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AMABUTHO/Sikelela: Nelson Mandela must be smiling as this bunch of South Africans take their name from a tribe of gentle Zulu warriors and deliver the sound of their streets behind a marimba. If your musical ears are that open, it feels like it has the same spirit as the original calypso explosion of the late 50s. While gringo ears probably won't know the language, the fact is that the rainbow message here is to party and the message comes across loud and clear. Certainly an ethnic recording that Paul Simon prepared us for a long time ago, you can be pretty sure that this sound can be coming from yuppie backyard decks loaded with staycations this year. It's a different sound from different streets, but the spirit and life force behind it can connect with anyone. And if the music isn't enough, the accompanying DVD really rounds out the presentation.

ADAM SCHROEDER/A Handful of Stars: If Blue Note of Verve were still in the jazz business, this would be a blue chip, priority release. With three of the best pieces around backing up this sax player's solo debut, a good time was had by all in the making and you can be assured of a good time in the playing. With an endorsement by Clint Eastwood opening the way, this is a delightfully classic mainstream session where the blowing is plentiful and the backing is right in the pocket. Tackling a load of classics that have been pushed off to the side over the years, this is a sterling example of jazz to kick back with and enjoy. Tasty throughout, you won't go wrong here at all.

JIMMY BALDWIN/Vivador: Bet you didn't know there could be genre bending within the singer/songwriter genre, did you? Baldwin comes in with an interesting mix of Ry Cooder, Townes Van Zandt and Gary P. Nunn showing his Texas stripes all the way. With loads of Dallas/Austin connection dripping from the grooves, Baldwin takes it to the contemporary level of the game and shows what the next Jerry Jeff Walkers will be up to.

JEFF RICHMAN/Like That: Two guitar cats that continue to make killer underground jazz guitar records that are wide ranging in their vibe and groove are Grant Geissman and Jeff Richman. Richman's guest list on this set are a load of cats you would love to turn up at your session, but in the end, the focus is on Richman and his ax. Killer contemporary jazz that cooks from start to finish, Richman and his cronies are on point throughout like the pros they are. First class summer jazz to be played after the sun goes down.

FINGERPRINTS/Dream Life: If the classic fusion crews kept it acoustic and didn't give into a lot of programming, this bunch would have fit right in with the rest but as it turns out, their insistence to keeping it organic, letting the players play, makes them stand out from the rest of the pack. Like a breath of fresh air, real players playing connects in just the right way. Light jazz that lets us know there's more to the South than crunk and dirrrrrty south these days, this delightful breath of fresh air can be a jazz gateway drug to loads of uninitiated ears who will find themselves getting off on the right foot. A real treat.

3 PENNY ACRE/Highway 71: Fairly new to the scene but Winfield champions nonetheless, this folk/bluegrass/roots crew has the sound and vibe down naturally and just right. A sterling back porch set from start to finish, this has the meat so many singer/songwriters loose today as their writing seems more fitted to finding a spot on a self indulgent reality show than in your psyche. A solidly tasty crew, this is the kind of stuff that shows folk music still has a vibrant future. Well done throughout.

SOULFOOD/Guitar Mediations V 3: The Soulfood bunch does it again, this time coming in with a guitar set that has guest pals who you've heard but never heard of, even if you liked their stuff behind "The Sopranos", James Taylor and many others. Almost like mass market new age, this is right in the classic NAC pocket where the music doesn't really fit into any one pigeon hole except that it colors outside the lines and in sum total is really killer acoustic music with a beginning, a middle and an end making for a satisfying adult, listening experience all the way through. The only thing this really has in common with past Soulfood releases is the high level of quality throughout.

TERRI HENDRIX/Cry Till You Laugh: This feels like the boldest of the esteemed songwriter's collections yet. A solid set that is just waiting for the new incarnation of Dixie Chicks to swoop in and grab some left of center hits, this is singer/songwriter work at the top of the game. Singing from the heart throughout, Hendrix doesn't waste a syllable and in getting her point across and the points stay with you. A real under the radar winner.

Volume 33/Number 242
July 2, 2010
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2010 Midwest Record

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