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Hot Picks Archive 2005

Kongo Magni - Boubacar Traore

Boubacar Traore's recordings have mesmerized me since I first heard Mariama (Stern's) years ago. His early CDs were bluesy solo efforts except for the occasional calabash percussion. This CD features a variety of talented players and it is jumping with synergistic energy. Easily his best CD. If you enjoyed his live show at the Madison World Music Festival in late September, you'll love this CD.

On the World Village label, distributed by Harmonia Mundi in the States. Relatively easy to get, but worth the effort if you run into trouble. (Reviewed 12-9-05)

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Latin Lounge

Putumayo compilations are ubiquitous in a college town like Madison. Coffee shops and natural food stores sport racks of titles often with a listenable selection. This kept me dancing around my house for a while. I'm a big fan of Charanga Cakewalk from Texas and Amparanoia from Spain, so those cuts clicked immediately. The other tracks have the same feel. Samba, tango, jazz, whatever. The categories are less important than the groove. Not for purists, but definitely good for pure fun.

If you can't find a Putumayo disc, you didn't try very hard. (Reviewed 12-9-05)

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Wayward Son - John Doyle

Doyle's work continues to get better and better. His singing has grown more confident and enjoyable each time out. The selection of tunes and the musical settings on this CD are delightful. His renditions of the songs Jack Dolan, Captain Glenn and Little Sadie have terrific arrangements. As always, his guitar work is impeccable throughout. The list of guest artists on this CD is long and stunning. Modern Irish music doesn't get any better than this (unless you get to hear him live).

On the Compass label from Nashville, Tennessee. Pretty easy to get in the States. (Reviewed 12-9-05)

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The Art of Virtue - Adrienne Young

There is some gifted songwriting on this CD. Adrienne's voice is deep and powerful and the instrumental backing suits the tunes wonderfully. Almost all of the tunes and the theme of the CD are political comments on life in the present. But the politics are subtle, artfully rendered for the most part through allegory and analogy. For example the use of "a Poor Boy's dream and a Rich Man's scheme" (Walls of Jericho) captures the much of the hypocrisy of American politics and use of the military simply and elegantly.

On the Addiebelle Music label. Available through adrienneyoung.com (Reviewed 12-9-05)

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Singing Sands - Tony MacManus & Alain Genty

I buy anything with Tony MacManus' name on it. He's one of the most gifted guitar players alive regardless of genre. On this CD he teams up with French fretless bass player Alain Genty for duets of primarily traditional Celtic tunes. The playing is exquisite, clearly respecting the tradition but enhancing it with jazzy inflections and terrific arrangements.

Several tracks can be sampled at the Greentrax website. The CD has also been issued by Compass Records in the States and is relatively easy to obtain. Highly recommended. (reviewed 10-8-05)

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The Farthest Wave - Cathie Ryan

I didn't think anyone would break me from the spell of Karan Casey's voice until I heard this CD. This is the whole package - great singing, terrific song selection, tasteful arrangements and wonderful work by the backing musicians. There is not a weak selection on the CD. My favorite two cuts are both originals by Ryan, What's Closest to the Heart and the title cut, The Farthest Wave.

On the Shanachie label. Four cuts are available for audition through their website. Easy to find in the States (reviewed 10-8-05)

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In the Heart of the Moon - Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate

This is beguiling music. Two masters of African music just sitting down to jam and producing magic. The music is gloriously captured in simple and effective form, recorded with a mobile studio live on the banks of the Niger River in Bamako, Mali. Ali Farka Toure, guitar, is a master of bluesy African music and the griot Toumani Diabate is one of the best kora players alive today.

My favorites are Ai Ga Bani and Gomni. All of the cuts can be sampled on the Nonesuch website. Easy to find and well worth obtaining. (reviewed 10-7-05)

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Rough Guide to African Music for Children

Don't be put off by the title. This is a superb collection of unadulterated African music. Everything from the high energy funk of Issa Bagayogo to the danceable beats of Tony Allen. The tracks were selected by playing music to over one thousand British children and asking them to pick their favorites. These kids have good taste.

Distributed by the World Music Network. Widely available. (reviewed 10/7/05)

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Loteria de la Cumbia Lounge by Charanga Cakewalk

When I first popped this in the CD player, Tu Y Yo, Mexicanos and La Negra Celina jumped out at me. I played them on Diaspora and the questions started rolling in. Every listening made more cuts irresistible. At parties and visiting friends and everyone wanted it. On my first pass through the disk, I thought it was cheesy, pop-Hispanic fluff, and maybe it is, but it is downright infectious. It is delightful, danceable, get your spirit up and party music. Get it.

Widely available in the States on the Triloka label, which is putting out many very fine titles. (reviewed 6/25/05)

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Le Fil by Amestoy Trio

Tuba, accordion and guitar? Are you kidding? Who makes music with a lineup like that? These guys do and with a vengeance. This CD is fabulous. I've never heard anything like it. Featuring Jean-Luc Amestoy on accordion, Gilles Carles on guitar and Nicolas Calvet on tuba. These guys can play. The arrangements are fresh and innovative. Starting with a bit of manouche and a smattering of Django, the trio brews up a lovely blend spiced with a wide variety of other subtle influences.

The tuba is often the butt of jokes in the States. On this recording, Calvet's lovely tone and deft tuba playing will change your perspective on this unfairly maligned instrument. His playing blends beautifully with his two equally skilled band mates.

On the wonderful Daqui label which is distributed by Harmonia Mundi in the US and should be relatively easy to obtain. (reviewed 5/7/05)

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Music from the Hearts of the Masters by Jack De Johnette & Foday Musa Suso

There have been many notable jazz icon meets African musician recordings that really work, like Hank Jones and Cheick-Tidiane Seck on the wonderful Sarala or Ernest Ranglin and Baaba Maal on the superb In Search of the Lost Riddim. This CD is in a similar vein and just as good, but different. There is no band, no arrangements. It just these two guys sitting down to jam.

On the Kindred Rhythm label and distributed by Koch. Six of the tunes can be sampled or purchased as downloads at Calabash Music. Can also be obtained from Artist Direct. Highly recommended. (reviewed 5/7/05)

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Rough Guide to the Music of Sudan

The plight of Darfur has been in the news so often you wonder how anything beautiful could come out of Sudan. Well here it is. An excellent introduction for the novice or someone like me who only has a sketchy awareness of music from this country. A few of the artists like Rasha and Abdel Gadir Salem have releases out on US labels, but most are new to the States. I was blown away by Setona singing Sawani and Mohammed Wardi and Azibni. The collection features a wide array of styles, from the "child soldier to rap superstar" Emmanuel Gua to earthy drum and vocals by Zar Omdurman. This is a terrific collection.

On the World Music Network label, which is widely distributed in the States and easy to find or order. (reviewed 5/5/05).

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La Marea by Marta Topferova

I didn't know what to expect when I read the promotional blurb for this disc. Latin music from a native of Praque, Czechoslovakia? What next? Then I noticed all the tunes and lyrics are all originals written by Topferova. Skepticism was mounting.

One pass through the player and I was hooked. Topferova's smoky vocals and smart arrangements are beguilingly original. The harp playing on Grano de Arena and the title cut is beautiful. The use of the French horn, definitely non-traditional on folk music of any kind, is an unexpected but delightful. Purists may scoff, but I love it. Released on the German label World Village and distributed in the States by Harmonia Mundi. (reviewed 4/2/05)

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