Friday, February 24, 2012

CD Review: Markeisha Ensley's 'Talk To Me'

Markeisha Ensley
Talk To Me
Emporia Records

Markeisha's soulful and swaying ballads feature doo wop melodies, jazz interludes, and New York City's classic, vocal melting pot conjures up images of smoky clubs and timeless lyrics on her latest release, Talk To Me. The gospel-tinged ballads feature classic rhythms and moods that can only be created by Markeisha. The new five-track release is energetic, jazzy, and full of pop flavor. The slow, piano-playing, jazzy vocals, and sauntering beats of the pop standard gem, "Maybe," is full of spirited emotion delivered in a mature way without needless electronica or overt rock tunes. "Still Yours" is an upbeat ska and jazz tune with a little roots and gospel thrown in for good measure. "Talk To Me" is a slow tune with light percussion and sultry vocals. "Break Free" is a gospel-tinged song about love and moving on. "Someone To Love" is a slow song with piano and strings that form a more introspective result. At any rate, Markeisha presents us with a good set of soulful gospel, classic songs that showcase a full vocal range. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Five Men In A Boat's Self-Titled Release from Norway

Five Men In A Boat
Etnisk Musikklubb

Five Men In A Boat are a Norwegian group composed of performers from Norway, France, and England. There may be five men in the group; three nationalities represented; and one unifying quality that makes it all work. The traditional folk music of Ireland, Scotland, and England may be seen here. The pensive strings, giddy concertina, and guitars make the sound come together. The vocals are what one would expect for male folk music from this region. The voices are folk-driven and varied, according to the rhythm. Some of the songs possess a seamen's ambiance. Every song contains, rugged charm, soulful yearning for nostalgia, and good old fashioned stories in musical form. Extensive liner notes in Norwegian and English are included. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: The Funk Ark's 'High Noon'

The Funk Ark
High Noon
ESL Music

The Funk Ark is a plethora of funky, mood-driven, heady tunes that feature the funkiest music this side of Africa. In fact, the group is based in Washington, D.C.--not exactly Ghana. Nevertheless, the groovy, fun, and danceable rhythms are primarily influenced by the highlife, free jazz, and afro-rock music of the 1970s. High Noon features the sax, organ, trumpet, bass, percussion, and limited vocals. The music of Chopteeth and Fela Kuti come to mind. However, this is an album for a new generation of African music. Despite its Western title and cover imagery, High Noon is a product that carries the traditions of West Africa. High Noon is great for any part of day. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Tendai "Baba" Maraire's 'Wona Baba Maraire'

Tendai "Baba" Maraire
Wona Baba Maraire
Hearth Music

As the son of Dumisani Maraire, it is only natural Tendai "Baba" Maraire would follow in his father's footsteps. In this case, Tendai takes up the shona torch and presents the world with a fiery set of shona songs inspired by Tendai's homeland of Zimbabwe. The shona music contains lively vocals, the unmistakable mbira (thumb piano), and several familiar drums: conga, djembe, and djundjun. Karim Koumbassa provides additional drumming from Guinea. Overall, Tendai adds lush melodies and traditional riffs that catapult the soul into a place of supreme beauty. The imagination runs wild and the rhythms follow closely behind. Nearly fifty-minutes of music makes the album a pleasure to listen to. If you are a fan of South African music, Zimbabwe sounds, and shona music, then pick this one up today. You ears will thank you for it. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Toure-Raichel Collective's 'The Tel Aviv Session'

The Toure-Raichel Collective
The Tel Aviv Session

The combined musical talents of Idan Raichel (Israel), Vieux Farka Toure (Mali), Souleymane Kane (Mali), and Yossi Fine (Israel) represent a very experienced and cohesive group of musicians that shine effortlessly on The Tel Aviv Session. The African, Middle Eastern, and European-influenced compositions are produced with instrumentation as a paramount element. Though, a few vocals are present, but only on a few tracks. The melodies and rhythms are accomplished with calabash, guitar, piano, bass, tar, harmonica, and kamanche. The cultural diversity is rather unique, but most of the music centers on African and Middle Eastern music. The lilting melodies of the kamanche, calabash, and guitar, make the album shimmer with rich textures and moods. This is ideal for fans of Idan Raichel, Vieux Farka Toure, Yossi Fine, and Souleymane Kane. In addition, fans of African and Middle Eastern music and authentic instrumentation without electronic or dance elements will love it. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Jeong Ga Ak Hoe and Hyejin Yoon's 'Thinking Being Irresistibly Burnt'

