Wednesday, May 30, 2012

CD Review: Curumin's 'Arrocha'

Six Degrees Records

Brazilian-born, Curumin, contains a good sense of rhythm and urban grooves steeped in Brazilian colors of warmth and brilliance. The gritty grooves contain a slew of addictive electronic embellishments and catchy melodies that do not stray too far from his Brazilian roots. The thirteen tracks are a snapshot of Brazil's electronically-inclined music industry. The seductive grooves and danceable songs are equally-textured with style, grace, and fluidity that ebbs-and-flows between cool and really cool. At any rate, the contemporary compositions are more authentic and natural than other similarly-compared groups. The absence of much electronica on "Passarinho," showcases a lighter, acoustic side of Curumin with a more pop-focused result. Arrocha, which means, 'to hold on with a lot of pressure,' is perfectly-named, as Curumin does not wither from the pressure of creating amazing music. Brazilian music fans will love Curumin and the rest of the world should be on-board by this evening! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Nickodemus' 'Moon People'

Moon People
ESL Music

Brooklyn-based DJ/producer, Nickodemus combines global sounds with the latest in club compositions founded upon a heady foundation of urban grooves and dubtronica. His twelve compositions bridge seemingly disparate worlds of American, Arabic, and Latin music within a modern context with ethereal vocals. The funky, pulsations of "Moon People," feature The Real Live Show with Arabic connotations and urban grooves. The urban grooves and down-tempo delights are enough to surprise the electronic music fan, as well as the fusion fan, too. Nickodemus features the talents of Afrika Bambaataa, Kathrin deBoer, The Candela Allstars, Sammy Ayala, and Kissey Asplund. The soulful vocals, punchy percussion, and Afro-Caribbean/Latin foundations are first and foremost an aural delicacy for the ears. This is good enough for moon people as it is for Earth people. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Secret Is Out! - J Boogie's Dubtronic Science Releases 'Undercover'

J Boogie's Dubtronic Science
Om Records

The San Francisco-based, J Boogie's Dubtronic Science, plays with samples and live instruments on his latest excursion through electronica and dub-centric music with an African and funky side. The twelve tracks are steeped in dance, soul, Latin, and Afro-rhythms that are littered with killer horns, basslines, and special effects. The vocals are not that bad either and represent a relatively modern approach to vocal music. The vocals are intertwined between groove-focused vibes that feature the work of The Mamaz, Chrys-Anthony, Lateef The Truthspeaker, The Pimps Of Joytime, Deuce Eclipse, Jazz Mafia, Afrolicious, Gina Rene, Rich Armstrong, Raashan Ahmad, and Caipo. The rhythmic tunes represent Latin and African elements that are hip, fresh, and always addictive. Fans of dubtronic music, nu jazz, hip hop, cumbia, Afro-funk, rap, and modern music from South America and West Africa will love Undercover. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Sembeh Ma Fa Fe Revisits Volume'

Various Artists
Sembeh Ma Fa Fe Revisits Volume
Stronghold Sound

The folks at the San Francisco-based Afrobeat label, Stronghold Sound, brings us a new album dedicated to the music from Guinea, Africa. This new compilation contains the likes of Bom Sone, Important, Tiralleur, Sista Lessa, Ruphert, Balbore, Bongo, Symbole, Prince II Saen, Neuf Six, Besto Besto, and Kati. The album title, which means 'strong sound coming' is appropriately-titled without a doubt. The new sound is rather modern with equal doses of hip hop, reggae, and R&B throughout. The rhythmic diversity is steeped in West African history combined with urban roots. The album is recorded and produced by label founder, Ahmed Khouja. The sixteen tracks are adventurous, lively, and powerful with elements of electronica, dub, funk, and rock. Guinea music fans unite with Stronghold Sound's latest release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Rachel Hair Trio's 'No More Wings'

Rachel Hair Trio
No More Wings
March Hair Records

Scottish group, Rachel Hair Trio, is a brilliant folk ensemble with a full-range of vocal melodies and instrumental delights. The music is inspired not only from Scotland, but Galicia, Brittany, Sweden, Wales, the USA, and other places with string and folk traditions. The eleven musical morsels are steeped with evocative harp, rhodes, accordion, sax, percussion, and jig-friendly guitar stylings with a hint of double bass to beef it up a bit. The rather acoustic and intimate feel of the album is not an accident. The whirling sax on "Swedish," signifies an almost Klezmer approach to jig music. Jenn Butterworth's smooth, folk-centric vocals on "Grey Funnel Line," takes on a slight Shawn Colvin resemblance amidst the folk guitar, light percussion, and harp. Fans of harp and folk music from Europe will love the contemporary musings of the Rachel Hair Trio. This album may be titled No More Wings, but it still soars away with happy melodies and compelling instrumentation. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, May 24, 2012

