by unassumingly and brilliantly on the strength of indomitable Touareg spirit, non-indulgent guitar mastery and spellbinding, repetitive rhythms.

This would be enough to make this release a must-have, but consider the bonus material as well. There's a lengthy interview with band founder Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, conducted by a desert campfire at night, in which he speaks in riveting detail about the hardships of post-colonial Mali and how he embraced music to overcome them. A shorter interview with Adams and a mini-documentary provide further elucidation as to the band's origins, outlook and creativity. It all makes for a combination of music and imagery that provides nothing glossy or clever in the way of visuals, yet scores an absolute knockout in presenting what Tinariwen does best and the story behind it. - Tom Orr

DVD available from cdRoots

More reviews available on RootsWorld

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Requiem for 1847: remembering the famine

From the RootsWorld archives, some words to remember for St Patrick's Day.

1997 marked the 150th anniversary of the worst year of the Great Irish Potato Famine. 1847 was the nadir of a natural calamity that could have easily been reversed. Instead, it was crafted via human agency into a holocaust. Descendants of the victims world-wide still refer to it as "Black '47" Farm By the middle of the 19th century, the potato was the Irish peasantry's major source of sustenance. It adapted well to growing conditions in Ireland and produced large yields from small plots. Eaten with buttermilk for protein, it was a nutritious complex carbohydrate rich in vitamins and minerals. However, an entire race's hand-to-mouth dependence on a single foodstuff was a precarious thing and presaged disaster... In Christina Roden's article from 1997, she talks about the Irish famine of the 1840's with The Chieftains' Paddy Moloney, Black 47's Larry Kirwan, and composer Patrick Cassidy.

Read the article

Randy Newman sings of the afterlife and history

Randy Newman
Harps and Angels

Harps and Angels reprises a droll, garrulous, heartfelt Crescent City gospel-blues sensibility that longtime Newman fans will happily recognize. The good old boy-struck down by a heart attack, hearing the angel band before copping a pearly gate reprieve-might be the singer himself, or anyone who's confronted the inexorable finality of life as we know it. Newman combines a smart (ass) show-tune sensibility ("A Piece of the Pie," "Laugh and Be Happy") with wry sentimentality ("Losing You," "Feels Like Home"), provocative social commentary ("A Few Words in Defense of Our Country"-in ironic country western mode, with a righteously aggravated Supreme Court critique), the certain fate of rich old men ("Only a Girl"), political incorrectness ("Korean Parents"), senior moments ("Potholes," as in "God bless the potholes down memory lane"), and a prickly finger on the absurd, entropic pulse of the human condition (listener's choice). Harps and angels, hallelujah. - Michael Stone

Available from Amazon.com

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Amparanoia's last licks

Seguire caMinando
Via Lactea

Spain's Amparanoia have reportedly called it quits, with singer Amparo Sanchez's solo career already mapped out and set to commence soon. The band's blend of flamenco roots and global sounds never had the same go-for-the-throat intensity as Ojos de Brujo or the eclectic finesse of Radio Tarifa, but it's still damn good and will be missed. And as long as they're bowing out, it's proper that they're doing it right with this smashing CD/DVD box set featuring a 2006 performance in Barcelona and a disc of rarities and remixes spanning the decade that came before. Sanchez and company absolutely soar on the live stuff, tightly locking down tunes that move from flamenco and rumba to funk, rock, reggae and jazz with a combination of anthemic passion and celebratory energy. The crowd is with them at every turn, and even those (like me) whose understanding of Spanish ranges from rudimentary to non-existent will get pulled in, caught up and completely bowled over. All the visual fire of the same concert that CD #1 covers is on the DVD, plus a smartly done documentary that chronologically tells the Amparanoia story from Sanchez's perspective. Further evidence as to how solid this band was can be found on the studio disc, particularly the remixes, which hint at how Amparanoia might well have incorporated a little more of the cutting edge without tossing aside their largely organic approach. Whatever Sanchez has on the way, let's hope it sticks to the same high standards as this fond and fitting farewell to the group she no longer fronts. - Tom Orr

The artists' web site (www.amparanoia.com) has dozens of live and studio clips, including this live perforamnce of "La vida te da"

Their music is available from Amazon.com

RootsWorld: Twittering into the new century

Twittering into the new century

One of our younger contributors is constantly trying to drag me into the current century of technology, with much resistance on my part. But she might have something with Twitter, and odd little bit of social networking that allows people to "twitter" on about what they are doing. In my daily rounds of searching for audio and video I often find myself e-mailing links and quotes to friends. So I figure: why not send them to you, the RootsWorld reader, as well.

