Photo: Javi Rojo
Though best known for her work as a flamenco singer, Palma de Mallorca-born Concha Buika has broadened the genre through her very personal interpretation and also by taking the music in unusual directions. In 2011, she collaborated with Anoushka Shankar on the sitarist’s genre-bending “Traveller” (Deutsche Grammophon), an album that mixed influences both from Indian and Flamenco into one package.
On her new release, “La Noche Mas Larga” (Warner Latina), Buika offers a collection of self-penned songs and a handful of covers—including a great update of Abbey Lincoln’s “Throw It Away” that features a rollicking electric bass line by Alain Pérez that serves as a backdrop for the percussion and piano. Read the rest of this entry »
Mike Rep/Photo: Mary Jo Bole
By Dave Cantor
As suburban sprawl began its duplicitous creep, a kid named Mike Hummel and his family took up residence in Timberlake, a region southwest of Ohio’s capital. It was the 1960s.
Hummel, better known to scum punk collectors as the titular character of Mike Rep & the Quotas, stuck it out in a place he refers to as nowhere a few times in emails and over the phone. But if it weren’t for Timberlake and his parent’s affinity for R&B and 1950s rock ‘n’ roll, the character of Columbus’ musical topography would waver differently all these years later.
In addition to his family’s good sense, though, Rep reveled in a friendship that would wind up spanning decades and countless bands.
“When ‘Israelites’ came out on AM radio, it was a Top 40 hit in America,” Rep reminisces. “To us, it just sounded like a weird take on R&B. … The first time I met Tommy Jay was at a basketball court near where we lived, and we discovered it was both of our favorite song on the radio at the time.” Read the rest of this entry »
Music is arguably one of the few art forms that is able to erase political or ideological boundaries. No matter how someone might feel about the Cuban embargo or the Castro Brothers, you will still listen to the piano magic of Chucho Valdes or the members of the Buena Vista Social Club. The same goes with Persian music, which has found an audience stateside in spite of the tensions between us and the Ayatollahs in Iran.
On this well-crafted collection, singer Zohreh Jooya leads an ensemble on a collection of songs from her native land, all performed with traditional acoustic instruments. The songs are a great introduction for newbies who are unfamiliar with this kind of music—there are long instrumental interludes between the vocals, and Jooya has a poignant delivery. Read the rest of this entry »
By Dave Cantor
Paul Williams is dead.
And while the journalist’s March 27 passing has little impact on Akron/Family, its new disc “Sub Verses” or the fact that the trio, augmented by Los Angeles-based synth-junkie M. Geddes Gengras, is set to appear at the Empty Bottle on Tuesday, Williams’ death points to a necessity to discuss music differently.
Postmortem, the Crawdaddy! founder is amid some of the widest appreciation he’s been afforded in decades. It’s easy to resurrect the dead’s legacy and reflect on it in an age of digital cataloguing. But what the guy keeps getting credit for is commenting on music in a way that had less to do with picking out what time-signature’s being used and more connected with what those rhythms make a listener feel—how the emotive qualities in a recording work on the person taking it in.
Akron/Family drummer Dana Janssen may or may not be aware that Williams is no longer spinning vinyl and opining, but the Portland-dwelling percussionist says he hopes journalists can eventually write uniquely on his band. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Jon Sievert
By Dave Cantor
“Is there such a thing as a straight jazz band?” David Grisman wonders.
If there’s an answer—and the mandolin player is correct in making such a query—he’s certainly never performed in one.
Beginning in the wilds of New Jersey, the man who’d become known simply as Dawg came of age during that time in the 1960s when players stopped cordoning off musical genres. But the difference between Bill Monroe and acts like the New Grass Revival pertain more to attitude than song selection and improvisation. Read the rest of this entry »
A decade after her smash hit “Thank You” put this English singer on the pop map and five years after 2008’s “Safe Trip Home,” Dido reemerges with this concise album that brings together all the nuances of her style, blending folk-rock, electronica and straight-ahead pop. The album opens with the acoustic ballad “No Freedom,” whose lyrics reflect on the necessity of allowing people to have freedom within the confines of a relationship. The title track makes a playful allusion to the lover “who got away,” the sort of utopian dream-like person who many of us were unable to keep by our sides. Read the rest of this entry »
credit Ronald Rietman
Carving out a career spanning the nation’s coasts, autochthonous musics and several decades makes Peter Rowan a reasonably unique performer. Coming from the northeast folk scene and counting Eric Von Schmidt among his contemporaries—yeah, the same guy Bob Dylan shouts out on his first album—Rowan gigged in rock and folk groups before winding up in the company of the Bluegrass Boys and Bill Monroe in Nashville. But that was only a situation that would last a few years, and soon enough, the guitarist was immersed in the Bay Area’s developing hippie scene. Performing alongside David Grisman in Muleskinner led to an eventual alliance with Jerry Garcia in Old & In the Way, both early newgrass supergroups. And while each ensemble only issued a handful of songs, one of Rowan’s contributions—“Midnight Moonlight”—has become something of a standard, winding up on assorted albums, including work by New Riders of the Purple Sage (there’s a seven-minute version with Tony Rice on their “Quartet” recording from 2007). Serving for so many years as an adjunct to fascinating musical company, Rowan eventually struck out on his own during the late 1970s. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Sven Creutzmann
The descendants of Haitian immigrants that settled in Cuba until the late fifties, The Creole Choir of Cuba is a ten-piece ensemble of voices and percussion who sing the music of their ancestors in a highly personal manner. Singing in Creole (Haiti’s second language), their lyrics speak about their history and heritage. Some songs were written centuries ago, while others, like “Tande,” were composed to talk about the cruel years of the Duvalier regime. Read the rest of this entry »
All the literary attention Leonard Cohen’s garnered before and during his music career contribute to the shaggy allure trudging along behind the Canadian-born singer and writer. His raspy, hushed singing has always served to distinguish the guy—even from Bob Dylan’s croaking. What’s weird, though, is that Cohen’s issued more work in the last two decades than during his “classic” period in the 1960s and 1970s. Partially, that seems to be a function of troubling financial scenarios doggin’ the singer. But even if Cohen weren’t necessitated to issue new works, there’s still that outpouring of thought he’d need to take care of—he’s a writer, after all. So, hoofin’ it through Chicago without a brand new album to hawk is a bit surprising. And it’s not. The songs comprising “Old Ideas” warrant a twelve-month period to simmer, and Cohen has no doubt rethought the performances of his works, interpreting them anew after each experience on the road. There’s not a musical revelation to be witnessed, but talk-singing for almost eight minutes is still pretty impressive. Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Meg Bitton
“American Idol” might have brought us talent like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and then-unappreciated Jennifer Hudson, but there were many other promising artists who ended up vanishing even if they did well on the show. While some flamed out soon and wound up playing minor parts in off-Broadway shows, some used the exposure to create a niche audience and build a solid career once the cameras were turned off.
An example of this is Ohio-born Crystal Bowersox, who was runner-up during the show’s ninth season (defeated by Chicago’s Lee DeWyze) in 2010. Signed to Jive Records that year, she released “Farmer’s Daughter,” and despite positive reviews and reasonable sales, she was dropped after RCA disbanded her label. She has since signed with indie label Shanachie Records (which also includes Ruben Studdard—another “Idol” veteran—in its roster) and is in the works to put out her sophomore album “All That For This” under the production of Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin. Read the rest of this entry »