Casual Listening

a review of cool new music

by Jeff Pinzino


February 26, 2010


The New Casual Listening Website has launched!!!  Check out to see the new look.  There will be special features for the next couple of weeks – this week is a Rock & Roll Manifesto disguised as a concert review for King Khan and the Shrines from their show in Chicago last year.


The website is done on a new platform called OpenHill, the brainchild of long-time Casual Listener Todd McMeen.  It’s set up for non-profits and tech novices to create their own next-generation website.  I can say from my experience it’s been a pretty painless process to get something much cooler than the usual blogging services provide.  For more info, check out OpenHill’s homepage here.


! Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me (rock)

You’ll find all two hours of this album streaming on the NPR Music website, alongside a quote that declares “this isn’t casual listening.”  Allow me to set the record straight that this album is indeed Casual Listening.  It’s a gorgeous album by a talented singer-songwriter with the voice of a nightingale.  The songcraft is exquisite throughout, variously accompanied by chamber orchestra, piano, and her signature harp.  Do yourself a favor and listen to this end-to-end.  You’ll still be left wanting more.

Listen to Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me at NPR Music Exclusive First Listen


! Johnny Cash – American VI: Ain’t No Grave (folk)

A final aloha from the Man in Black, completing one of the most remarkable series of recordings of our time.  I know versions of a few of these songs from the early recordings of Joan Baez.  The parallels are striking – both rich, fragile voices singing about love, death, and redemption in a way that’s quintessentially American.  We miss you, Johnny.


Listen to Johnny Cash “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream


* Carolina Chocolate Drops – Genuine Negro Jig (folk)

Three young musical talents meeting in the hills of North Carolina make a pact that Black string band music won’t pass away with the last of the old timers.  Several years later, they’ve made the tradition their own, adding new wrinkles along the way.  The band’s energy pops from the speakers, putting you in the middle of a living-room jam session with the banjo ringing just inches away from your rocking chair.


Listen to Carolina Chocolate Drops “Snowden’s Jig [Genuine Negro Jig]

Listen to Dessa “Children’s Work


Moreland & Arbuckle – Flood (blues)

A screamin’ electric set finds this duo with full blues band in tow.  Classic blues and original tunes showcase some boss harmonica and slide guitar playing.

Listen to Moreland & Arbuckle “Hate To See You Go


John Pizzarelli – Rockin’ in Rhythm: A Tribute to Duke Ellington (jazz)

A living tribute to the tallest giant of jazz.  Pizzarelli croons while the band invokes the sound of the Cotton Club Orchestra on coast-to-coast radio in the 20’s and 30’s, music that everyday people loved and in turn Ellington loved-you-madly.

Listen to John Pizzarelli “In a Mellow Tone


And don’t miss his next-generation Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross vocalese with Kurt Elling and Jessica Molaskey on “Perdido


Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate – Ali & Toumani (world)

The Choir of Gloucester Cathedral – The Choral Music of John Joubert (classical)

Xiu Xiu – Dear God, I Hate Myself (rock)

Too much good music this week – I unfortunately don’t have time to do justice to it all.  Anything the Malian master musicians Ali and Toumani touch turns to gold.  John Joubert’s choral “Five Songs of Incarnation” is a powerful Lenten meditation.  And Xiu Xiu creates esoteric electopop, with one song I can’t get out of my head.

Listen to Ali Farka Toure & Toumani Diabate “Sabu Yerkoy

Listen to The Choir of Gloucester Cathedral “Five Songs of Incarnation: Of a Rose a Lovely Rose

Listen to Xiu Xiu “Chocolate Makes You Happy




* highly recommended

! highest recommendation

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