CD Review: Maga Bo's 'Quilombo Do Futuro'

Maga Bo
Quilombo Do Futuro
Post World Industries

The Afro-Brazilian rhythms of contemporary musicians, Maga Bo, continue to surprise listeners with a hankering for gritty, electronic soundscapes of urban melodies and in-your-face dub. The vocals are diverse and very urbanized. There is a strong hip-hop and capoeira presence throughout. The twelve tracks are featured by several musicians, including Bnegao, Gaspar, Speed Freaks, MC Zulu, Rosangela Macedo, and others. The immense percussion arrangements and group vocals make the album very enticing for all who listen to it. The Afro-Brazilian elements are very pronounced and worth the listening experience. For dub fans, Maga Bo is where it is at. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Spy From Cairo's 'Arabadub'

The Spy From Cairo

The Arabic dub sounds from Zeb--The Spy From Cairo--are poignant, classical, and modern. The danceable songs are mostlyinstrumental and loaded with twists and turns to keep your feet involved and your ears tuned in without tiring. This is amazing music for the dub aficionado and Middle Eastern beat fan. The music is energetic and contains strings and typical percussion indicative of Egyptian ensembles and other like-minded groups. The danceable beats and cinematic appeal is suspense-driven and never dull. The raw flutes, heady percussion, and electronic palette of aural color is prevalent and excellently-executed. Zeb is a great innovator and purveyor of world music and dub music forms in particular. Nothing is too difficult for Zeb and Arabadub proves it. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ibrahim Maalouf's 'Diagnostic'

Ibrahim Maalouf
Mi'ster Productions

Born in Beirut, Lebanon and based in France, Ibrahim Maalouf's latest album, Diagnostic, is rather diverse overall. The album spans the worlds of jazz, piano music, Middle Eastern folk, and even a bit of Klezmer or Balkan folk. Whatever it is called, it is great. The instrumental medleys and folk vocals are top-notch, albeit a little experimental or improvisational. The dizzying melodies and slight rock elements of 'Never Serious,' make this album shine with inner light and a danceable beat without resorting to keyboards or electronic embellishments. Ibrahim prides himself as an arranger, trumpeter, and instructor, which is vital for understanding the ins-and-outs of performative music. This is perfect for the trumpet fan and avid listener of Middle Eastern jazz and folk. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Niyaz' 'Sumud'

Six Degrees

The modern arrangements of the Persian group Niyaz are steeped in Persian, Kurdish, Afghani, Palestinian, and Turkish folk songs. The contemporary arrangements on keyboards, electronics, drums, and percussion are due to the talented Carmen Rizzo. Azam Ali is the vocalist, but she also plays the santoor and assorted percussion. Loga Ramin Torkian plays saz, robab, kamaan, djumbush, lafta, guitar, and viol. The stunning compositions are modernized, but not so much they are diluted with boring or cheap embellishments. Instead, the result is a catchy, moving, and ear-friendly approach to folk music. The popularized result is not devoid of folkish charm. Sumud, which means 'steadfastness' in Arabic, is appropriately-titled. Sumud will astound, amaze, and awe-inspire all who listen to it. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ljuba Davis Ladino Ensemble's 2-CD 'East And West'

Ljuba Davis Ladino Ensemble
East And West [2-CD]

The Ljuba Davis Ladino Ensemble brings us an exciting 2-CD set of Sephardic music with lively instrumentals and joyous vocals. The Ladino qualities are inherent throughout, but there is a good deal of Mediterranean, Greek, and Arab musical influences contained throughout both CDs. Both CDs contain identical songs in identical order, but the first CD contains vocals by Ljuba Davis, while the second CD contains one vocal track by Avram Pengas. The group consists of Ljuba Davis on vocals, Avram Pengas on vocals and bouzouki, Rachid Halihal on oud, Nadav Lev on Spanish guitar, Ossama Farouk on hand percussion, and Marty Confurius on string bass. The rousing group is very fun to listen to and steeped in Ladino glory. This is music for the Klezmer, Jewish, Ladino, and Mediterranean music fan! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Imani Uzuri's 'The Gypsy Diaries'

