Slim’s Jukebox #4: Around the World with Slim!

Posted on: Aug 14th, 2012 By:

By James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor

While most of my favorite music comes from right here in the deep south, I still have a real taste for the British Invasion, the one that’s been constantly going on since the early ’60s. But over the years I have also had the great joy of discovering music from many other countries and regions, so this week’s column s dedicated to what is commonly referred to as “World Music.” I’m sure I listened to lots of different things as a kid, since my dad was such a music fanatic, but my first real connection to “world music” was when I heard Ravi Shankar performing with George Harrison. It opened my ears, and my mind. So, from the corners of the globe, here’s what has been making my feet shuffle.

Le Super Borgou de Parakou
THE BARIBA SOUND

Most of the music on this fine compilation originates in Benin, a small country in South Africa bordering Nigeria. Pulled from archives, a lot of this has never been heard in years, or even played outside Africa. Recorded between 1970-1976, the band was mostly led by the late Moussa Mama, who reportedly was exposed to a variety of western music by his dad. There’s a lot of ’60s pop influences heard in the 15 tracks, and the steady groove throughout is a perfect example of classic Afro-Beat. Throw in some rumba, pachanga and some “Bariba Soul,” and you have a nonstop dance party! The rhythms are incredibly infectious, and there is something celebratory about the beat that makes me smile. Unfortunately, I cannot understand a word they say, but it sounds great, has lots of energy and deserves some attention.

Paco de Lucía
EN VIVO CONCIERTOS – Live in Spain 2010

I first became familiar with legendary flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía in the ’70s, after discovering an import copy of his amazing ENTRE DOS AGUAS in the cutouts at a record store in Memphis. Hearing the lightning fast playing, the intense rhythms and the start-stop precision for the first time was transformative, and Paco became a hero in my house. He later joined forces with noted Fusion Jazz guitarists John McLaughlin (Miles Davis, Mahavishnu Orchestra), and Larry Coryell, who was replaced by Al DiMeola (Return to Forever) in THE GUITAR TRIO. In addition to his own albums, Paco has recorded songs for films such as DON JUAN DEMARCO and more recently the beautiful soundtrack of VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA. Fast forward 30 years from ENTRE DOS AGUAS, and Paco’s newest release is a double live CD, featuring a nice retrospective of his own compositions, and one piece by McLaughlin. With a second guitarist, harmonica, bass and two singers, it’s a foot-stomping, mind-boggling display of incredible Spanish/flamenco virtuosity. I’m still blown away by his playing.

The Touré́ -Raichel Collective
THE TEL AVIV SESSION

The combined talents of Israeli pianist Idan Raishel and Mali guitarist Vieux Farka Touré́́ take center stage on this unique and creative endeavor. These informally recorded jam sessions emerged over an afternoon, and the amazing improvisational collection is a celebration of rich musical culture and collaboration. Vieux displays an amazing and enchanting acoustic fingerpicking style, and Idan’s gentle keyboards accentuate and complement the delicate and melodic excursions. Joined by several other players and singer Cabra Casey (born in Israel, of Ethiopian descent), the music flows like a summer brook, hypnotic, magnetic and intensely beautiful. Each track begins with a subtle chord progression and, as each player gradually integrates into the groove, becomes a fully realized entity, with stylistic touches from all over the world, blending into a thing of real beauty. This is one of the most amazing records I have heard this year.

The Chieftains
VOICE OF AGES

Continuing a tradition that has produced some of their finest albums, Ireland’s Chieftains collaborate with a number of interesting and oddly matched singers to create another entertaining package of song. With lovely ballads by Imelda May and Lisa Hannigan, a raucous shouter featuring the incredibly talented (and currently very popular) Carolina Chocolate Drops, and, of course, a few of their own instrumentals, the Chieftains prove once again that music is universal. Particularly intriguing is the heartfelt take on “Hard Times Come Again No More” by Scotsman Paulo Nutini. Critically adored artists such as the Punch Brothers, the Decemberists and Bon Iver all make more than adequate contributions. While it’s not the best of this series, there’s not a lot to complain about.

Ian Tyson
RAVEN SINGER

While including a Canadian cowboy artist in a column on “world music” might seem like a stretch, last time I checked Canada was part of the “world.” Ian Tyson first made his mark in the music world as part of the ’60s “Great Folk Scare” duo Ian & Sylvia. Their gentle harmonies and knack for covering great songs made them one of the most popular acts of the era. Tyson eventually left music and became a real cowboy for many years, but his love of singing and the discovery of many great cowboy songs pulled him back into the business, but on his own terms. Sadly, he literally destroyed his once clear voice one fateful night, and now sounds more like early Tom Waits than an old folkie. But he still sounds great IMHO (I worship at the altar of Tom Waits), and the material on RAVEN SINGER works on several levels. Tyson is believable, for one thing. Even with what sounds like some strained vocal effort, he brings the stories to life, and gives each song a real sense of authenticity. At 78 years old, Ian Tyson is still making great music, with no plans to ride off into the sunset.

