Archive for the ‘Putumayo’ Tag
I knew nothing about Jacob Miller before deciding to feature his jovial “Wish You A Merry Christmas” as today’s Roots Song of Christmas.
I was introduced to the track through the 2010 Putumayo set, World Christmas Party. My original review of the album can be found here and I would highly recommend it to all who are looking for something a bit different for your holiday social events.
While preparing this piece, I read his story courtesy of Wikipedia and shortly after started clicking on the many and varied videos accessible via YouTube and such. I liked what I heard, and was more than a little surprised to begin comprehending the reach of an artist I had barely heard of- this music thing will keep ya humble, I’ll tell you; I’m constantly learning something I should have known.
I wasn’t raised on reggae,and for more years than I care to admit, my only reggae album was the vinyl (and then compact disc) of Bob Marley’s Legend, the white man’s essential reggae collection. Over the past twenty years, I’ve built up a small collection of sizzling Jamaician-infused music, from various Trojan and Putumayo compilations, to Marley expanded sets and other essentials such as Richie Spice, Tosh, Cliff, UB40, and bootleg mix discs bought on the streets of Montego Bay. Mostly this has occured because reggae is one of the few musics outside of 70s rock and pop that my spouse and I can agree on.
I tell you that to ensure that you realize I’m not an expert on the music at all, but I do like the sounds and “Wish You A Merry Christmas” is a light, joyful sound bouyed by the Jamaican sounds and ‘irie’ message. Maybe not the coolest reggae you’ll hear, but absolutely infectious.
After yesterday’s depressing “Get Me Through December,” this one from Jacob Miller should get us all back to a positive vibe. An extended version is also online.
I wanted my non-roots Christmas song of the day to be from the same Putumayo set, Charles Brown’s “Christmas Comes But Once a Year.” But I can’t find a clip of it online so I’ll go with Amos Milburn’s version, which is still pert darn cool, despite the silliness of the antics in this video.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
My review of the latest Putumayo project has been posted to Fervor Coulee Bluegrass. http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=906 This review was a bit tough for me because I truly respect the Putumayo label and the legacy of excellence they have established. However, this latest compilation left me wanting. I realize it isn’t fair to review a project on what it isn’t, and I hope I avoided that trap. Rather, I hope I’ve been critical of the album for what it is, while identifying what I wish it had been.
Various Artists Acoustic Café Putumayo Records
Attempting to define the singer-songwriter sound is a fool’s errand and fortunately on their latest release Putumayo makes no such claim. Rather they have gathered 11-tracks from names both familiar (The Waifs, Justin Townes Earle, Harry Manx) and less so (Trevor Hall, Jon and Roy, Fences) that share little in common.
I’ve often felt out of my depth with Putumayo releases. With albums featuring a breadth of music from around the world, I’ve often wondered if their featured African and Caribbean tracks are the ‘world’ equivalent of “Sunglasses at Night”: they sound legitimate but are rather silly and insubstantial.
So it is nice when Putumayo releases something that is right in my wheelhouse, an album I can consider with some measure of confidence and even expertise. It reaffirms my faith in the label’s commitment to quality.
Along with Manx, Lucy Kaplansky provides an experienced perspective to the set. Her lyric-heavy “Manhattan Moon” is a substantial offering that deserves a fresh chance at capturing those who may have missed it when it was released several years ago.
Multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz, the youngest artist on this collection, delivers the requisite Dylan cover and one questions why a more inspired original from her very impressive Follow Me Down wasn’t selected; similarly, Manx has many tunes more substantial than his rather pedestrian cover of Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love.”
The Acoustic Café discovery, for me, was Jon and Roy, a Vancouver Island four-piece with which I was previously unfamiliar. Their offering “Any Day Now” has a light island (Caribbean, not Vancouver) vibe that is appealing.
For me, this type of coffeehouse collection has limited appeal because I’m always thinking, “But they should have a song from…” That Mark Erelli, Tracy Grammer, Maria Dunn, and John Wort Hannam are not included should not enter into my evaluation of the set, but invariably does especially when confronted with dreary tracks from The Sweet Remains and The Waifs.
Preaching to the converted, Putumayo’s new endeavour could easily have gone deeper (at 37-minutes, it is rather brief) but as a compact sampler still provides trails for future exploration.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
A Christmas focus this week in my Roots Music column. I had planned on reviewing 4 Christmas columns this weekend, but instead offered up the Ox review here at Fervor Coulee last weekend and the fourth album turned out to be so awful that I couldn’t even write about it. Kimmie Rhodes is always worth a listen as are Putumayo releases.
Roots music column, originally published December 17, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate
Kimmie Rhodes Miracles on Christmas Day Sunbird Records
Songbird Kimmie Rhodes has been recording rich, original Americana for a couple decades, and during that time has recorded with luminaries including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Emmylou Harris. Over the course of a dozen albums, the Austin-based songwriter has used her impressive mastery of words and melody to pull on heartstrings in a manner that has established her as one of the finest under-recognized voices in roots music.
