JAMES LEE BAKER/Impressions: A folkie with eclectic tastes and a wide variety of pals decides to do a tribute album to all of them. Not bowing excessively to the usual idols or tipping the cap to the folk music scare years, this is a dandy introduction to pals that aren't even as well known as Baker. Heartfelt and energetic, the diverse works hang together well as a whole and gives contemporary folk music a nice, new high water mark.
FAMILY SHILOH/At the Cold Copper Ranch: A family harmony band from Texas Hill country gives a different flavor of down home than the usual bluegrass version of this sound. Accenting on story telling, they might have brought in some instrumental ringers, but there's enough extended family here that that it's all them. A classic cowboy record filled with the sound of the land, I don't think the blue highways even get out to where this bunch resides.
(C Side 25)
STEVEN CASPER & Cowboy Angst/Hey!: So much of what passes for country rock is from LA and it often come s out like Bakersfield meets countrypolitan. This might be an LA record, but at it's core, it's heartland country rock---the kind where you hone your craft in a myriad of juke joints and learn how to keep adding something to the mix. A solid party time set, obviously for the country rock set, that just flat out invites you to have another cold one and stay a little longer.
(Silent City 18)
ARIANE RACICOT/Envolee: An angular, musical piano gal that has millions of views for her interpretation of "Bohemian Rhapsody" just double dog dares you to label her an art chick. She's a boundary pushing modern gal throughout, and while you might not be able to keep up with all the twists and turns, it was Miles that gave it to a critic that said he couldn't keep up Miles. This is certainly one of those instances where a good dose of trust will pay off with dividends. Surely a new piano jazzbo star.
SPECIAL EFX featuring Chieli Minucci/Twenty Twenty 2: It's hard to get more reliable than this particularly since we find the fusion band celebrating their 40th anni, sort of. Half the duo died 20 years ago but the guitar man of the crew kept on keeping on and this se t of mostly new stuff shows that no matter who he brings into t he mix, there's no dust on him. Loaded with all the stuff you would want, this is a fine set of fusion on parade.
(Chieli Music 41235)
SONDHEIM UNPLUGGED NYC Sessions V. 2/various: Here's what me and producer Phil Bond have in common. He got a letter from Sondheim congratulating him on this session. 22 minutes later, word got out Sondheim had passed. Me? I got a letter from Charles Addams postmarked the day after he died. Great moments in show biz! Speaking of which, this twofer of tent poles and hidden gems strips the songs down past cabaret versions into putting the song front and center presented by passionate singers. A smoking peek behind the curtain on Broadway, this is the master at work showing how well it all worked no matter how the show fared. Top shelf throughout, I'll bet you even Sondheim authority Tommy Krasker would give this set the high sign.
(Yellow Label 567383)
ANDREA BRACHFELD & Insight/Evolution: The pandemic changed the world view of this Afro Cuban flautist of five decades standing into focusing more on children in need in times of need. The music certainly doesn't sound as down mouthed as that so don't fear. Too smart to be an art chick at this stage of the game, Brachfeld and her long standing crew of real pros are all in synch with the new vibe. This is one powerful gal that wont be held back and the music is the proof.
HEIDI MARTIN/Gifts & Sacrifices: Jazz? Soul? Blues? This DC vocalist is sure to keep you guessing with her mash up of modes that takes you from Oscar Brown to Whitney Houston in the blink of an eye. A real vocal artist, shell have you guessing on whether it's improv or well planned. The kind of artist that keeps you on the edge of your seat, a little thirsty with anticipation.
ERIK FRIEDLANDER/Queen's Firefly: The cellist turns the tables on his downtown stomping ground with a gentle set that isn't new age and isn't cocktail but is carving out a niche with those elements and more. A versatile enough player to keep up with hell raisers or cloud gazers, this pastorale set is a dandy tonic for noisy times when you need some peace to rise out of the morass.
MIKE HOLOBER & Balancing Act/Don't Let Go: A commissioned work from the Duke Foundation, this twofer has enough gravitas to satisfy any arts council writing checks. The piano man at the core of it all has turned in an arty session about hope and why it's good to have some. At many points in this work, there's a definite South American feel to what's going on--but more saudade than samba.
April 23, 2022
830 W. Route 22 #144
Lake Zurich, IL. 60047
CHRIS SPECTOR, Editor and Publisher
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