Jeong Ga Ak Hoe and Hyejin Yoon
Thinking Being Irresistibly Burnt

South Korean musicologist, author, and composer, Hyejin Yoon, brings us a fascinating excursion into the light and sound of South Korea's neo-traditional music. The slightly classical tone of the music is related to the types of bells, percussion, wind, and string instruments utilized. The somewhat quirky playing resembles some of the sounds from Southeast Asian (notably, Indonesian) ensembles and temple music from the same region. In any case, the music is theatrical and dramatic with scattered vocals that seemingly mimic the instrumental delivery. Hyejin's work with the ensemble is highly important for the world of music, since anything other than K-pop coming out of South Korea is incredibly rare. Anyone with an interest in Southeast and East Asian neo-traditional music will love Jeong Ga Ak Hoe and its talented composer, Hyejin. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Michala Petri's 'Chinese Recorder Concertos: East Meets West'

Michala Petri
Chinese Recorder Concertos: East Meets West
OUR Recordings

Recorder virtuoso, Michala Petri is joined by the Copenhagen Philharmonic Orchestra and Tang Jianping, Bright Sheng, Ma Shui-long, and Chen Yi on this incredible recording of classical concert compositions. The frenzied, dramatic, and contemplative elements of classical music is brought to the forefront without any vocals. The recorder tones accentuate the melodies with a filmic, almost musical overtone. The brooding strings, airy woodwinds, and bellowing percussion only add to the incredible masterpieces. Tang Jianping composes three parts of Fei Ge (Flying Song); Bright Sheng brings us "Chi Lin's Dance" and "Flute Moon;" while Ma Shui-long contributes on "Andante Grandioso," Adagio Cantabile," and "Finale, Allegretto con Gioco." Chen Yi presents three songs celebrating ancient Chinese beauty. All songs are condutced by Lan Shui. At any rate, the classical instruments, stirring melodies, and instrumental eloquence is top-notch. Fans of Chinese classical music will especially love this one. Detailed liner notes are included in English and Chinese. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Mikea's 'Taholy'


Mikea is Theo Rakotovao from Madagascar. Mikea plays the kabosy, which is a box-shaped, wooden guitar with four to six strings. The kabosy is a more rustic version of an acoustic guitar. Still, the melodies and notes are remarkable. Taholy is inspired by the blues traditions of southern Madagascar. The result is a beautifully-produced album of ear-friendly tunes and tones that possess charm, nostalgia, and island reminiscence. The kabosy is accompanied with bass, percussion, flute, and maracas. Mikea is aided by some back-up vocals on a few tracks. The ambulating rhythms are more traditional than Tarika, but not unlike Rajery. The vocal interplay is reminiscent of South African zulu music. Mikea's voice and guitar interplay are quite similar to Australia's Gurrumul, too. Overall, Mikea soars high above expectations with Taholy. If you are interested in the string and vocal music of contemporary Madagascar society, then look no further. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Las Hermanas Caronni's 'Baguala de la siesta'

Las Hermanas Caronni
Baguala de la siesta
Snail Records

The music of Las Hermanas Caronni is actually produced by twins--Laura and Gianna Caronni. The twins are from Argentina. The duo performs tango, folk, and classical music with only a cello and a clarinet. Keep in mind, the duo also sings. The emotive vocals possesss very theatrical--almost operatic--undertones. The worldly nature of the songs is reflected from ancestral origins from Switzerland, Russia, Italy, and Spain. The music is devoid of any additional instrumentation. The entire project is relatively low-fi, but the sounds are beautiful, emotional, and enthralling. Though, fans seeking a more traditional Argentinian release should look elsewhere. Fans with a leaning toward the classical approaches will enjoy Baguala de la siesta the best. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Amana Melome's 'Phoenix Rising'