Imani Uzuri
The Gypsy Diaries

The opening sitar sounds on the first track, 'Beautiful,' followed by the bluesy, gospel vocals of Imani Uzuri, offers a glimmer of what brilliant--and varied--delicacies are found on The Gypsy Diaries. The multi-influential work encompasses Indian, blues, gospel, Afro-pop, Eastern European, and East Asian elements that bring a sense of class, soul, and dignity to the world of music. The diverse vocals match the diverse instrumentation. The English vocals are a little lower in tone than Zero 7's earlier work. Still, the album features a good mix of melodies, instruments, rhythms, and Afro-pop magnificence for audiences of all ages and locations. This is world music at its best! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Alaev Family & Tamir Muskat'' Self-Titled Release From Tajikistan/Israel

The Alaev Family & Tamir Muskat
The Alaev Family & Tamir Muskat

The modern folk music of the Israel-based group, The Alaev Family & Tamir Muskat, stems from their original homeland of Tajikistan. The Central Asian melodies and percussion combine with the Klezmer and Balkan string style of other groups to create a heady mixture of steamy, swirling melodies ripe with energy and vitality. Tamir Muskat, of Balken Beat Box fame, lends his programming, drumming, and assorted percussion skills to the project. The Alaev Family plays the doyra, accordion, percussion, clarinet, darbuka, cajon, kanun, and violin. In addition, The Alaev's are a strong vocal family. The vocals are steeped in Central Asian history and provide a sense of adventure and vivacity that is unmatched from similar groups in the region. Anyone interested in Jewish, Klezmer, Tajiki, folk, and Central Asian or Balkan music will love The Alaev Family & Tamir Muskat. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ivan Mazuze's 'Ndzuti'

Ivan Mazuze
Etnisk Musikklubb

Mozambique's Ivan Mazuze is a saxophonist and composer with an academic expertise in ethnomusicology and jazzy performance side that shines throughout his latest release, Ndzuti, which means "shadow" in the ancient language of Xichangana in southern Mozambique. Ivan's jazzy repertoire contains a little Congolese and Cape Verde guitar work, Afro-Jazz leanings, and Norwegian heritage on the piano. Manou Gallo, from Ivory Coast, offers her singing talents, alongside Mali's Sidiki Camara on percussion and Cuba's Omar Sosa on piano. The light melodies, jazzy grooves, and African ambiance is plentiful and spirited. Fans of world jazz, Mozambique music, Afro-Jazz, Afro-Cuban music, and instrumental delights will find happiness in the sounds and vibes of Ivan Mazuze and his group ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat's 'Twinklings Of Hope'

Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat
Twinklings Of Hope

Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat are back at it again with poems, lullabies, and folk songs from Persia and backed by the ney, setar, daf, percussion, and vocals. The Persian melodies are folkish and evocative. The end result is a classical approach to Persian sensibilities. The instrumentation works together quite well with all of the instruments showcasing their brilliant qualities equally. There are poems by Hafez, Rumi, Hooshang Ebtehaj, Mohammad Jafari, Attar, and Esfehani. There are eleven tracks in all. Fans of Azeri, Persian, Central Asian, Middle Eastern, and classical music will love the music of Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Makan Badje Tounkara's 'Sodjan'

Makan Badje Tounkara
Buda Musique

Mali's Makan Badje Tounkara is a gifted composer, arranger, singer, and n'goni soloist. Makan is joined by bass n'goni, djembe drum, tama drum, fle gourd, krin scraper, and several vocalists. Nana Coulibaly, Gedon Diara, Adama Diabate, Fatoumata Kouyate, Modi Tounkara, Yakouba Sissoko, Djifili, Modibo Diabate, and Mamadou Tounkara round out the personnel. The lilting strings and plucked lutes combine with light percussion and energetic vocals to produce a very organic result. The n'goni is the star of the album. Having been popularized by Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba, the n'goni is a charming little instrument with aural sound qualities and raw outcome. The melodies are slightly blues-tinged, but Afro-folk melodies are the main concern here. There are a few wholly instrumental tunes, but vocals are presented on almost every track. Fans of Malian folk music should not leave this one behind. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Trio Garufa's 'El Rumor De Tus Tangos'