Miracles on Christmas Day is Rhodes’ first foray into holiday music and- much like last year’s offering from Mary Chapin Carpenter- pulls listeners into a warm embrace of emotion strengthened by reminiscences and hopefulness.
Inspired by Nelson, Rhodes vowed to write a Christmas song annually. She has packaged the finest of these with two standards of the season- including a beautiful rendition of Carol of the Bells– and an interpretation of Patty Griffin’s Mary.
Amidst gentle shuffles augmented by some of Austin’s finest musicians, Rhodes captures the traditional trappings of the Christmas season within nine wonderful little compositions. Good cheer and mistletoe bring a Little Touch of Christmas while the hopeful pines -eloquently and without saccharine- for One More White Christmas with that special someone.
Wake Up Sleepy Town offers Tex-Mex flavourings while Angels Unaware finds the Christmas spirit in the most appropriate of circumstances.
Miracles on Christmas Day is that rare seasonal offering that stands on its own not only as a beautiful recording but as a thematic exploration that maintains significance outside of December.
Various Artists World Christmas Party Putumayo Records
One can always count on the fine folks at Putumayo to collect listenable and atypical Christmas sounds to inject life to holiday celebrations.
From the irie blessings of Jacob Miller’s Jamaican-flavoured We Wish You A Merry Christmas through to the Latin/Cuban jazz of Ed Calle and Arturo Sandoval’s instrumental interpretation of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, those seeking a more worldly view of traditional sounds need to look no further.
Charles Brown’s soulful Christmas Comes But Once a Year would sound apt no matter the season, while the Hawaiian spirit of Keahiwai’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree adds lightness of the collection.
Other favourite sounds stem from Brazil’s Jose Conde (Winter Wonderland) and Texas polka band Brave Combo (The Christmas Song). The highlight may well be Maria de Barros’s Alegria, a beautiful interpretation of Deck the Halls.
Mix in a bit of progressive bluegrass from Alison Brown, a touch of Mozambique via Costa Neto, and New Orleans’ essential Heritage Hall Jazz Band, and one has a Christmas collection waiting to become a favourite.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Best, Donald
In today’s Red Deer Advocate Roots Music column, I advance the coming shows and review three very different (from each other, I mean) recent releases from Les Copeland, Putumayo, and Sara Hickman. As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee and I hope you find something of interest. Best, Donald
Roots Music Column, originally published September 3, 2010 in the Red Deer Advocate
This week I’m going to try to catch up on summer releases that may be of interest to fans of roots music:
Les Copeland Don’t Let the Devil In (Earwig) With minimal accompaniment, Western Canadian bluesman Les Copeland has crafted an engaging and memorable collection of original music. He is an accomplished but not polished vocalist and his guitar playing- including bottleneck touches- is impressive. A deft touch with finger-picking blues allows him to explore the music of the rural south as ably as he does more sophisticated styles. Some of his songs could predate Charlie Patton, while others are of today. With a generous 15 numbers, listeners have much to absorb. Brings to mind Jim Byrnes’ recent appearance at the Central Music Festival.
Various Artists- Tribute to a Reggae Legend (Putumayo) While I usually want my reggae to have a bit more bite, this smooth assemblage of mostly recent cuts is of interest. While several of the compiled tunes are straight forward renditions of Bob Marley classics, others have a twist. Hawaii is represented by Three Plus performing a rich interpretation of “Is This Love”; also from Hawaii, Robi Kahakalau’s “Do It Twice” has more of a pop-jazz feel. Montreal’s Caracol contributes “Could You Be Loved”, one of several tracks especially recorded for this set, while Julie Crochetière’s “Mellow Mood” is breathtaking. Blues, folk, and bossa nova influence other selections, providing an intriguing, multi-dimensional listening experience.
Sara Hickman- Absence of Blame Having recorded in Texas for more than twenty years, Sara Hickman is a celebrated writer and singer; most recently, she was named the Official State Musician of Texas for 2010. Having flirted with the mainstream, Hickman is every inch the independent artist.
Her new album is one that becomes more appealing with each exposure. Folky, a little bit country, and frequently straight-up rock & roll, Hickman’s music has inspirational substance that is balanced by the lightness of her presentation and the power of her voice; another reviewer compared her to Christine Lavin, a connection I had intended to make until, well…I guess I just did. For me though, Hickman is a more universal talent- she has the poignancy of Lavin and, like Cheryl Wheeler, bridges the clever observance- durable song divide effectively. After a festival summer listening to many wannabes, Absence of Blame is a refreshing testament of what is possible within the folk roots world.
I was on a brief vacation for most of this past week and my listening reflects what is on my mp3 player. It was lovely to be sitting in the Vancouver Island sun watching the waves lap the shoreline with bald eagles flying overhead while listening to Doc Watson and such. A nice, relaxing break. As always, only whole album listening gets listed; this is what passed my ears this week:
Tom Russell- The Tom Russell Anthology: Veteran’s Day
Doc Watson- Trouble in Mind: The Doc Watson Country Blues Collection and Hayes Carll- Trouble in Mind Through a glitch in how my machine sorts files, these two ended up in the same folder. Listening to them trading songs in this manner was perfect. This is the first time I have been able to listen to the Carll album in its entirety- for no reason than lack of attention span- and I found myself quite enjoying it. The Doc set is faultless.
