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REVOLUTIONARY SNAKE ENSEMBLE/Live Snakes: If you've gotten over your fear of snakes on a plane, you might want to dive into this set of Nawlins music from a Boston cat who just can't get the vibe out his head. Delivering the goods for over 20 years now, this collection captures two different aggregations of the crew doing music inspired by the leader's wife's death and his desire to memorialize her with a Nawlins jazz funeral--his way. Hardly a somber affair, the sax man and his pals do a fine job of celebrating life. The kind of music that's as much a draw to Nawlins as anything else, I guess this proves that the Big Easy has become a state of mind that can exist anywhere your headphones are. Well done.

JONES FAMILY SINGERS/The Spirit Speaks: When a gospel band blows away the heathens at SXSW time after time, the rest of us should take notice, at least to see what's going on. Since funk ultimately comes from God, you might think that only real heathens might have a problem with this gospel band being uber skilled at tearing the roof off the sucker. Even when they slow it down, they come on like a runaway train. Culling from material that goes back years, many of which they hadn't sung until making these new recordings, you would have never thought Jesus was a finger popping daddio until you heard this. Hot stuff that goes beyond the limitations of whatever your believes are. Check it out.

JEFF HACKWORTH/Soul to Go!: The sax man leads his crew through a jumping organ quartet date. Sounding every bit like the timeless daddio jazz the English public domain hucksters are flooding the racks with, this has a bunch of cats on board with authentic daddio credentials. Fronted with in the tradition originals that are firmly in the pocket, this crew has probably collected so many miles along the way that they'll never have to pay for Admiral's Club memberships ever again. And they were soaking something up along the way to distill a together a sound like this. Sets like this show the dividing line between daddios and hipsters. Hot stuff throughout.

LISA BIALES/Belle of the Blues: EG Kight, Paul Hornsby and Biales have come up with a wining combination and they know how to work it. Simply a flat out good time record with a cast of session cats you couldn't afford in the old days bringing it rather than dogging it, the cleaqr voiced vocalist comes on as a laid back, white blues momma that keeps driving forward without getting too worked up about the speed bumps along the way. Here's a singer that loves to sing laying it out there for the people that love to listen. Well done, again.

MATT WALLACE/For a Season: You say bluegrass, I say new grass. This rising bass player knows the right moves, but he's also listening to Norah Jones and Jack Clement and who knows what else he has his ears open for. An MVP that's already made his Opry debut and has appeared on loads of important genre recordings. He gives it his all for his debut and it's really one for the books. Hot stuff throughout that delivers the right moves without the clichés, if country is the new rock, this is the new country. Check it out.

REBEKAH BELL/To Watch Over Me: When a thrush wants to bring some special sauce to the classic jazz diva mix, we've got our ears open. A secondary music education teacher as opposed to the usual college level educator, part of Hall's appeal is you can tell she wants to sing for grown ups for a change. Seeding her sound with a Norah Jones/cabaret vibe, she mixes up the times and tides on her set card (and happily for us avoids giving us another rendition of "Nature Boy") turning it all into Duke Ellington's fave kind of music (good). With upmarket cocktail hour sophistication as her guide, this set has a lot on the ball and is sure to have her students saying they knew her when for many years to come. Well done.

BLUE LUNCH/Special-30th Anniversary Edition: Often described as a blues band, this bunch of mostly white boys has their hearts in west side Chicago/chitlin circuit show bands so call it what you will. Together for 30 years, this set culls tracks from their last 15 years worth of recordings that saw them through the swing revival and beyond. First class party music for when the blue lights are on in the basement and the gang's all there, this collection show this bunch has had it going on all this time whether you knew it or not. Hot stuff.

STU MINDEMAN/In Your Waking Eyes: Before the Last Poets, there was Langston Hughes, but there was no music with his poetry. Here we find the stripped down percussion funk style of the Poets in newly written form, backing the classic poetry of Hughes. I don't know what the artistic perimeters of this project were, but for anyone familiar with Hughes, you know there's plenty of room for a volume two that'll feel like newly broken ground. And we're not just pointing this out because we real cool (dig?). It might be heavily arts council flavored but discovering/rediscovering Hughes is always worth a trip tot the library. Check it out.

TOM GRIESGRABER-BERT LAMS/Unnamed Lands: This is a heavy duty musogeek project, but we mean that in a really good way. One of the foremost players of The Stick and his long time touring partner, a member of California Guitar Trio took four years to play around in the studio and organically grow this Coplandian project in which the two stringed aces take a look at a wagon train going across the plains in the mid 1800s. An impressionistic set that really does a great sonic capture of the old plains and the old west and the vibe the settlers must have felt, it's really a dream this duo was able to work on their own schedule to craft such a killer set. An obvious must for acoustic guitar fans, it seems only fitting that the first person they let hear the finished project was Stick inventor Emmett Chapman---and he put his seal of approval on it. A great record like the kind they used to make, anyone who still has their Windham Hill guitar vinyl will savor this mightily. Well done.

Volume 38/Number 108
February 16, 2014
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL., 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
Copyright 2014 Midwest Record

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