Trio Garufa
El Rumor De Tus Tangos
Garufa Records

The US-based tango troupe, Trio Garufa, explores the historical lineage of the tango as a musical form in Argentina. The Trio--with members from Argentina, Switzerland, and California--combine violin, viola, bandoneon, upright bass, cello, and flute for instrumental delicacies. The compositions are steeped in history and variety according to the types of tangos presented. The repertoire covers styles from the early-mid 1900s, modern tangos, folkloric music, original compositions, and electro-tangos. Not only tango is represented here, but milonga, electro milonga, nuevo tango, vals, chacarera, guarania, gato, and tango criollo styles and/or time signatures are also present. The instrumental melodies are moving, sensual, and enjoyable. Fans of Argentinian music, bandoneon, tango, and South American folk music will the love the instrumental sensibilities of the only US-based tango ensemble to have performed in the tango dance clubs of Buenos Aires. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

CD Review: Darryl Gregory's 'Big Texas Sky'

Darryl Gregory
Big Texas Sky
Emptyhead Musikwerks

Darryl Gregory's home-base in Connecticut is not the usual place for creating alternative country music. However, Darryl succeeds with his latest release, Big Texas Sky, and doesn't let his New England base affect his Texas roots. The release is rather short, but it contains seven diverse alternative country, pop, or folk compositions for a total of thirty-two minutes. The bluesy-rock song, "Prayer & Hallelujah," is steeped in Southern guitar stylings--the 'gospel' of the musical South. The pensive piano ramblings of "Aunt Jean's Piano" contains a loving, devotional sound with vocals from Michel Rae Driscoll and Jim Allyn on fiddle and mandolin. Darryl's contribution is not limited to vocals and guitars--the drums and piano are also played. "Workin' Man" contains a steel or ironworker sound of hammering with a gritty, muffled vocal track amidst a bluesy background. Overall, Darryl aims high with Big Texas Sky and leaves a few good songs for us to soak up. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Crazy Mary's 'Dreaming In Brilliant Color'

Crazy Mary
Dreaming In Brilliant Color
Humsting Records

The inventive, NY-based, psychedelic-rock group, Crazy Mary, uses inspiration from 60's folk-rock and creative grunge sounds of the 80's and 90's to form a sound that is both fresh and memorable. Moreover, the chameleon artwork on the album cover signifies an ability to not only change colors, but dual meaning of varied musical tones and influences. The jamming abilities of Crazy Mary are not showcased entirely, but the gritty, violin and folksy or jazzy elements of "Come On Let's Go," "Nick's New Groove," and "The Big F" are paramount examples of Dave Matthews Band-inspired morsels--no matter what the original intention. The punchy vocals and grungy sounds seem more like the B-52's on acid (figuratively, of course) than any other comparable group. At any rate, Dreaming In Brilliant Color represents a solid work of thirteen songs that encompass the cozy folk stylings of the B3 with whirling strings and rock-steady guitars with riffs to match. ~ Matthew Forss 

Friday, May 4, 2012

CD Review: Radio Jarocho's 'Cafe Cafe'

Radio Jarocho
Cafe Cafe
Chido Records

The NY-based group, Radio Jarocho, is a Mexican music group with ties to Afro-Caribbean, indigenous, and Spanish dances and music. The correct term to identify this type of music is son jarocho. The rhythmic instrumental and vocal interplay is top-notch, as the lilting percussion and jarana, requinto, punteador, leona, marimbal, and zapateado take center-stage. The ten tracks are evocative, mesmerizing, and perfect for family gatherings, birthdays, and quiet evenings along a beach. All of the songs are original, except for "Bemba y Tablao," which is sung by Patricio Hidalgo. Fans of Spanish, Mexican, Latino, indigenous folk, and Caribbean music will love Cafe Cafe. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Irene Jacob and Francis Jacob's 'Je Sais Nager'

Irene Jacob and Francis Jacob
Je Sais Nager
Sunnyside Records

The brother-sister duo, Irene and Francis Jacob, creates beautiful melodies with light world percussion and French charm. A variety of instruments create a folk-pop sound, including the keyboards, harmonica, flute, drums, double bass, guitar, talking drum, and steel drum. The wistful, swirling melodies evoke a presence of sweet, jazzy, and enjoyable songs with Irene on vocals and Francis on vocals and guitar. The airy voice of Irene is in a similar vein to Francois Hardy or Carla Bruni, but the instrumentation arrangements are more experimental from a world music point-of-view. The French music is surrounded by some Brazilian and Senegalese beats for a truly world-class production. Still, Irene and Francis should be proud of Je Sais Nager, which is translated: I Know How To Swim. I guess Irene and Francis know how to make music, too. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: The Bombay Royale's 'You Me Bullets Love'