If you don't 'twitter' it is pretty easy to set up, and if you do, you can 'follow' mine if you like: Twitter @rootsworld

Is it useless nonsense or another interesting communications device? We shall see. Remember, in 1993 when I put my first review online, the internet was seen as a silly trifle in a vast electronic desert. - Cliff

Friday, March 13, 2009

Saving children in Mali, one at a time

A Malian proverb says that a woman in labor has one foot on earth, and one foot in the grave. The proverb is all too true: a woman in Mali has a 1 in 15 lifetime chance of dying from childbearing complications... For most Malian women, auxiliary midwives, or matrones, are first and only health care provider they will ever see. Mali Midwives facilitates continuing education opportunities for rural matrones in Mali.

Former RW reporter Craig Tower has a new mission in Mali. Read about his work in Mali today

Coro Bajolese: spiritual voices in Turin, Italy

Coro Bajolese
O Maria béla Maria
FolkClub Ethnosuoni (www.folkclubethnosuoni.com)

While the tired old concept that music is a "universal language" is open to debate, the fact that the timeless human drive toward choral singing is a near global phenomenon cannot be argued. From gospel choirs in the United States to Bulgarian women's choruses to Slovenian singing societies to South African isicathimiya groups, people are drawn to the blending of disparate voices into an architectural whole.

Coro Bajolese has been joining their voices in song since 1966, when they formed in Bajo Dora, a small hamlet in the province of Turin. O Maria béla Maria was made in 2007, the centenary of the death of Costantino Nigra, the group's founding director. The group's current 26 members, all but one of whom are male, are lead by Amerigo Vigliermo. Their music has the robust reverence of a church choir. Formally, most of the songs consist of call-and-response passages, with a soloist or small group singing a short phrase which is then answered by the whole. The soloists vary not only in range, but in timbre and grasp of tonality. Some voices are more accurate and polished than others, but this is what gives the music its democratic appeal. If you're looking for slick perfection, look elsewhere. This music is earthy and earnest, proof that the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. The blend of all of these incongruent voices is rich and warm, with the nubby texture of raw linen. - Peggy Latkovich

Listen to "La casun ed Mariantun"

CD available from cdRoots

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Greek artist Savina Yannatou sings 'Songs of an Other'

Since 1993, singer Savina Yannatou and Kostas Vomvolos (qanun, accordion, musical direction) have stood at creative core of Primavera en Salonico (nay, oud, guitar, violin, viola, double bass, percussion). While rooted artistically in Thessalonica, for Yannatou and Primavera, their Greek and Sephardic roots are only a jumping-off point in a project that covers the Mediterranean waterfront and ranges far beyond... Recorded in Athens, Songs of an Other comprises a dozen varied settings for Yannatou to conjure her delicate yet commanding vocal instrument, confirming the power and primacy of the human voice throughout her work...
Read the full review and watch a video

Monday, March 09, 2009

Chango Spasiuk - Pynandí (Los Descalzos)

Chango Spasiuk - Pynandí (Los Descalzos)

Argentinean accordion virtuoso and composer’s 2009 release is Pynandí -- Los Descalzos (Barefoot, from an indigenous Guaraní word, referring to the rural poor) Like American blues, Portuguese fado and Argentina’s own tango, the sunny, lilting chamamé was at one time considered too lower-class to be of interest to educated listeners. This recordin is a love letter to the land of Spasiuk’s birth, capturing the red earth, blinding heat, rough good humor and warm fellowship of laborers heading out for an evening’s fun. But while cheerful on the surface, it also harbors edgy moments of dissonance. Suite Nordeste opens with an accordion astride a staggering percussion motif. Guitars, fiddle and other instruments fight to create luchness and roughness, always seeking a contradiction of some kind. Spasiuk engenders the best of the tradition, then tosses it into his own unique mix.

Buy it here