Amana Melome'
Phoenix Rising
Savana Records

Born in Germany and prior resident at various places around the world, Amana Melome' produces an Afro-pop album with reggae, neo-soul, funk, and jazz influences that pervade the music. With a voice not unlike Nelly Furtado, Amana spreads her wings and flies high with catchy tunes that are uplifting and charismatic. The music is not overdone or mindless. In fact, Amana's songs are carefree, candid, and introspective. The jazzy, sauntering, and laid-back song, "Lazy Sunday," brings to mind a throwback to neo-soul of the 1970s or 80s. At any rate, the music is made for today. The blended concoctions of jazz, blues, soul, rock, and pop form a remarkable album of creative ingenuity that hits the human soul with waves of unending beauty.  "Ao Meio Dia" is a hint at Brazilian samba or jazz that latches onto one's soul and never lets go. Twelve tracks round out the album for a fifty-minute journey. Hopefully, Phoenix Rising will make a nice addition to your global music library. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Del Castillo's 'Infinitas Rapsodias' [CD/DVD]

Del Castillo
Infinitas Rapsodias [CD/DVD]
Smilin' Castle Records

Texas-based Del Castillo excite crowds with their energetic songs and charismatic personalities. Thankfully, this is all captured on their latest release, Infinitas Rapsodias. Five new songs and several previoiusly-released favorites are presented here. Many of the songs are upbeat, flamenco, and Latin/rock gems. The vocal harmonies, ballad-esque songs, and party tunes are all here. "Mujer Angel" is a lovely ballad that could be featured on any contemporary music chart in the USA and other countries, for that matter. The solemn guitar solo electrifies the soul. As a bonus, a DVD is included tht features a behind-the-scenes look at producing the album. It also containsa video for "Canta de Alma" and three covers: "Listen To The Music," What A Wonderful World," and While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Overall, the flamenco and gypsy-driven music is peppered with doses of rock and folk, which are funky, groovy, and unforgettable. Whatever you call it, 'amazing' comes to mind. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Bondi Blaster's 'Lo' Juimo!'

Bondi Blaster
Lo' Juimo!
Stronghold Sound

The music of Argentina is showcased on an inventive and decidedly modern release by San Francisco-based, Bondi Blaster. Bondi Blaster is DJ Juan Data, who experiments with down-beat samples, electronic cumbia, and acrobatic vocals that hint at folk, spoken word, and rap. The album's title is inspired by a classic Colombian cumbia album, Nos Fuimos!, by Corraleros del Majagual. The result is a party-like atmosphere that is void of sleepy, folk tunes. Instead, Bondi Blaster knows how to entice a danceable spirit and youthful exuberance in the listener with foot-stomping and hip-shaking rhythms and melodies. A handful of original compositions, remixes, and instrumentals provide a heterogeneous mix of dance, down-tempo, trance, urban, and nu-cumbia influences with a few pan-pipes that are sure to create a lively and joyful raucous. Anyone interested in South American cumbia, hip-hop, rap, dance, electronica, and funky, good music will find satisfaction in Bondi Blaster's latest hit, Lo' Juimo! ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, February 23, 2012

CD Review: SoSaLa's 'Nu World Trash'

Nu World Trash
DooBeeDoo Records

SoSaLa is Sohrab Saadat Ladjevardi, a native Persian, who has lived all over the world. As a composer, saxophonist, and music editor, SoSaLa incorporates Central Asian rhythms and instrumentation with free jazz elements and passionate vocals instilling a sense of peace and unity in Iran and throughout the world. Based in New York, SoSaLa seems to have not only acquired the native influences, but the North American styles of jazz, world music, and improvisation are also evident throughout the album. The music is not particularly modern, but it contains whirling rhythms of folk, jazz, and Mediterranean/Middle Eastern music. SoSaLa's primary vocal delivery is related to spoken word--mostly observed in poetic artforms. At any rate, SoSaLa's poetry fills the album with thoughtful ideas and personal observations that fit nicely amidst a backdrop of percussion, strings, and sax. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Geomungo Factory's 'Metamorphosis'

