Govt Mule takes satisfying reggae turn
There are so many CDs Ive been dying to get around to reviewing (and swearing up and down to various publicists who send me the stuff that I would, yes, certainly, absolutely review). Aah, the best-laid plans of mice and music reviewers the CDs that I promised would be placed on the top of the pile have somehow made their way down, 20 deep, under other equally worthy albums.So here we go, quick and dirty reviews of the leftovers from 2007 that merit attention, but somehow didnt get it.Govt Mule, Mighty Highproduced by Warren Haynes and Gordie Johnson (ATO)Now that Warren Haynes has left Phil Lesh & Friends, hes got plenty of time to devote to other interests (like leading the Allman Brothers Band and Govt Mule, and playing the occasional solo gig). His latest hobby is reggae. On Mighty High whose title plays on Govt Mules last CD, High and Mighty Haynes and company dont dabble, but go reggae to the core. There are retitled remakes of several Mule songs, plus covers of the Bands The Shape Im In, Al Greens Im a Ram, and, with guest singer Toots Hibbert, the R&B classic Hard to Handle. All of it is rastafied, but the reggae touch varies from total to moderate, and includes dub-style, roots and more, making for an uncommonly diverse take on Jamaican music. Is it any wonder that Govt Mule and the mighty Haynes make a reggae classic?John Scofield, This Meets Thatproduced by Scofield (Emarcy)Youll be told that This Meets That is not one of John Scofields groove CDs, as the guitarist is backed by a relatively straightahead rhythm section of electric bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart. But Sco is always in a groove, and here he gets it on not so much with funk rhythms, but with an inventively utilized horn section the horn arrangements are by Scofield and imaginative material that includes House of the Rising Sun and a raunchy take on I Cant Get No Satisfaction. When necessary, Swallow & Stewart bring the grease and Scos guitar is always pushing the groove thing.Luciana Souza, The New Bossa Novaproduced by Larry Klein (Verve)Luciana Souza is a serious talent. Like her parents, the 40-ish Brazilian is a composer; she is also a graduate of the masters program at the New England Conservatory of Music, and sings classical music as well as bossa nova. Here, she makes herself most accessible, giving a gentle, appealing bossa nova treatment to songs by such tasteful tunesmiths as Sting, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and James Taylor, who appears for a duet on his own Never Die Young. Bolstering the accessibility factor is producer (and Souzas husband) Larry Klein, who has made easy-on-the-ears albums with female singers Madeleine Peyroux, Shawn Colvin and Mitchell (his former wife).And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, So Dividedproduced by Mike McCarthy and And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead (Interscope)Frankly, I was a bit scared of this; it came as a relief when the first track was actually a minute and a half of near-silence. The rest of it, the fifth album by the Austin rockers is quite noisier but also thoughtful, grand and arty, similar in scope at times to The Who, with elements of polyrhythm and prog-rock, and even esteemed classical violinist Hilary Hahn on Witchs Web. Lyrically, So Divided is a downer but clever, with visions of failed hopes and wasted days expressed with a touch of fantasy.The Sadies, New Seasonsproduced by the Sadies and Gary Louris (Yep Roc)Like latter-era, countrified Byrds, and country-rockers New Riders of the Purple Sage? Then you should like New Seasons, by Canadas The Sadies (that is, unless you have something against retro knock-offs). The Sadies do have a way with this music, and put their own grit on early-70s country-rock. And if they didnt then producer Gary Louris formerly of the Jayhawks, another Byrds-esque group would.Free Peoples, Sittin on a Goldmineproduced by Free PeoplesNorthern California band Free Peoples has always spiced its acoustic music up with swing, rock and other unexpected elements. Sittin on a Goldmine shows an even wider range of flavors. More electric than acoustic, there are wah-wah guitars, bluesy feels, drums, four vocalists and trombone, lots of Jason Thors trombone which add up to a good-time stomp through roots music.Neil Young, Live at Massey Hallproduced by David Briggs and Young (Reprise)Stephen Stills, Just Roll Tapeproduced by Stills (Rhino)Occasional mates Neil Young and Stephen Stills separately dive into the vaults and return with varying types of gold. Youngs catch a live, solo acoustic performance from January 1971 you know had to be down there somewhere. But you didnt know it would be so good, with inspired takes on then-fresh material Journey Through the Past, Dont Let It Bring You Down, On the Way Home and such rarities as Bad Fog of Loneliness. With Stills, this is an unexpected find: acoustic, well-performed studio demos from 1968, some that would become well-known (Change Partners, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes), and others that might never have seen the light of day had this tape not emerged four decades later.Terence Blanchard, A Tale of Gods Will (A Requiem for Katrina)produced by Blanchard (Blue Note)Among the backwash from Katrina has been music, probably none of it more poignant than this cycle by jazz trumpeter and New Orleans native Terence Blanchard. A Tale of Gods Will opens with Ghost of Congo Square, a stew of mourning, hope and that spine-tingling Louisiana je ne sais quoi, wrapped in Latin-derived rhythms. The album, featuring the Northwest Sinfonia, is thick with history, both personal (Dear Mom) and communal (Ghost of 1927). Blanchard guides us through the sounds of the Big Easy and the emotions of Katrina, and what comes to the surface in the end is a grim acceptance that Gods hand can be brutal a distinctively New Orleans way of looking at the world.The Frames, The Cost(Anti-)After seeing and, of course, falling head over heels in love with the movie Once, it occurred to me that I had seen somewhere a CD by the Frames, the group led by Once star Glen Hansard. Turns out the CD was on my desk, unopened and waiting for me. The Cost which features several songs from the film is lush, smart rock songs about romance, given a naturally melancholy tone by Hansards quavering voice. But I prefer the far more stripped-down Once soundtrack. There are more, believe me there are more. Perhaps a second (and third, fourth, etc.) helping of leftovers is in the future.Stewart Oksenhorns e-mail address is email@example.com
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With COVID-19 health and safety practices in place, who is up for a road trip to see the Denver Art Museum’s hotly anticipated exhibition on Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera?