Friday, October 30, 2009

CD Review: Cesaria Evora

Nha Sentimento

The infatigable queen of Cape Verde music is back again with Nha Sentimento. Cesaria Evora has released countless albums over the years, and this one continues her legacy in the world of contemporary Cape Verde music. Cesaria sings primarily catchy dance-floor type songs called coladeras, while leaving her more iconic blues style (morna) on the back burner. Classic melodies, jazzy percussion, and Afro-Caribbean tones accompany Cesaria Evora's unmistakable voice. Fourteen tracks cover nostalgic songs of joy, tranquility, sadness, and optimism. Back-up vocals and earthy percussion are reminiscent of one's feet shuffling about a dance floor. Nha Sentimento is another fine selection of music from the mouth of Cesaria Evora. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Best of Bonga

Best Of Bonga

Angola's Bonga has been an iconic fixture in the music of Africa since the 1970's. The result is a timely release of hits spanning some thirty years. There are songs from a selection of prior albums, including his debut release, Angola 72, along with Angola 74, Mulemba Xangola, Kaxexe, Maiorai, and previously unreleased tracks. The influence of Portuguese culture in Angola has shaped the way music is created. Though, Bonga's musical expressionism is steeped in the sounds beyond Angola, including Cape Verde, Portugal, and France. It is difficult to include all the great songs of Bonga on one album, so listeners will find the Best Of... to be an excellent place for new fans to become familiar with Bonga's music. The sultry voice of Cape Verde's Lura adds a special sound to the first track, "Mulemba Xangola". A special remix track, "Kapakiao", is included and takes on an eery trip-hop edge that is sure to elicit enjoyment for all who listen. Anyone interested in Bonga's previous works, as well as the contemporary music of Angola, Portugal, Cape Verde, or France, will find Bonga to be particularly refreshing and satisfying. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, October 25, 2009

CD Review: Don't 'Balk' At Txutxukan's Balkan Music


Hailing from France, Txutxukan (pron: tchoo-tchoo-ken) is a Balkan/Gypsy group named after the Basque phrase for "puttering about" or "doing odd jobs". Fortunately, there is nothing overtly odd about this quintet. Though, the song titles are inventive (albeit, direct) and humorous (i.e. "Riff", "23", "Septic Swing", "Humpty Dumpty", etc.). The self-titled release is an excellent cross-section of musical creativity culturally steeped and brewed in the folk and gypsy traditions of Europe. Txutxukan's line-up includes bouzouki, clarinet, kaval, guitar, banjo, double bass, accordion and occasional vocals. Another likely musical influence is comparable to the Middle Eastern region. Though, the French-cafe element is evident on "Mets de L'air" and "Sinai". If you are looking for a fusion-based Balkan/Gypsy group, then look no further. The boys of Txutxukan are here to stay! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Jace Everett's Red Revelations

Red Revelations

Jace Everett (USA) is probably best known for his song, "Bad Things", on HBO's hit show True Blood. However, Jace is no one hit wonder here. From the opening song, 'Possession', Jace explores original songs of a bluesy-gritty-Western sound uniquely his own. Essentially, the sound is similar in tone with Chris Isaak. Still, Jace's songs are grittier with a hint of classic country and Southern soul. The instrument repertoire consists of drums, bass, guitar, mandolin, piano, mellotron, vibes, moog, bells, and back-up vocals. Jace is the lead acoustic guitarist and vocalist. Overall, Red Revelations is a darkly-tinged hour of creative wonder that leaves every listener feeling happy and content. Keep it up, Jace! ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, October 22, 2009

CD Review: Rising Gael's Irish Music

One More Day

For a group that has members at schools in Texas, Wisconsin, and Massachusetts, Rising Gael's tunes on One More Day showcases what magic happens when stars collide in the recording studio. They are a folk-Celtic group made up of lead vocalist/flutist/tin whistler, Erin Ellison and her compatriots, Peter Tissot (guitar, percussion, keyboards, bass, banjo), Katie Dionne (fiddle, step dancing), and Jeff Olson (bodhran, bagpipes, harmonica and percussion). The group is not particularly traditional in the typical sense, as it is New Celtic music based on traditional tunes. A hint of Leahy, Corrs, and April Verch are found throughout the tracks. Sweet lyrics, groovy interludes, and Gaelic/Celtic nostalgia is a foundational element of Rising Gael. If you are looking for great music for studying, coffee shop talk, or the festival scene, Rising Gael definitely rises high. ~ Matthew Forss