Geomungo Factory

Geomungo Factory hails from South Korea. The geomungo is a six-stringed, elongated instrument with 16 frets and 3 movable bridges. It is plyaed with both hands that either pluck the strings or strike them with a bamboo stick (suldae) or a musical bow. The plucked instruments are constructed in a similar manner, but the sizes and sounds vary. The result is a relatively lo-fi recording of folk songs without a lot of vocals or much in the way of additional instrumentation. However, the vocals on Track 6 are poetic, moving, and harmonic. The plucked sounds of the geomungo instruments resemble the earthy tones of the koto, the dutar of Central Asia, and the vibrancy of the shamisen. Irregardless of cross country organological comparisons, Geomungo Factory is uniquely Korean--with an instrumental repertoire dating back to the 4th century. At times, the strings sound frenzied, scratchy, and loud, but that is the exception. Track 4 contains part of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, while other tracks are steeped in Korean tradition. The high and low tones of the geomungo are always captivating with each listen. Delve into the music of South Korea today with Geomungo Factory as your guide. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Song Reviews: Hailee Araya

Hailee Araya

This is a review of three new songs from Sweden's Ethiopian (and now Miami-based) singer, Hailee Araya. The first song available as a download is "Diaspora." This is an English-lyric song with a nod to the African continent. The contemporary dance elements are evident, but the music is relatively relaxed and R&B-focused. A piano melody, ululating background vocals, and light percussion marks the song's most poignant moments. Hailee's young voice breathes life into the song without sounding weak or overwhelming. "Show You Love" contains a reggae beat with keyboards, funky percussion, and Hailee's sweet voice that echoes with love and delight throughout. The music sounds a bit like modern Ethiopian tunes, but it is still uniquely Araya-esque. The ambulating percussion and melody is good overall. The final track, which is unnamed, contains Beniton the Menace and Hailee on vocals. The urban beat is more North American in delivery, but it still retains a degree of reggae and Ethiopan ambiance. It will be exciting to hear more from Hailee in the future. Keep your ears tuned! ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

CD Review: Kami Thompson's 'Love Lies'

Kami Thompson
Love Lies

The folk-rock ramblings of smooth-voiced, Kami Thompson, brightens the day with sunny, thought-provoking lyrics about life, love, and driving high-end cars that aren't too female friendly. The laid-back guitar work is equally-compelling with Kami's vocals. The quieter moments on "Nice Cars" brings to mind the sophomore work of Zero 7. The London-native brings slightly quirky, bluesy, and rootsy elements to the forefront without resorting to mindless songwriting or meaningless instrumentals. Kami's "Want You Back" resembles a folk-rock anthem that could have been sung by Nina Gordon. The album is only thirty-five minutes long with ten tracks. However, the result is above-average overall. Kami's folk guitar stylings are a perfect combination of talent, love, and emotion. Love Lies is great...and that's no lie! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Shubha Mudgal/Ursula Rucker/Business Class Refugees' 'No Stranger Here'

Shubha Mudgal/Ursula Rucker/Business Class Refugees
No Stranger Here

Inspired by poetry written by Kabir in the 16th century, No Stranger Here is surprisingly refreshing, remarkable, and steeped in Hindustani traditions that are reinvented for the modern era. The spoken word artistry of Ursula Rucker provides a contemporary, yogic feel, while still remaining rich with sound and eloquent mysticism. Born in Allahabad, India, Shubha Mudgal brings a qualified, vocal presence to the mix with a pop, fusion, and Hindustani khayal background. Business Class Refugees are Patrick Sebag and Yotam Agam. These originators provide a more contemporary base with rhythmic percussion and electronic wizardry that sets the stage for a creative stew of sumptuous concoctions for any world music fan with a hankering for South Asian invasion. Don't be a stranger it today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kmang-Kmang's 'Drifting'


