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 »
Pairing Del McCoury and Sam Bush is at once a perfect match and somewhat antithetical. The older guitarist who made a name for himself in bluegrass before Bush had even touched an instrument is completely rooted in the music’s historical resonance—Americans struggling through the depression and then working through the building of this country’s middle class. Bush, on the other hand, is included in the crop of players influenced by that early wave of performers but also sixties counterculture. Musically, the duo share an affinity for the traditional, although Bush and his mandolin have been seen cutting up stages posed as a rock star. McCoury, a guy who’s been around long enough to tour and record with a band comprised of his children, still hedges toward traditional lyrical topics, issuing a 2006 album made up of devotional tunes. Read the rest of this entry »
Joe Pug may not call Chicago home anymore, but it’s still a homecoming whenever the husky-voiced folk singer with the old soul rolls into town.
“Every time we go back on the road, about twenty percent more people come,” Pug says by phone from Austin, where he now lives. “People come five times in two years, and people there at the first show are still at the fifth show. At the end of the day, it’s a little family of people who come out to shows.” Read the rest of this entry »
For the overwhelming majority of his career, Chicago-native Tom Paxton has worked in the periphery of folk music. He’s toted his guitar around since the early 1960s, brushing up against genre luminaries like Pete Seeger, and has had his work covered by even better known pop stars. During these six decades, Paxton’s mostly been operating under the auspices of independent labels, maintaining a following while seeming supremely reserved when compared to his contemporaries, who embraced an electric sound to relate their message. Political songs, though, sound just as urgent in Paxton’s acoustic strains, even when set against his story songs and a spate of lighter music. Read the rest of this entry »
Hearing the Monkees’ Micky Dolenz belt out “Take a Giant Step” really is a good enough reason to raise that boy band beyond the scope of its brethren. The actor’s take on what’s become a recognizable part of American culture has been put to wax innumerable times since the late sixties and may even out-stripe the versions bluesman Taj Mahal has worked up. Before issuing the track on his 1969 “Giant Step” album, Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder ruffed the song up for inclusion in the Rising Sons’ songbook, which was largely comprised of well-known covers. The more aggressive, earlier version might not rank alongside classics from the middle of the decade, but it serves to announce a performer with a voice as powerful and emotive as his guitar playing. Read the rest of this entry »
By Ernest Barteldes
The latest release from Brooklyn-based Chicha Libre is a feast to the eyes even before it reaches your ears. The words “Canibalismo” shout out in bright yellow, white and red letters with a background of rainforest vegetation–a clear reference to the late 1960s tropicalismo movement that started in Brazil as a response to the psychedelics of America and Europe during that time.
Asked about the cover, French-born Olivier Conan (who also co-owns Barbès, an alternative performance space in Brooklyn, NY) says that the reference was intentional. “We meant to reference Tropicalia,” he says over an e-mail interview. “The album is named ‘Canibalismo’ after Oswald de Andrade’s autophagous manifesto, which was Tropicalias’ manifesto—and while the graphic style wasn’t derivative, it does evoke that era.” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo: Ted Johnson
By Lindsay Kratochwill
The streets of Hyde Park are dark, empty and cold when I finally make it to the apartment building and, as instructed, ring buzzer seventeen. A tiny square of paper is taped to the clear glass door with four musical notes in four different shapes: a triangle, oval, rhombus and rectangle. Soon, a silent stranger comes to let me in. As we climb the spiral stairs, I begin to hear it; a great sound, welling up and abruptly de-crescendoing. It is powerful but erratic, seeping through the walls of the stairwell.
Shape note singing is raw, loud, haunting—a wall of sound. We step inside the warm apartment and the music, sprung from the throats and hearts of those in the room, envelopes me. Each imperfection creates a beautifully eerie chord. Read the rest of this entry »
Setting up a residence near the Ohio-West Virginia border seems like a sensible move for Jorma Kaukonen, Jefferson Airplane’s lead guitarist and eventual founder of Hot Tuna with his longtime friend and Airplane bassist Jack Casady. Out there in the boondocks at his Fur Peace Ranch, Kaukonen stages workshops, features guest instructors and has gone so far as to host a music festival to pull in some hippie-college-kid money—Ohio University’s just twenty minutes up the road. Kaukonen’s best-known group was never considered too functional, but Hot Tuna’s been able to persist for decades beyond most other sixties San Francisco groups. Read the rest of this entry »
What Bettye LaVette’s been up to during the new millennium sounds wholly disconnected from the singles she belted out during the sixties and seventies. Her voice, though, is as powerful as it was five decades back. Since album-length work wasn’t de rigueur for soul singers at the time LaVette was seeking to establish herself as a top-tier purveyor of gutsy crooning, there weren’t any early career full-lengths of her work available. Collections cropped up every once in a while—“Bluesoul Belles” pairs LaVette with Carol Fran, and “Souvenirs” collects a substantial portion of her would-be introduction to the listening public, “Child of the Seventies.” Read the rest of this entry »
Everyone has a friend they were close with who moved away. Sometimes years pass between meetings, even as each interim conversation is nothing other than pleasant. But finally getting together with a friend you grew up with in the suburbs and finding this person attired in cowboy garb is troublesome. That’s what John Doe’s career feels like. Ditching home for Los Angeles back in the seventies, Doe hooked up with some local punky characters to form X and record a few of the most thoughtfully crafted albums of the punk era. Read the rest of this entry »