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ANNIE KOZUCH/Mostly Jobim: Any reservations that could exist about Kozuch are erased as soon as this record beings to play. Doing a killer job on Jobim's showcase of tongue twisting gymnastics, "Rivers of March", that can only be compared to the tracking shot where you meet all the gangsters in the beginning of "Goodfellas" in one take. Going on from there to show that the Jobim oeuvre hasn't been done to death, especially when it's in the right hands, Kozuch and her jazzbo pals deliver the good just right. Without a false step on the lot, this set gives Jobim classics yet another set of good and worthy legs. Fun, fine stuff that was meant to be enjoyed.

JUMPIN' JACK STROBEL/Things Have Changed: This white boy with the blues and a few miles on him can move tracks from the classic Chess days and Dylan tunes into the same set with a cohesion that comes together under his rollicking, roadhouse blues rock moves. A piano man that can preside over any juke joint, Strobel knows how to ride high on the back 40 and keep you at attention. Smoking stuff from a pro that knows his stuff.

CAS HALEY/La Si Dah: So, here's a guy in Paris, TX with a hatful of crowd source funding and his good pal is someone who shaped the sounds of all the arena rockers of the last generation. What do you do? Make a record for a contemporary reggae label that feels like it has loads of easy rolling sloppiness but is actually a well plotted and planned set that brings the party and let's you provide the rum. A delightfully crazy ride that feels like it has more in common with Bob Marley before he met Chris Blackwell than after, with some later day smarts thrown in. Fun stuff for the young and young at heart alike.

LAURA AINSWORTH/Necessary Evil: I don't know what's with this whole femme fatale revival thing, but I like the vibe and I like the records when they are done right, like this one is. With a three octave voice and a pop that played sax with Sinatra, Bennett, Torme and Fitzgerald, Ainsworth brings a whole lot of other things to the table that makes this release stand out at once and pull farther away from the pack with repeated listening. This Juice Newton look alike is full of surprises and is great antidote to the down mouthed canary. Fun stuff that just screams out for a whiskey neat with a water back. Check it out.

CHRIS BERRY/King of Me: Take a cat that plays a kalimba on steroids, adds electronics and fuses traditional African sounds with modern Afropop and you pretty much know what's going on here. The only thing is, you don't know how wild it is until you play it. With compelling lyrics delivered by a heartfelt voice being the cherry on this sundae, the sum total is a wonderful, outside the box world beat date that's tailor made for the next generation of open eared, armchair travelers. Wild, wonderful stuff that saves you a ton of airfare and baggage fees as it takes you someplace else.

SOPHIE MILMAN/Her Very Best...So Far: Hard to believe this savvy, sassy chanteuse has been around for a decade already and this look back shows she was on a road well traveled. Breaking in against the ranks of the finest Canada had to offer at the tops of their games, Milman made herself known and held her own. This well programmed distillation of her several albums is a non-fat, wild ride that careens from Jobim to Muppets and around the corner to Weill and Feist. A sexy vocalist that can croon you into next week, this is some fine sophisticated listening. A hot collection.

THE ROYS/Gypsy Runaway Train: Bluegrass is loaded with gospel/Jesus stuff but all I can say about the latest from The Roys is Goddamn!!!!! They started out in high gear and have only gotten hotter each succeeding time out, this set is unmistakably contemporary bluegrass, but it bristles with punk rock energy and was conceived during a time when this duo was going through more emo stuff than the average shoe gazer could handle. In and out of it all, they have come out with a full fledged Goddamn!!!!!! of a record. Speeding it up, slowing it down, covering faves or coming in with heartfelt originals that just don't exist in the assembly line world of contemporary pop, who would have thought all this killer, down home stuff could come from a pair of kids that were raised in Massachusetts and Canada? A must for listeners that need music that come from the heart and reaches out to the heart. A sterling, top shelf winner throughout.

GLOBAL NOIZE/Sly Reimagined: Hey every body, gather around. Keyboard wiz Jason Miles has adopted yet another identity, gathered up a bunch of other superstar pals and brought the nearly 50 year old classics of Sly Stone forward into the present with way more smart, contemporary moves than players and songs with so many miles on their odometers should have. Not one to rest on his Miles Davis laurels or his renown jazz chops, this pop set gives vets like Roberta Flack, Nona Hendryx and others a chance to strut their stuff for a new audience. With sympathetic fellow travelers like Jeff Coffin and Ingrid Jensen lending a hand as well, this smoking set brings the classics out of the closet and back into the spotlight. Do yourself a favor and take some personalized music lessons on Skype with Miles if you want to start sowing the seeds of becoming a legend yourself. Hot stuff throughout.

Volume 37/Number 198
May 18, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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