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BILL WENCE/Analog Man in a Digital World: Ok, how can you not love the title? How can you not love that wide range of talented, brand name guests that show up to lend a hand? How can you not love the fan letter from Wanda Jackson? With a day job as a record promoter, Wence acquits himself well as an older cat that has no hope of fitting the format, but he doesn't let that hold him back from making a cool, under the radar record. He calls this Americana simply because it doesn't comfortably fits into any pigeon hole along the country-folk-folk/rock-singer/songwriter axis. Knowing well what works and what doesn't, Wence entertains in fine fashion delivering the goods for the music fan with a few years under his belt that enjoys "non-commercial" music. Tasty and winning throughout, easily his strongest yet of his late period albums.

LISA BIALES/Just Like Honey: With her cutie pie voice and old timey attitude, Biales takes her place in the lineage that goes from Memphis Minnie to Candye Kane and serves up a dandy as candy entertainment. Produced by EG Kight without the Bonnie Raitt tough broad stance, this stuff has been turning up on tv and in soundtracks by virtue of it being familiar yet different with a sound that you get distracted trying to place. With everything comfortably in a pocket of her own creating, moldy figs might write it off as blues lite, but everyone else can sit back and enjoy the proceedings. Well done.

FRANCO AMBROSETTI/Cycladic Moods: A long time top Euro jazzbo that has been with Enja for over 30 years, who normally likes to record in New York with top local cats, takes it back to his locality with Geri Allen in tow and just wails on his trumpet in killer, straight ahead fashion. He's more the hidden gem than the acquired taste even if he's best known to the jazzbo insiders, he checks in with the kind of spirited, high octane date that's sure to make you wonder why it took you so long to find out about him. With tasty work from everyone on board, the proceedings are a nice tonic for jaded ears. Check it out.

LJUBA DAVIS LADINO ENSEMBLE/East & West: Despite this being a twofer cd, it's not divided onto east and west, it's divided into instrumental and vocal. And even though we know the LDL in the website name refers to the group's leader's initials, with all the attention on bad cholesterol these days, well, no need to scare people off needlessly. Top ethnic players from along the Mediterranean axis join together with one of the leaders of the west coast Jewish music revival for the soundtrack to the unmade middle eastern thriller movie that this would fit perfectly into. Without flourishes that make this extra palatable to tourists or extra precious to devout ethnics, this is simply the pure music served up hot and sure to grab your attention. Going way beyond your typical belly dance or ethnic restaurant record, the armchair world beater will be more than captivated by the musical goings on here.

RALPH PETERSON/The Duality Perspective: The drummer celebrates his 50th birthday by showing off some new cats doing some new sounds. He christens his joint "swunk", a fusion of swing and funk. It's a nice concoction that pioneers nu sitting down funk, if you can conceive of such a thing. We heard world elements as well. It's quite inspired throughout and makes you feel up market without feeling egghead (and that's saying a lot since he's settling into a teaching/mentoring role). Off the beaten path and a much welcome detour that shows Peterson to be quite the capable Sherpa.

REBECKA LARSDOTTER/Feathers & Concrete: Multi instrumentalist from the wilds of Sweden shows us there's more than death metal up there as she fuses singer/songwriter with jazz vocal for an intimate experience that you can relate to even if you haven't had a load of worldly experiences at a young age like she has. As much a later Joni Mitchell as a Bjork, you can easily hear this in college dorms that once echoed with Rickie Lee Jones. Very much the kind of rising talent you want to keep an eye and ear on.

NIYAZ/Sumun: The label's Arabic/world beat superstar trio tackle the cause of injustice, even if you don't know what they are saying. A protest record to the core, this crew wants to inform through the use of beats that the playing field has to be level for all. Meanwhile, back at the mixer, this is some smoking world beat delivered in compelling and passionate fashion. Using the current palette of tools of the trade, this trio can come on like gangbusters packing every byte with sound that doesn't quit. They know their stuff well and invite your ears to peek behind the curtain.

IRENE & FRANCIS JACOB/Je Sais Nager: A French art house actress and her jazzbo brother one day find a musical middle ground in the heart of now sound country and come up with a wonderful confection that would be right at home on the left side of 60s go go music. Loaded with contemporary touches, it's attitude is old school, but primed for modern ears. One of those wild records that exists in a time zone all it's own, it's hard to imagine being a world weary hipster without this on your mp3 player. Defining cool throughout.

Volume 35/Number 203
May 12, 2011
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2012 Midwest Record

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