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Slim’s Jukebox: Willie Nelson, Mercyland, Todd Snider, Chelle Rose & Darrell Scott

Posted on: Jun 5th, 2012 By:

By James Kelly
Contributing Music Editor

There is so much great music coming out these days, and I will try to keep you posted on what I am listening to the most. This week’s column is a mix of legends, newbies, and a very nice compilation of sorta gospel songs. A lot of these are on small or independent labels, and don’t get the sort of publicity push that the horrible commercial radio crap has, so please spread the word if any of these hit your sweet spot.

Willie Nelson
HEROES
Legacy Recordings

Willie Nelson is my hero. He can pretty much do no wrong, and I do not know a soul who doesn’t appreciate his work. HEROES is a collection of duets and more, featuring his old pals Merle Haggard, on a rerecording of “A Horse Called Music,” and Ray Price on the classic “Cold War With You.” There’s a slew of cuts with Willie’s kid Lucas, and their voices are so similar it’s spooky. There are a few oddities here, but they work in Willie’s own peculiar way. The almost novelty song “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die” includes a few lines from Kris Kristofferson, hardcore honkytonker Jamey Johnson, and… Snoop Dogg? Yep, that Snoop. There’s a really nice take on Tom Waits’ “Come On Up To The House” with Sheryl Crow and son Lucas, but the show-stopper is Willie’s stunning version of Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” I’m not a Coldplay fan by any definition, but in Willie’s hands, this is a jewel.

[ Editor’s Note: Willie Nelson plays Chastain Park Amphitheatre with Jamey Johnson on Fri. June 15. Tickets here.]

Various Artists
MERCYLAND: HYMNS FOR THE REST OF US
Mercyland Records

Nashville is an interesting place. There are so many small music communities that have little or no relation to the mainstream industry, and what comes out of these enclaves inevitably is so much better than the major label drivel. One borderline fringe group consists of several really talented studio musicians and writers, who fit more into the “Americana” mold than anywhere else. And interestingly, most of them are Christians. Not the type that sit in pews every Sunday and listen to the good word, then treat people like crap the rest of the week, but Christians who are comfortable enough with their faith to be respectful and tolerant of others with different beliefs. They live it instead of simply talk it. Phil Madeira pulled a group of like-minded artists together and has constructed a wonderful collection of tunes that take a much different perspective on faith and spirituality than your usual “Gospel” record. From Buddy Miller’s plaintive “I Believe In You” to the very traditional “Lights In The Sun” by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, each song provides a unique and ultimately entertaining discourse on some aspect of faith. Atlanta’s own Shawn Mullins scores with “Give God The Blues,” and Madeira’s title track is a captivating slow groove. Even this card-carrying atheist felt a little spark of something, mostly respect.

Todd Snider
AGNOSTIC HYMNS & STONER FABLES
Aimless Records

A joker with a dark side, Todd Snider has been making provocative and polarizing music for over two decades, and on AGNOSTIC HYMNS, he takes a bit of a step out of his unusually wide comfort zones. Snider’s been on both major and indie labels, while never compromising the type of music he makes for anyone.  Over the years he has always had a fine backup band on deck, and the records always sounded really clean and neat in spite of his sometimes bizarre lyrics and stories. Well, this time around Snider sounds like he is backed up by a hillbilly punk band, with crashy drums, raw electric guitars and slightly dissonant harmony vocals. It’s all very primitive and deceptively simple sounding, but lyrically this is some of his roughest work. Life has been tough for everyone for the past few years, and obviously for Snider as well.  His provocative observations on life, love and the state of affairs in the world can be a bit depressing, if they weren’t so entertaining. Throw in a few bouncy acoustic tracks, crank it up, and appreciate Todd.

[Editor’s Note: Todd Snider performs at Variety Playhouse on Wed. June 13. ]

Chelle Rose
GHOST OF BROWDER HOLLER
Lil’ Damsel Records

After making a few ripples in the underground Nashville scene a decade ago, the bluesy-voiced Chelle Rose disappeared into motherhood for a few years, only to be recently rediscovered by the legendary Ray WylieHubbard, who produced this fine album. The original tunes on GHOST OF BROWDER HOLLER perfectly channel Rose’s Smoky Mountain heritage, and anybody who covers Julie Miller’s “I Need You” is OK in my book. Rose is bit grittier than Miller’s girlish sound, and gives the song a rock hard edge that works on all levels. Hubbard’s production (and the accompaniment of some of Texas’ finest) provide Rose with the perfect canvas, and even with 10 years of cobwebs and dust to knock off, she still has it.

Darrell Scott
LONG RIDE HOME
Full Light Records

A near-perfect songwriter, Darrell Scott has penned monster hits for people like the Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, and both Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Lucky for us, he keeps the really good ones for himself. With the freedom to do whatever he wants, Scott decided to do a straight-up country record, and on this 16-track jewel, he nails it to the wall. Joined by a band of Nashville studio legends – Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano,  drummer Kenny Malone, along with steel player Lloyd Green and harmonica master Charlie McCoy, Scott delivers an amazing collection of rich classic country tunes, not a clunker in the bunch. His duet with Guy Clark on “Out In The Parking Lot” actually improves on Guy’s original recording, and “You’re Everything I Want Love To Be” is a love song as country as it gets. Scott has a clear and comforting voice, a way with words, and has once again made a truly great album.

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