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Best of New Music (August 2014 Edition)
A periodic list of some of the most exciting, newly purchased CDs for our circulating collections.
The kind of singing that is so filled with emotion it sounds like your life depends on it, in large part, came out of the African-American Gospel tradition. Artists like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Aretha Franklin, all brought something out of gospel and into popular music, and it is that feeling that is conjured by what would become known as "soul music": a religious fervor that was born out of the belief that your very life DID depend on it. And that passion, crossed over from gospel, brought so much to popular music that it would never, ever, be the same. Sam Cooke, like Aretha Franklin and so many others, was the child of a preacher man. He got his big break when he was hired on, at 19 years old, to take over as lead singer of the Soul Stirrers, an established gospel quartet already actively touring the "Chitlin' Circuit". It didn't take long for Cooke to imagine taking what he had learned and crossing over into popular music. And of course once he did, he recorded several smash hits with one of the most distinctly beautiful voices in all of pop music history. I mean, let's face it, if you're born with a voice like that you pretty much have to sing, right? But before Cooke crossed over into pop music, he had a wonderful run of jubilee quartet hits with the Soul Stirrers, honing his skills and injecting hard gospel techniques you will most definitely recognize from your favorite later soul records that would be heavily influenced by him and others. Here is collected virtually all of the songs he recorded with the group at Specialty Records (incidentally, the label of Little Richard). And if you've never heard them, you're in for a treat! (PREVIEW my two favorites: Jesus Gave Me Water and the incomparable How Far Am I From Canaan?)
November by Grace & Tony (2013)
Well when I first read the term "punkgrass" I immediately began lacing up my running shoes, ready to sprint over to the nearby town of "Oh Brother". Yet something made me give it a listen; and well, I'll never let a new hybrid genre term scare me off again. People grow up with lots of different influences these days I suppose; and if real poetry and passion go into the songwriting, then so what if somebody somewhere has to come up with some kitschy new label so it makes sense in the grand scheme? With lines like, "And I was wrong when I decided I would never meet somebody like you"... It's just too much! So if those influences can be woven back into something delightful and compelling then so be it. Call it what you want; when it works it works. Then here you go folks, punkgrass! (PREVIEW)
Get There by Minor Alps (2013)
Mellow indie rock with beautiful harmonies; and when the harmonies drop away, the instruments continue to carry the songs so delightfully well. You may listen to this one over and over again. (PREVIEW)
Analog Voodoo by Peter Solo (2013)
Former sideman to Miriam Makeba offers up a collection of Togolese voodoo-funk. He's a great singer and frontman, but his guitar licks are what prove he's entirely in the groove, and knows how to get you into it too! (PREVIEW)
Ancestor by Stone Jack Jones (2014)
This album is as slow and haunting as the fog that graces its cover. It can perhaps best be summed up by a line from the track "Black Coal":
"Why, oh why, is the sky? Why, oh why, do we die? Tell my children daddy's gone to work in the hole."
Give the People What They Want by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (2014)
Keeping the soul music tradition very much alive, injected with a little funk as well, is Brooklyn's own Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. The quest for that golden-age-of-soul sound even carries over into their choice of using analog recording equipment instead of modern digital means, to better capture the essence of '60s independent-label soul. Following in the footsteps of truly great, small-label house bands like Booker T. & The M.G.s, the Funk Brothers, and The Swampers, the Dap-Kings are really the house band for their label, Daptone Records. And like those great house bands before them, their influence reaches far beyond just one act, going so far as to define an entire sound and genre. Yet it is with Sharon Jones that they've garnered the most attention as a revivalist funk/soul act. These folks bring to life something that never should have gone away; but it did, and now it's back! (PREVIEW)