JOHN BROWN'S BODY/Kings & Queens: After two decades has American reggae finally arrived? Why not? Kids call house music EDM and think they just discovered it. Loud, proud with horns driving the skanking riddims, this Boston crew really turns it up and turns it out this time around making you think Boston is the new ground zero for reggae. The kind of set that can stand toe to toe with almost anything by their old school heroes, this is nu spliff music for high suburbs loaded with kids looking to get flat. Certainly one sizzling doob of a set that's as chronic as you can get.
BILLY LESTER/Storytime: Howard Mandel absolutely flipped out over this session, and while it's not without it's merits, we point our arrow here at a mass audience. Would the masses dig this left of center, solo jazz piano date? Well, they would if the masses were into Monk and Bud Powell. If someone were to do a biopic about Monk or Powell, they would be a fool not to get Lester to do the score, but if you're looking for something more along the lines of cocktail jazz, this cat and his skills are going to sail right past you.
McCRARY SISTERS/All the Way: Nashville's fave soul sisters, this foursome has sung with everyone that matters in town or even was just passing through. They bring the soul to soul sister naturally as their pop was one of the Fairfield Four. They make gospel for non-believers. It's high octane stuff with a message in the music that doesn't hit you over the head. It's smoking stuff, and listening in these deconstructed times, this is the kind of set that can cut across so many different lines you can't even keep track of them all. Anyone with a taste for southern soul with a hot contemporary edge just won't be steered wrong here. Well done throughout by a crew too well honed to misfire a single note.
DARLA HOOD/What a Little Rascal: From shaking it for Alfalfa to shaking it for Les Baxter, Hood covered a lot of ground. Even though the cover alludes to The Little Rascals, this is a collection of Hood's grown up vocalizing when she was being cast as a thrush in that overly dramatic 40s/50s kind of way. Kitsch fans looking for some bombast from one of their early fave child stars can recreate WWII ambience with this playing in the back ground. Very much a personality piece as opposed to a Rascals bit of nostalgia.
CHRIS MASSEY & THE NJP/Whosoever: Here's the second set from a drummer/leader that knows his hard bop/modern jazz moves well. An energetic, engaging set that almost makes you think 50s Bluenote is alive and well, he knows how to do both tip the cap and set his jaw firmly. A smart date that jazzbos who want to hear em like the way they used to make em will be quite pleased with the non-stop action churning along here leaving a bunch of cool, new jazz in it's wake. Solid stuff throughout.
MARTY RAYBON & Full Circle/The Back Forty: Raybon's last set proved you can have a good musical life after a good run hugging the top of the country charts. This set seems to take him farther back into his original bluegrass roots and almost makes you forget he was a country chart staple in the first place. Killer contemporary bluegrass with a traditional bent that does a great job of faking it if it isn't coming right from the heart. If you want to get down with some back porch stuff that hits it out of the park on every track, this is the place. Killer stuff.
STEVEN CASPER & COWBOY ANGST/Trouble: Arena rock Americana? Using an ep to work in his new band, Casper gets points for trying something new. There's not enough here to really tell just where this is headed but it sounds like he enjoyed a lot of 70s journeyman records that were trying to capture a Leon Russell feeling.
TRUE BLUES/various: This blues collection is cool like the 60s Elektra samplers, but here's the change up, this isn't culled from artists on the Telarc roster pushing existing tracks. This is an omnibus release by a bunch of pals that has crossed paths in various incarnations over the years and merge here in various combinations to set the night on fire. Recorded at various venues at various times, this live set captures the incendiariness of the blues live that doesn't always come across on record. This is a smoking set newbies and purists can bump fists over rather than bump heads. Top heavy with some of the most decorated cats currently trodding the boards, this is some top shelf stuff that could kickstart a whole new blues revolution. Well done.
VERVE JAZZ ENSEMBLE
VERVE JAZZ ENSEMBLE/It's About Time: Here's a bunch of young lions that have put in their time and are now serving up totally awesome results. They aren't in the tradition, they are right in the pocket. Showing how retro can be a very good thing when you can't improve on perfection, this sounds like those Jai & Kai dates you found cleaning out your grandparents basement that had you wondering how they were once so hip and you never knew it. Smoking, contemporary mainstream jazz that is just so right you almost won't be able to stand it---in a good way. Hot stuff that really delivers.
Volume 37/Number 149
March 30, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record
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