The Bombay Royale
You Me Bullets Love
Hopestreet Recordings

If James Bond starred in an Indian film, this would be his soundtrack. The surfadelic stylings of Bollywood psych-funk with loads of brass, rhythms, and gritty guitars is reinvented for today's generation. Building upon the classic Indian sounds of the 1960s and 70s, The Bombay Royale create amusing and reverberating rhythms that mimic the US/Cambodian group, Dengue Fever, and how they modernized surf-rock for today using songs and styles from the Khmer Rouge-era. In fact, Dengue Fever's music is quite similar to The Bombay Royale. The spacey electronics, blazing horns, and funky Hindi beats are very lively and memorable. Fans of psychedelic Indian funk will love You Me Bullets Love, especially for its release on gatefold LP, but also CD and download formats will be released. All ten tracks are monumental from this Melbourne, Australia-based band. India's Golden Age is back and The Bombay Royale are to blame. Thank you for creating this musical project. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, May 3, 2012

CD Review: SOJA's 'Strength To Survive'

Strength To Survive
ATO Records

SOJA is a DC-based band with reggae and jam ties amidst a folk/rock foundation. Thirteen songs represent a good selection of reggae music with reverberating keys, airy flutes, grungy guitars, and pensive percussion. Strength To Survive is their fourth album, which is produced by John Alagia (Dave Matthews, O.A.R., and John Mayer). Even a hint of funk and blues is evident on "Everything Changes." An acoustic version of "Gone Today" lightens the mood somewhat without reggae infusions. The reggae genre is the real winner here. Good melodies, catchy rhythms, and clear vocals makes following along an easy venture. Strength To Survive will survive well into the future. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Mucca Pazza's 'Safety Fifth'

Mucca Pazza
Safety Fifth
Electric Cowbell Records

Chicago's own, Mucca Pazza, is a marching band, slash rock band that plays music indicative of a crazy, Balkan band of gypsies in a modern age. The modern leanings and quirky drums and horns makes Safety Fifth a thing of splendid glory. The instrumental delights are steeped in brass, drum, and assorted instruments, including the accordion, mandolin, violin, sax, trombone, and trumpet. The circus-like atmosphere borders on cinematic qualities, too. The hodge-podge of musical influences are not surprising with the showy album artwork and diverse instrumental repertoire. The gritty, almost Latin underpinnings with a hint of surf music and classic show tunes makes Mucca Pazza shine with every note. Try a bit of sass in your diet today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: All Good Funk Alliance's 'Jack Of All Trades'

All Good Funk Alliance
Jack Of All Trades
Fort Knox Recordings

All Good Funk Alliance (otherwise known as AGFA) is an electro-funk ensemble with urban, groovy, techno, spacey, and stylistic in its approach to music-making. The electrified vocals resemble the same modifications by the group Air. A variety of musicians lend their talents to the mix founded by Frank Cueto and Rusty Belicek. You will hear Rubber Johnson, Neighbour, Think Tank, Mustafa Akbar, Empresarios, and Piper Davis. The disco-influences, funk-blended, giddy mix of electronica provides a good dance beat and electro-pop jam to get any parted started with ease. Jack Of All Trades aptly represents the varied musical genres inherent in the mix. For example, hip hop, rap, and nu-disco tunes heat up the album with loads of swag and style. The thirteen tracks are not for the faint of heart, as the beats are sure to get anyone moving. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Dala's 'Best Day'

Best Day
Campus Music

The Canadian vocal duo, Dala, is not your average group, because they know how to find harmonies and melodies that always seems to captivate listeners everywhere. Their previous release, Everyone Is Someone, contains a more pop-folk-centric prodution, while Best Day capitalizes on that newfound success without incorporating the same pop-folk melodies. In fact, Best Day is more stripped down compared to earlier albums. For example, the repertoire consists mostly of alternative folk or pop elements with light guitar, piano, and lesser contributions from trumpet, banjo, bass, keyboards, drums, strings, and mandolin. At any rate, Dala's vocals are crystalline and infectious as much as any other previous album. The last track, "Too Many Kittens," is a playful composition with several outtakes that make it interesting to say the very least. Dala's Best Day is here for your listening pleasure. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Universalia in Re's 'Grandes Visioes'

