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TEXAS TORNADOS/Esta Bueno!: Remember when the Blues Brothers got imbued and decided to put the old band back together? Same thing happened here sort of. Half the Tornados are dead but that didn't stop Sahm scion from digging up some previously unrecorded Freddy Fender songs and rounding up the rest of the group and the original sidemen and knocking on Ray Benson's door. Benson doesn't need a label to tell him how to make records and it's clear he recognizes that in other players. Robbed of a Grammy for last year's Willie and the Wheel date, this set might the one that rights wrongs and brings the Grammy home to Austin this year. Right in the classic Tornado pocket, but expanding the legacy rather than rest on it, this is a killer Tex Mex date that goes beyond genre and is sure to grab the ear of anyone remotes fascinated by roots music. A killer set that was delivered by all the right hands. Check it out.

DEVON SPROULE/Don't Hurry for Heaven: Sproule is one of those wondrous young ladies that you don't know what to do with. If you have any sense, you'll just slip on the headphones and enjoy her. Writing personal songs and being from Canada, lazy writers will want to make the Joni Mitchell comparisons, but the only thing they have in common is being from Canada and writing personal songs. With all the prestigious things she's done in the last few years, it's funny to call her an under the radar act but this singer/songwriter is still a treat waiting to be discovered. Non-roots folk flavored tunes dominate, loaded with a very contemporary sensibility in writing and sound, and make this something you're a dope not to get familiar with. Had it with reality tv? This verite is much more interesting and compelling.

OLD MAN LUEDECKE/My Hands are on Fire and other Love Songs: Steve Martin is clearly on to something here. He makes an ostensible vanity banjo album ands wins a Grammy. Luedecke has already polished off a Juno for best roots album. Tim O'Brien is on board throughout and the opening plink plinks will get you of O'Brien doesn't. Way too sly to be called a back porch album, it's down home, it's got banjo but it's an unexpected motherfucker that will blow you away. Solid stuff that makes you wonder what they're putting in the water up in Canadialand.

JULIE FOWLIS/Uam: Ok, so grandpa had a thing for Kathy & Carol and all the other earnest, young ladies that flowed in the wake of Judy Collins and Joan Baez when they had their initial break through with traditional music. When last we heard from Fowlis, she graced us with a completely disarming and charming organic date of traditional music that wasn't a throwback but didn't really exist in this time either. This time around, she's been recognized by august personages and peers and has graced us with a set that could usher in a whole new folk music scare on the scale of the original one. It's almost funny to call a program of tradition music right in the moment but as much as this set would make Ewen MacColl smile, Fowlis is charting her own course. You'd have to go back to early Elektra dates to find anything like this, but because of the ‘contemporary' touches, the old dates might not stand up as well in comparison. You want it organic? Get out your water wings because this one sets a high water mark for the genre, new or old. Hot stuff.

ULLMANN-SWELL QUARTET/News? No News!: These cats play an awful lot of left of center jazz when they aren't together, but when they do get together, it's civil rights jazz throwback time. A real big apple skronkaroonie that goes well with crazy light shows.

BARB JUNGR/The Men I Love: Game changer time as cabaret enters a new age. A sensual vocalist in the best of the tradition, Jungr replaces Cole Porter with Jimmy Webb and kicks off the new classic American songbook. David Byrne side by side with Leonard Cohen and Neil Diamond and several stalwarts that certainly deserve the recognition. One of the familiar but different kind of records in the vein of Nouvelle Vague, Jungr is clearly that important kind of uptown vocalist you have to pay attention to as she's got the touch to turn anything into art, in a good way. A new high water mark for sitting down music.

PABLO HELD/Music: A young master of sitting down jazz comes out with his second set that continues the spirit and growth of the auspicious debut. As attuned to using white space as well as notes, Held isn't about art, he's clearly about jazz, he just has his own unique vision of the future of it---and he will be shaping it. A tasty work that pushes limits with a reason, Held is well worth checking out if you want to hear a real statement from a real player.

PABLO ASLAN/Tango Grill: One of the great things about being a gringo is we don't know anything about a lot of stuff. Aslan decides to reposition classic tango? Why not? He does it with lesser known tango classics? What do we know? Gringos just want to have fun. While we might lump tango into jazz, real tango fans scoff at us. That makes this set something of a bag breaker as it blends some real jazz elements into a lot of real tango elements and comes up with a hybrid you didn't even know you were supposed to scoff at. So you don't. Keeping it real by having the great Astor Piazzolla's grandson on drums, Aslan mixes tango with crime jazz for a potent after hours one/two punch that's handy to have on board when the conversation is flagging between you and that hot date and the deal isn't ready to close yet. Chops fly and you can even see the skirts swirling and the daggers coming out of their hiding places. A grand world beat time.

Volume 33/Number 113
February 22, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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