Guy Clark- Sometimes the Song Writes You Truly a master. His strongest set in quite awhile, and he has never recorded a less than satisfying album.
Various Artists- Real: The Tom T. Hall Project One of the best tribute albums, and possibly my favourite. Without fault.
Steve Earle- Train A Comin’ Still my favourite Steve Earle recording.
The Gaslight Anthem- The ’59 Sound I love everything about this album, including all the Springsteen references, deliberate and obvious as they are.
Slowdrag- Slow-Fidelity One of the finest acoustiblue albums of the past ten years.
John Wort Hannam- Queen’s Hotel As a member of the Polaris Music Prize jury, I wasn’t surprised that this album didn’t get through to the long list. I was disappointed, though. Folk music doesn’t get much better than this.
Charlie Sizemore- The Story Is…The Songs of Tom T. Hall The second best Tom T. Hall tribute. And it is pretty darn good.
Paul Burch- Pan-American Flash
The Wooden Sky- If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone Another album that was considered for the Polaris Music Prize this year; it didn’t make the short list.
Kate Campbell- Blues and Lamentations
The Drive-By Truckers- The Fine Print A collection of odds & sods that rivals several of their albums.
John Stewart- Bombs Away Dream Babies
James Reams & the Barnstormers- Troubled Times and Barnstormin’ Listening to these two last week made me realize, again, how strong his original material is, and how different it is from typical bluegrass fare.
That’s the mp3 album list from last week; I never thought I’d become a portable device person, but I’m glad I did; the convenience is great, the battery life is unreal, and the capacity- even on my wee 4 gig machine, is incredible.
My wife is convinced I have a record store GPS inserted somewhere in my body. This was proven, again, when I pulled into a random parking spot in Parksville and looked up to see the community’s new and used record store in front of me. The Cranky Dog was visited three times over five days and offered up some discs I couldn’t leave without, including:
Thin Lizzy- The Universal masters Collection A set of pre-Vertigo Thin Lizzy. A nice collection I hadn’t previously seen.
The album I am most glad I listened to last week.
Dwight Yoakam- South of Heaven, West of Hell I’ve been looking for this one for three or four years, after passing up on it the only other time I saw it in a store. I love searches like this; it makes the locating of the album that much more meaningful. Good for driving, as are most Yoakam albums.
James Gordon- Mining for Gold (Disc 2) A retrospective of the Ontario songwriter’s material up to 2000; 8 bucks for the 2-disc set. The deal of the trip.
Ray Wylie Hubbard- Live at Cibolo Creek Country Club
Marshall Crenshw- The Definitive Pop Collection I already have most of the songs. Who cares? A non-stop power pop , two-disc set.
Graham Parker and the Rumour- The Up Escalator Not among the critic’s favourites, The Up Escalator is one of my essential GP albums. It may have been the first album of his I bought and the album holds up. “Endless Night” remains a stone classic.
Bookending our Vancouver Island getaway was more listening:
Various Artists- Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine I missed this one last week. Review is up at the Lonesome Road Review.
Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez- The Trouble with Humans
Lainie Marsh- The Hills Will Cradle Thee Liking it more with every listen.
Various Artists- Putumayo Presents Tribute to a Reggae Legend A nice set for casual reggae fans. I prefer my reggae with a bit more anger.
Mississippi Live- Mississippi Live
Kim Beggs- Blue Bones To be reviewed in the paper this Friday. A great album.
The Sadies- Darker Circles With a well-deserved place on the Polaris Prize short-list.
Andre Williams- That’s All I Need
As is the case with most Putumayo releases, South Africa– released just in time for World Cup festivities- brings diverse sounds into a harmonious blend, presenting a cross-section of music representative of a nation’s artistry.
Miriam Makeba’s Orlando serves as the foundation of this wide-ranging examination of South African music. Phinda Mtya is featured twice, once as a member of Mahube and solo on Tiki Tiki. Bholoja’s Mbombela wouldn’t sound out of place on a Ladysmith Black Mambazo album, while more contemporary flavours are found within tracks from Kaya, Bik Sonshine, and Zoro.
I couldn’t tell you the difference between township jive and African jazz, and I don’t care if the music is hip-hop inspired or if it has more traditional roots. This music impacts me at the most base level, where the rhythms- so unlike those I normally encounter within my roots, country, and folk world- work themselves into my two left feet.
If only soccer was this engaging.
On a related but entirely different note, The Soweto Gospel Choir has recorded a version of “Walking on Sunshine” as part of the festivities around the 25th anniversary of the recording of the classic track, not withstanding that most of us know the song was originally recorded and released in ’83 on Attic Records. That song is not on Putumayo Presents South Africa, but SGC’s “Ngahlulele” is. See the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EG68hyjnAE, and watch the ‘new’ video for Katrina & the Waves’ “WoS” here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6GTYC_NmmI&feature=player_embedded
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee