Casual Listening

a review of cool new music 

by Jeff Pinzino

 

! Natalie Merchant - Leave Your Sleep (folk)

 

Folk music used to belong to all of us – traditional melodies and lyrics from whatever folk you happen to descend.  If Merchant in the past has been part of the movement that redefined folk as introspective coffeehouse balladry, consider this album payment-in-full of her karmic debt.  Twenty-six musical settings of classic poems by e.e. cummings, Ogden Nash, and others show how much music is on the printed page if we’d only take the time to listen.  Add to this a different band on every track to spin us around the world, with styles from China, Eastern Europe, Ireland, New Orleans, and more.  Merchant’s voice is deep bittersweet, and despite the title, I’m expecting this to be the lullaby album of choice for our family in the foreseeable future.

 

Listen to Natalie Merchant “Bleezer’s Ice Cream

 

* Tony Allen - Secret Agent (world)

 

Tony Allen knows a heavy groove when he sees one.  He plays Nigerian Afrobeat in classic style, with funky extended jams, conscious lyrics, and a focus on the horns.  Boogie on.

 

Listen to Tony Allen “Secret Agent

 

 

V.M. Bhatt & Matt Malley - Sleepless Nights (world)

 

Anything Bhatt touches turns to gold.  He’s a master Indian musician who plays the mohan veena, a 17-string slide guitar of his own creation.  He’s done duet albums with a number of American masters – Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, and Bela Fleck to name a few, and although Matt Malley isn’t exactly a household name (bass player of Crowded House), he manages some beautiful settings for Bhatt’s soaring musical lines.

 

Listen to V.M. Bhatt & Matt Malley “The Eternal Wait

 

Legendary Shack Shakers - Agridustrial (rock)

 

As the title suggests, the Shack Shakers are an unlikely mash-up of country-folk and screaming rock.  In this case it works.  Distorted guitar and overdriven harmonica open up the throttle and let the music ride, even when they’re covering 70-year-old banjo recordings.

 

Listen to Legendary Shack Shakers “Sin Eater