CD reviews: A trio of CDs with a whole lot of sounds |

CD reviews: A trio of CDs with a whole lot of sounds

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Shervin LainezSwedish-born, New Orleans-based singer and multi-instrumentalist Theresa Andersson has released the album "Street Parade."

produced by Tobias Fröberg (Basin Street)

The publicity materials for “Street Parade,” the new album by singer and multi-instrumentalist Theresa Andersson, claim that Andersson’s video for the song “Na Na Na” has received 1.5 million hits since being posted in 2008.

I’m guessing I’m the only one who clicked on it solely for the music. Andersson, born in Sweden and stationed in New Orleans for two decades, is a rare beauty. And I confess that when Andersson used to play Aspen, as a member of the band backing her former boyfriend, Anders Osborne (another Swede who found a musical home in New Orleans), physical attractiveness was part of the attraction.

Then Andersson released the 2008 album “Hummingbird, Go!” which I found extraordinary in all ways. Recorded in her kitchen on a bunch of improvised instruments, it was eerie, unique and beautiful.

“Street Parade” is, blissfully, more of the same. Despite the title, which suggests a traditional New Orleans style, and the fact that Andersson at one time did seem interested in standard New Orleans sounds, “Street Parade” is from some other world, one more of the imagination than from a recognizable physical location. The sound is lo-fi and hazy, and the cast of players is tiny – Andersson plays everything from violin to glockenspiel, backed by drummer Arthur Mintz and Tobias Fröberg on electric guitar and organ -but it is hardly minimal. Handclaps, horns, marching drums, layered vocals and samples turn Andersson’s take on ’60s girl-group into something dense and cosmic – an invitation for the mind to wander and wonder. Adding to the mystery is Andersson’s voice, which remains clean and clear amidst the unusual swirl of sounds.

I’d recommend “Street Parade” even if the album cover didn’t feature a photo of Andersson.

produced by Osborne, Stanton Moore and Warren Riker (Alligator)

Anders Osborne (who is not a bad-looking guy himself) is an addict, a subject he addresses directly in the song “Mind of a Junkie”: “My soul is a hurricane,” he sings as he enumerates just what is swirling around in that soul – nervousness, melancholy, preachiness, isolation.

If Osborne is a hurricane, then “Black Eye Galaxy” is a perfect reflection of the turmoil. The album moves from one mood and one sound to the next: wicked hard-rock guitar, melodic pop-rock, spacey instrumental passages, rootsy folk-blues, gospel. On the sludgy “Black Tar,” co-written with Little Feat’s Paul Barrere, Osborne throws effects on his voice that make him sound like a different singer altogether. Maybe for Osborne, this is the essence of the addicted personality, never being able to settle anywhere and feel as if you’re in the right place. Osborne has considerable gifts; on “Black Eye Galaxy,” there might be too many of them.

produced by Townsend and Martine (Savoy Jazz)

Guitarist Bill Frisell is on a well-deserved roll these last few months, releasing an outstanding John Lennon covers album, “All We Are Saying,” appearing as a key guest on Bonnie Raitt’s new album, “Slipstream,” and taking two major awards: The Doris Duke Arts Award, which comes with $225,000; and the Stewy Award, which comes with a prominent mention in The Aspen Times.

And now “Floratone II,” an exquisite follow-up to 2007’s “Floratone.” Here Frisell moves into post-modern mode. He and drummer Matt Chamberlain, along with a few guests including keyboardist Jon Brion, violist Eyvind Kang and Denver trumpeter Ron Miles, play the instrumental tracks. The sounds are then handed over to producers Lee Townsend, Frisell’s steady partner, and Tucker Martine, who has worked with the Decemberists and My Morning Jacket. The producers don’t interfere too heavily with the source material; most of the tunes sound almost like live tracks, just cut up, funked up and electrified a tad.

“Floratone II” hits funk and creeping minor-key jams. But the standout track, “Do You Have It?” is a nod to the Meters, making me wonder if Frisell and Co. should record a full New Orleans-flavored album. Answer: Yep.

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