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ARI & MIA/Land on Shore: If you drew a line starting with Kathy & Carol and let it meander through all the great folkie ladies to follow that made non commercial records that turned out to be as influential as any Velvet Underground record, the latest point on that line would be Ari & Mia. Why they don't at all feel commercial, you can feel the Etta Baker/Delia Bell/Jean Ritchie in their music throughout--but brought forward. A sizzlingly delightful set of introspective folk that seems all filigree and gossamer but is actually as tough as a spider web, these sisters may only wind up topping some oddball chart for some oddball survey but once you hear them, you will be touched forever. Satellite radio, do your thing, you and these women could easily wind up best of friends.
Killer stuff throughout.

ROBERT PRESTER/Dogtown: Records like this lend proof to those theories you have to spend at least 10,000 hours practicing to get whatever it is under your belt. Only Prester's fourth album in a flow that might have gone quicker, he issues fourth a set of almost all originals that click. Snappy stuff that delivers piano led jazz to various fields, this is a happy jazz set that makes you feel good when you play it. He knows his stuff and knows how to present it in a fine light. It's real and solid jazz for when you just want some jazz you can count on. Tasty throughout.

PETER KERLIN OCTET/Salamander: Brooklyn hipster alert. The bass player makes his bass driven debut that likens itself as a pomo/Krautrock trip through the trippy past. Very much in touch with a nu generation that doesn't care for nostalgia but finds something of value in the past, this melting pot of a date isn't really easy to classify as it creates a mash up world all of it's own. It's not off putting, but it's probably not for moldy figs either. We actually hear echoes of a lot of those prog bands on Charisma that never broke through to the masses because they were a little ahead of their time. Delightfully eccentric and off the beaten path, you can almost hear "Tubular Bells' weird cousin lurking in here.

AYMAN FANOUS & JASON HAO HWANG/Zilzal: This is almost an album you could frame and hang on the wall. A guitarist and violinist that have been tearing it up downtown since the 90s, this is their recording debut. Not exactly contemporary classical or chamber music, this duo creates the kind of achingly simple and beautiful playing that isn't casual listening but is deep, solid listening most welcome when you have your art hat on and only a narrow swatch of sound will satisfy. Oddly enough, the two have enough on the ball that even with simple and spare instrumentation, they can take you very clearly around the world and really open your ears. Yes, this is what you want to hear when it's time to indulge in something completely different. A winner.

ROCKIN' HERE TONIGHT-SONGS FOR SLIM/various: I never thought of The Replacements as an alt.country band but the alt.country community really turned out in force for a bunch of benefit records to help pay for Slim Dunlap's medical bill after being felled by a stroke. There's members of other alt communities here as well but you can't beat some of the cats from the country side of things that turned out here. This twofer is a collection of special limited edition recordings that came out over the last year. Here we find those who waited getting off cheap and still getting some off the clock killer, left of center music and playing for a good cause. Another reason slow pokes come away big time with this package is that the second disc is a bunch of previously unreleased material. Most of the material is Dunlap compositions and they are played like they were specially written for the artist at the helm at the time. This is a seriously high octane collection played from the heart for a good cause. Left of center tastes can rejoice on a lot of levels here.

HOWE GELB/The Coincidentalist: A lo fi recording with nothing but burning alt.luminaries on board to fuel the proceedings, this is Gelb's sharpest recording of his career. A career maker and a bar raiser, his desert folk vibe feels like Townes Van Zandt mixing it up with the nighthawks at the diner. There's no traditional feeling hits here but the whole of it all feels like a boulder rolling down the hill ready to bowl you over if you don't get out of the way. Anyone who misses literate lyrics that continually hit the mark in a highly left of center way with nary a touch of shoe gaze will be lauding the huzzahs onto this disc. Killer stuff throughout that may not brighten your day but it certainly will change it. Check it out.

THOMAS SNOW/Friends: Better look out for this piano jazzbo who's played with everybody. For all of us that wanted to grow up and be John Koerner, Snow apparently had the balls to do so because his fourth outing doesn't leave his jazzbo side behind but it adds his folk/Americana side. And that side is loaded with Koerner repertoire and it's performed in the spirit of Koerner--by shaking off the dust lodged on the dusty oldies. And then he brings his folkie/Americana pal, Jonathan Edwards, in to kick out vocals on a few tracks. What a fun set. It almost makes you feel like hanging up a sign "Do Not Disturb, Hard Core Pros at Work". It ain't folk, it ain't jazz but it's got a lot of cool elements of both. This is what folkies have been laying the weeds waiting for. Check it out.

ROB DERKE & the NYJAZZ Quartet/Blue Divide: Joe Lovano loves this sax led crew and you can tell he's really feeling it when he's in his art jazz/free form mode. Very creative cats that follow Brecht's dictum that art should shape it's surroundings rather than reflect them, this is the kind of crew that takes art jazz from the church basement to the over ground but never removes it from it's roots. Egghead jazz? You bet. A chore to listen to? Not on a bet. Right in the lineage of the kind of non-self conscious hipster material that some one like Steve Allen would champion in his time, this is pure bred for those moments when you feel a real need to keep it real. Left of center but always on the money.

Volume 38/Number 37
December 7, 2013
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2013 Midwest Record

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