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MEG BOWLES/Shimmering Land: One of the titans of ambient space music with classical overtones is back with a new sonic scape that opens the mind as well as the ears. Head music, but not the kind of stuff from another time and place, this is inner peace music as opposed to hippy dippy noodling. Obviously not for Beyonce fans, this is the kind of stuff that will ride the top of the charts of another sort. People often wonder how to tell good ambient music form bad ambient music. Obviously, there's a strong subjective element but this set helps you pick out the dividing line. Just what you need for some sonic, head traveling.

PURE HEART ENSEMBLE/Bliss of Being: If we haven't heard from this band's leader, Richard Shulman, in quite a while, does that mean we'll be hearing from his old pal, Don Slepian, next? Shulman has been a this a while, and whether fronting a new age band or going it alone, he's a brand you can trust not to water things down. A top shelf example of healing music that sounds like it really comes from the heart, this really sounds like a non-violent version what it must have sounded like when the Earth came together, big band be damned. A lovely album for grown ups that need a break in the worst way, this set will give them that break, in the best way. Check it out seekers.

CLASSIC BANJO FORM SMITHSONIAN FOLKWAYS/various: This fatly tracked banjo omnibus form the Folkways collection proves once and for all the Moe Asch was the bizarro world John Hammond. Pioneering a method of inventory and manufacturing control that kept every album he made in print and in stock long before manufacturing on demand was even a thought, this collection moves from the greats to the margins, showcasing freak folk players and primitives as well as the great showmen and masters. If you start out with Pete Seeger and end with Bill Keith hanging out with Bill Monroe, you know this might be an overview, but it's one that digs deep. With lo fi coming to the fore again, this seminal look at the art of the banjo after it rose up from the plantation is a sure bet to open your ears whether you are a folkie or not. Whether tourist or hard core, you won't deny Asch his prowess in scouring the world to find the most interesting things as well as the best of the criminally overlooked. Killer stuff that opens the ears of those looking for out of the ordinary music.

JERRY ROCHA/Take That, Real Dad:
PAUL VARGHESE/Paul & Oates: We're reviewing these two releases together because these guys are funny, a laugh riot, bla bla bla. They're real funny, but that's not the news. In the wake of Paula Deen, it's clear we need a new vocabulary to deal with the post-racial world in a proper way. I'm not talking about being politically correct, I'm talking about addressing the new normal in a respectful way. Roche is Mexican and Varghese is East Indian but they both sound like they could have been contemporaries of Woody Allen in his night club years, both admiring Lenny Bruce but honing their acts for their shot on Sullivan or Carson. They acknowledge their heritages without relying on inward, racial humor, but they don't shy away from outward, racial humor and their vocal stylings mostly sound like they are what the court system would call ‘the rational man' (which has always been the court system's snarky way of saying ‘intelligent, rational, white guy‘). Sounding unlike George Lopez or Carlos Mencia, Roche sounds like Greg Girardo told him to keep an eye on things until he gets back. Varghese might have been told the same thing by Jake Johansen if he felt like taking a break. Their humor isn't about whitey keeping them down. Their anger is pointed at insane, ex-girlfriends. How universal is that? 50 years ago, Bill Cosby and Godfrey Cambridge were about bringing people together. Everybody had to swallow a lot of ‘go slow', but it looks like mission accomplished. If music is the universal language, comedy is a close second. And we really mean it, these guys are hilarious.

MELINDA HILL/Six Ways to Bomb on America's Got Talent: The comic goes monologist with this extended single that details Hill's trip into the void by going on a network talent show when she's really a pro, but she slides under the radar anyway. Taking comedy in a different direction, this dissertation provokes laughs and uncomfortable laughs in equal part. Hill shows a real talent for extended story telling here.

TEDO STONE/Good Go Bad: This sound wild. It's like Al Kooper meets Gurf Morlix and they found a new Lucinda Dylan to give it all voice (I could have said Bob Williams, but would you have really gotten it?). Tasty rocked up nu Americana that goes the distance and stands it's ground., this is a fun diversion that takes what it does seriously without taking itself too seriously. Not all dive bar bands have to sound so dire to make their point. Hurray for these guys taking the high road.

HAPPY POET: A throwback to the hey-kids-let's-put-on-a-show ethos in so many ways on so many levels, this debut pic is a flat affect comedy that is a testament to the human will and the indomitable spirit that it can summon when it really wants to move mountains. With the odds against him, inside and outside of his head, a cat wants to launch a veggie food stand in Austin. Not such a far fetched idea. Until you start dealing with the real world and all of it's obstacles. Anyone not enamored of popcorn, tent pole, summer pics will find the next Albert Brooks lurking here. Winning stuff that's often so indie that it hurts, in the end, this pic is something that's good and good for you without being work to get throughout. Check it out.

Volume 37/Number 248
July 7, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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