The classical, jazz, and folk tunes of Cambodian-American-led, Barmey Ung, attempts to turn the classical world upside-down with his marvelous release, Drifting. Mostly an instrumental album, Barmey throws in some vocals on "First Chances" and "In The Dangers Of My Imagination." The songs are classical, cinematic, and globally-appealing. Barmey is a great composer and guitarist. He is joined by Jeff Fortin on drums, Sam Filip on bass, and Brandi Berry on violin. The Chicago-based quartet mixes in a little classic pop without much in the way of Cambodian guitar styles or songs. In essence, the project is largely American in its arrangement and performance. Anyone with an interest in classical music with a good dose of jazz and instrumental fusion will be swept away with his intoxicating sense of musical style. Let the notes drift into your ears with resounding joy. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Playful Yoga'

Various Artists
Playful Yoga
White Swan Records

The music for yoga today is more than gongs, flutes, and sitars. Instead, the folks at White Swan continue to produce divine yoga music with modern instrumentation and traditional rhythms and instruments. Playful Yoga contains music by Steve Halpern, the rap stylings of MC Yogi, plus Wynne Paris, Dave Dale, Nadaji, EarthRise SoundSystem, Don Shiva, Prem Joshua, Omkar, Maneesh de Moor, Gary Stroutsos, Face, and Laya Project. The upbeat melodies are inspired by Eastern traditions with sparkling melodies, thumping tablas, electronic embellishments, and uplifting vocals good enough for any kirtan session. Omkar's opening and closing Tibetan bowl sounds satisfyingly open and close the album with meditative and peaceful consequences. The album's brainchild is Dee Marie, an accomplished yoga therapist that compiled the songs based on their effectiveness in her practice. This is a perfect album for an introduction to the contemporary yoga music sounds permeating the airwaves and subconsciouses of intelligent listeners around the world. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Daniel Levi Goans' 'Brother Stranger'

Daniel Levi Goans
Brother Stranger

The Southern folk tunes of Daniel Levi Goans are exceptionally-intimate and classy. Daniel's folk voice dabbles in rootsy music with light doses of percussion, strings, piano, guitar, and aural soundscapes. The eerie "Arcana Echoes" features ghostly whistles, otherworldly sounds, sparse guitars, and instrumental magnificence for a lo-fi composition. The laid-back, "Blue To Black" and "My Mind Became My Home," echos the ambiance of Ben Folds--another Southern music maestro. The songs are poetic, languid, and memorable. Overall, Daniel's cafe or coffee shop-esque vocal and instrumental delivery is sincere, simplistic, and slightly bluesy. The twelve songs possess an inherent quality that is quite magical. The pensive guitar stylings are also meditative and reflective. At any rate, Brother Stranger is a harmonic delight with an uncanny ability to stir up pleasant emotions, child-like memories, and good 'ol Southern fun. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, February 3, 2012

CD Review: Electric Balkan Jazz Club's 'Balkan Dogs'

Electric Balkan Jazz Club
Balkan Dog
Musique Estetica

From the Mediterranean to the Balkans, Electric Balkan Jazz Club presents an exciting mix of music inspired by Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, and German music traditions. The upbeat percussion, wailing brass, and whirling melodies are accomplished with the guitar, bass, accordion, bouzouki, oud, saz, mandolin, darbuka, sax, clarinet, and others. The twelve tracks contain energetic rhythms and melodies that are reminiscent of klezmer and gypsy songs, too. The mix of vocal and instrumental songs provides a great selection of danceable tunes. The emotive vocals and ballad-esque repertoire on some occasions, makes Balkan Dog nothing to 'balk' at! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Natasa Mirkovic and Nenad Vasilic's 'Soulmotion'

Natasa Mirkovic and Nenad Vasilic
Galileo Records

Natasa Mirkovic is Bosnian and Nenad Vasilic is Serbian, but they are based in Vienna, Austria. The folk duo create a set of songs that are interpretations of classic songs from Yugoslavia originally composed in the 1970s and 80s. Nenad, a jazz bassist, fills in the sound with punchy playing that would light up any classical or jazz ensemble. Nenad is accompanied by Natasa on vocals. Natasa's voice is heartfelt, but not too obtrusive or over-the-top. Instead, Natasa brings a youthful, spirited, and intelligent mix of vocals that would be perfect for a lounge club or jazz club. The twelve songs are only accompanied on vocals and upright bass. No other instrumentation is employed. The result is a raw, intimate, and candid music session that is very enjoyable. Anyone with an interest in Yugoslavian music and jazz will love the cozy vocal wanderings of Natasa Mirkovic and her bass partner, Nenad Vasilic. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Henry Cole and The Afrobeat Collective's 'Roots Before Branches'

