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CHRISTOPHER LAPINA/Eclectic Eve: Usually, when you get a cd with notes explaining about how it's about a woman's journey from goofus to enlightened, it's usually some folkie record by a goofus with a good divorce settlement that really thinks she has something to say. Good thing you can now self publish books like that on Kindle. Here we find Lapina claiming this impressionistic, instrumental set is about said goofus' journey to enlightenment. Ok. I just thought it was a nice lite jazzish set with some interesting twists and turns that you want to have it in the car when leaving work on Friday afternoon---if you don't work from home. Lapina is a solid craftsman that can put any back story to the playing he wishes, but he knows his stuff when he sits down behind the keys and delivers, and that what really counts.

THE NEW GARY BURTON QUARTET/Common Ground: When you can find young bloods like Scott Colley and Julian Lage, you can set up a new shop even if past participants have included Carla Bley and Makoto Ozone and the whole new vibe opens whole new vistas. One of Burton's more friendly records, this is a delightfully up market/up town session that oozes after hours sophistication that spurs you into feeling like a grown up with taste. Classy stuff that is certainly handy to have around when you need to sit up a little straighter. Dare we say it? It's just the right vibes. Well done throughout.

OAKLAND INTERFAITH GOSPEL CHOIR/Hear My Prayer: They've been around 25 years, they really know their stuff, but you know these cats are really on the ball because this set sounds like one of those Quincy Jones extravaganzas when he would make a foray into gospel music. When there was a record business, the gospel choir was a corner most people didn't know about that was quite significant. If there was still an infrastructure that supported this music, it would be a full on monster. The kind of record you don't have to pretend to like gospel to like, it's jazzy, soulful and completely heartfelt by people that understand ‘lift every voice and sing' isn't just a slogan. When you're ready for it, this winner will be there. Check it out.

TIM HAGANS/The Moon is Waiting: Hagans likes to have the opportunity to cut loose with angular jazz that harkens back to tea pad smelling church basements of the 70s and he puts the pedal to the mettle here with a set backed by like minded fellow travelers that could have made the soundtrack to an experimental play about what's it all about. The kind of cat you'll never figure out or put your finger on, he opens the next wave of his uber creative work outs here for the open eared to revel in. This man is no manqué so feel free to follow where he leads if this is your cup of tea.

DAMJAN KRAJACIC/Glide: A kid from Croatia thinks of the flute as a percussive instrument and weaves it delicately in Brazilian flavored jazz that he has a real mastery of. And the contradictions just keep on coming. In these one world times, it doesn't matter where it comes from as long as it's good and this set is the real deal. A great after hours record, this is first class flute world jazz that's simply a great time to hear. A solid throw back to the 70s when this stuff was really hitting it, somebody better give Scott Adams the heads up that this groovy stuff is right in his Brazilian show groove. Hot stuff.

THE BEST OF TIMES Texas Artists Performing the Music of Sara Hickman/various: If you aren't in Texas, Hickman is someone that probably fell off your radar 15 years ago when she had to wind up buying her unreleased masters back from Elektra when the label went through an abrupt sea change. If you are in Texas, you know she's as beloved as Gary P. Nunn, who you also don't know if you aren't in Texas. The crème of Texas musicians, with Willie Nelson on the opening track, gather round to lend their voices to this benefit album that brings Hickman back into focus and raises money for arts education in Texas schools in an effort spear headed by Hickman. Way more sizzling than the usual tribute/fundraiser album, all we can say is ‘damn you record business for marginalizing this unbridled talent and depriving us all these years'. Fans of real, deep heartfelt songwriting have some serious catch up to do and should pick this set up pronto. Killer set without a wasted note across 2 cds.

CELTIC TENORS/Feels Like Home: In which we find a classical/crossover ethnic Celtic thing taking it to new limits. With songs by Richard Thompson, Randy Newman and lyrics in Scottish, you ain't going back to new age/ 1980s /celtonia here. The olde sod touches are here in abundance, even if "Danny Boy" isn't, and at first blush you might not think this apple has fallen very far from the tree, but that's the stuff that sucks you in. These cats are on it throughout and this is an essential nu St. Paddy's record that doesn't sneak in pomo and punk touches but focuses on nu trad values that make it something really special. A must hear for adult listeners that can appreciate something simply classically beautiful. A winner.

MARY FLOWER/Misery Loves Company: If this was the 70s, this is what you would probably be listening to after you first discovered John Fahey or John Renbourn and bugged the record store clerk to show you what was lingering in the back room or under the counter. More than just a killer finger picker, Flower got the blues in her as deep as Rory Block but lets it come out in a different way. On an album of duets in which she teams up with everyone from Dave Frishberg to Colin Linden, this is first rate down home/back porch stuff that raises yet another bar for the blues side of the Americana ledger. Accessible without compromise, this is the kind of record you'll come back to over and over, if you stop listening to it at all. A winner throughout.

Volume 34/Number 305
September 3, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2011 Midwest Record

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Dear Chris,

Thanks so much for your review of the Sara Hickman "tribute" album "The Best of Times." I'm a non-Texan who first discovered Sara on VH1 in 1989, and have been listening to her ever since. I've had the immense good fortune to chat with her before and after her shows and I am constantly amazed by her talent, creativity and love of people. I agree with you that more people should know about this outstanding musician and more, an outstanding human being.

Many thanks,
Steven Springer
Silver Spring, MD








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