Universalia in Re
Grandes Visioes
Sketis Music

The sounds of Medieval music are proudly displayed on old court songs in praise of the Viring Mary. The songs, or cantigas, are written in Galician--the language of the courts for Alfonso X. The eight tracks follow an operatic theme with cascading and theatrical female vocals. The 12th century songs follow the structure of virelais, which is an Arabic musical form that rose to popularity in Europe in the 14th century. The Medieval songs would not be complete without the addition of traditional instruments. Thankfully, Universalia in Re showcase the psaltery, citole, vielle, rebec, guitarra morisca, and double pipe. The combination of instruments and vocals make Grandes Visioes a fun album. The title of the album is taken from "Pera toller gran perfia," which describes the Virgin Mary showing the visions of Heaven and Hell to a man, who changes his ways and becomes a Christian. Overall, Grandes Visioes is an excellent addition to the Medieval music collector and anyone looking for something unique. Extensive liner notes are included. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'The Mountain Music Project: A Musical Odyssey from Appalachia to Himalaya'

Various Artists
The Mountain Music Project: A Musical Odyssey from Appalachia to Himalaya

The Mountain Music Project... successfully attempts to bridge two distinct cultures--Appalachia and Himalaya--together, despite the seemingly distinct cultural attributes of both cultures. The folk and string traditions of Appalachia are not particularly different from that of the Himalayas. The Appalachian side is represented by Grammy Award-winning Tim O'Brien and Curtis Burch. In addition, Tara Linhardt, Tony Trischka, Abigail Washburn, Mark Schatz, Riley Baugus, Aaron Olwell, Matthew Olwell, and Paul Brown round out the Appalachian repertoire. On the Himalayan side, Buddhiman Gandharba, Manjo Gandharba, Jagat B. Gandharba, Ganesh Gandhari represent folk musicians proficient on the madal, sarangi, arbaj, and bansuri flute. Some of the Nepalese instruments are joined with the guitar, banjo, mandolin, mandola, and Irish flute. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Nancy Vieira's 'No Ama'

Nancy Vieira
No Ama

The swaying melodies and rhythms of Cape Verde are showcased on this new exciting release of Afro-Creole culture. Nancy is a vocalist and shares the spotlight with the cavaquinho, Portuguese guitar, piano, bass guitar, flute, violin, and electric guitar throughout. The music of Teofilo Chantre, B. Leza, Mario Lucio, Amandio Cabral, and others. The smooth and folk melodies capture the musical culture of the islands with some Portuguese, Brazilian, and African elements. Nancy's vocals bring to mind a young Cesaria Evora. As a fourth album for Nancy, No Ama hits the web-stores and store shelves with a fresh and renewed presence. The light music is accessible for anyone interested in Cape Verde music, or the music of Brazil, Portugal, France, and Africa. Lyrics provided in the liner notes. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Nazarenes' 'Meditation'

I Grade Records

Steeped in Rastafarian grooves, produced by a St. Croix native, and two brothers as singers, Noah and Medhane Tewolde, come from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The European-based brothers incorporate pan-African elements, island grooves, Jamaican jive, and pop-funk creations. The reggae-inspired album contains jazzy influences, funky beats, and vivid vocals with meaningful lyrics and spiritual connotations. The lyrical worldplay and dancehall sound showcases Nazarenes diverse song repertoire with a laid-back, funky feel that is anything but boring. Fourteen Jah-inspired musical tracks showcase the great amount of creativity and soulful inspiration that give Meditation a shining element that succeeds without a doubt. "Mamy Blues" is an album favorite that seems to combine the pop music styles of Ethiopia and West Africa with the sincerity of French blues and a little Caribbean ambiance. Anyone interested in the music of Jamaica will find happiness on Meditation. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Kottarashky and The Rain Dogs' 'Demoni'

Kottarashky and The Raindogs
Asphalt-Tango Records

The sounds of Bulgaria come alive via the streets of Sofia. The minimalist, electronic set-up is rich with Balkan grooves and beats. The unmistakable clarinet of Aleksandar Dobrev, drums by Atanas Popov, bass by Yordan Geshakov, and guitars/synthesizers by Hristo Hadzhiganchev round out the instrumental repertoire. However, Balkan music would not be complete without some vocals and Kottarashky and The Raindogs does not fail. Tui Mamaki, from The Mamaku Project, provides vocals and/or lyrics on "Begemot," "Doctore," "Slavyanka Blues," "Trans 5," "Babo," "Demoni," and "Put A Blessing On." Of course, there is a nice dose of Balkan funk and speed blues. Fans of Balkan music that like a good balance between electronic and folk elements will love the modern musings of Kottarashky and The Rain Dogs. ~ Matthew Forss