Henry Cole and The Afrobeat Collective
Roots Before Branches

Henry Cole is a Puerto Rican drummer and musician with a knack for anything Afro-Caribbean and jazz. Roots Before Branches is full of lively vocal sets with elements of hip hop, funk, and downtempo. The vocals are more aligned with Latin influences, while the instrumental segments take on an afrobeat character. The extended instrumental tracks and portions of songs are especially appealing, because they provide a perfect situation for kicking back and relaxing to the Afro-jazz-Latin sounds of the cross-cultural abyss called world music. The horn and trumpet segments are backed by a languid and upbeat percussion foundation that never ceases to amaze all who listen. Some tracks are particularly fast-paced with vibrant percussion, funky grooves, and rootsy melodies. At any rate, Henry Cole and The Afrobeat Collective brings a delicious mix of dance music to the table with loads of Latin spice and African sensibilities that incorporate American jazz idioms. Fans of Afrobeat music and golden Afro-funk will love Roots Before Branches. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, February 2, 2012

CD Review: Dotschy Reinhardt's 'Pani Sindhu'

Dotschy Reinhardt
Pani Sindhu
Galileo Records

The music of the Roma and Sinti peoples bridge the social and cultural link between German and Indian/Pakistan music. Thankfully, Dotschy Reinhardt's enthusiastic release, Pani Sindhu, traverses the spectrum of musical genres, from classic Brazilian, flamenco, Portuguese, Spanish, jazz, improvisational, and traditional Indian music. The tabla and sitar make an appearance on several tracks. However, the music is mixed with equal doses of Dotschy's jazz standard vocals, piano, and lounge club percussion. Dostchy's sweet and tender vocals are in the Romanes language. The throwback to the 1960s or 70s South American jazz tunes are not particularly far-fetched on Pani Sindhu. The addition of Indian/Pakistani musical and instrumental elements makes Pani Sindhu exciting for fans of South American jazz, improvisational music, Indian music, and European notions. The result is a new form of music cleverly-defined as Rom-Indo music. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Carmen Souza + Theo Pas'cal's 'London Acoustic Set'

Carmen Souza and Theo Pas'cal
London Acoustic Set
Galileo Records

Recorded in London, England in an intimate setting with limited applause, London Acoustic Set features the musicianship of vocalist, guitarist, and percussionist, Carmen Souza from Cape Verde, as well as Portuguese-born, Theo Pas'cal on bass, double bass, udo, and percussion. The duo electrifies the soundwaves, albeit 'acoustically,' with limited instrumentation and soulful, breezy vocals. Carmen's voice takes on a jazzy, pop-standard sound, which sounds a bit different from her previously-released albums. At any rate, the interplay between Theo and Carmen is quite warm and inviting. The spacious sounds and light, African melodies make London Acoustic Set a favorite for world jazz, Cape Verde, Portuguese, and improvisational music fans. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Matuto's US-Brazil 'Matuto'

Galileo Records

Imagine the bluegrass sounds of the American South with the Brazilian folk rhythms of South America coming together in musical harmony. That is what you get when you listen to Matuto, which means 'bumpkin.' The mish-mash of sounds is full-on bluegrass fiddle and vocals, but it often occurs alongside the Brazilian folklore traditions of forro, samba, chorinho, frevo, and others. The folksy, guitar-picking melodies are entwined with lively accordion, Gypsy rhythms, and upbeat, traditional instrumentation that shines with aural color. The slight jazz and improvisational feel is evident on some tracks. The bottom line is a diverse mix of songs, melodies, and instrumentation that does not seem boring, lethargic, or annoyingly obtrusive. Instead, Matuto brightens the music of Brazil with European leanings and American rock sensibilities without resorting to mainstream pop. This is Gyspsy music of the South...Brazil, that is. ~ Matthew Forss