Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino


February 5, 2010


Casual Listening Wins 5 Grammys


While the Grammy voters are notorious for choosing star power over musical integrity, the down-ballot categories tend to be a reasonable benchmark for how much quality and diversity of music you can find on Casual Listening.  The following grammy winners had garnered a starred review or better here when they were first released:

Best Regional Mexican Album: Vicente Fernandez – Necesito de Ti

Best Americana Album: Levon Helm – Electric Dirt

Best Bluegrass Album: Steve Martin – The Crow

Best Contemporary World Music Album: Bela Fleck – Throw Down Your Heart

Best Musical Album for Children: Ziggy Marley – Family Time

Anyone can turn you on to Beyonce, but Vicente Fernandez?  That’s what we’re here for.


! Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba – I Speak Fula (world)

How do you say “guitar god” in Fula?  The ngoni is an ancestor of the banjo native to Mali, and Kouyate leads a band full of them.  The rhythms are devastating, and multiple vocalists give elegant contrast to the furious strings.  This album will be 2010’s must-hear world music album.


Listen to Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba “Musow (For Our Women)


! Bela Fleck – Throw Down Your Heart: Africa Sessions Part 2 (world)

A welcome companion to last year’s must-hear world music album.  This and the first should be considered a complete set, with volume 2 containing more music from the movie, more field recordings, and more studio tracks from the African voyage of the world’s most versatile banjoist.  More mind-opening, world-shrinking, jaw-dropping musical collaborations.

Listen to Bela Fleck “Salam Aleikum” available only at his website here.


* Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma, & Itzhak Perlman – Mendelssohn Piano Trios (classical)

While I’m not expert enough on Mendelssohn to do this recording justice, it’s worth checking out just to hear three of the most accomplished musicians of our age playing together.  The second trio in particular has some exquisite moments.

Listen to “II – Andante Espressivo” from Piano Trio No. 2


Kasper Fredhom Groove Syndrome – Naked Brunch (jazz)

Wicked jazz-funk that’d be at home on the shelf next to Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters.  Electric organ, sax, guitar, drums, and smoky female vocals put the band in the shades-at-midnight coolness league.

Listen to Kasper Fredhom Groove Syndrome “Naked Brunch


Akai – The Coldest Hour (Is Just Before Dawn) (rock)

Sprinkle your ipod with fairy dust.  Gossamer pop-rock with piano, glockenspiel, and reverb-heavy harmonies.  Tight, sweet tunes hold the package together.

Listen to Akai “Satellite



* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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