As another beautiful summer rounds the bend toward fall, I’ve been turning to music to help me reflect, transition, and swing into the cooler September days to come. For anyone who regularly follows my “Select Sounds” reviews, you know my taste often reflects a global range of musical amalgamations. This month is no different -- read on to find a variety of new music that’s sure to keep your spirits lifted as the autumnal equinox arrives and the sun dips south.
Named the region’s Best Traditional Folk Band by the Washington, DC, Area Music Awards, the Bumper Jacksons have been building their repertoire and reputation as one of the premier swing, roots, and country-folk bands in the Mid-Atlantic region. Their latest release, Sweet Mama, Sweet Daddy, Come In (CD, Bumper Jacksons), is a versatile romp of rollicking fun that blends ragtime street jazz with old-time country. Some sultry slow waltzes pepper the disc -- “Darkness on the Delta,” and a husky performance of Tom Waits’s “Clap Hands” -- but the party kicks into high gear with raucous tracks such as “When the Sun Goes Down in Harlem” and a percussive, bounding-freight-train cover of the bluegrass traditional “Darlin’ Corey.” Jess Eliot Myhre sings with a depth of soul that harks back to the great jazz chanteuses of bygone glory. When she puts down the vocal mike and picks up her clarinet or iconic handbuilt frog washboard (which she plays wearing white gloves with thimbles sewn to the fingertips), her array of raw, natural talent is in full bloom. Guitar, pedal steel, bass, trombone, and a suitcase trap kit round out the flavors of the full band. Fans of the Squirrel Nut Zippers or Madeleine Peyroux will appreciate this fun-loving bunch of great young talents.
In 1999, British singer-songwriter Beth Orton won accolades and a Mercury Prize nomination for her beautifully contemplative second album, Central Reservation. Fifteen years later, it’s been reissued in a two-disc expanded edition, Central Reservation: Revisited (two CDs, 3 Loop Music RANGE27), that includes B-sides, remixes, unreleased live tracks, and demos, as well as new artwork and an interview. In the interview, Orton calls the writing and recording process of the album “a period of redemption,” and this reissue can certainly be seen as the salvation of an iconic album from a singer with a beatific sound. Introspective and pared down, Central Reservation is a timeless album with a range of feeling, and the bonus material on Revisited makes having it even more of a must.
For over a decade, beginning in Leeds, England, the New Mastersounds have delivered funky dance beats to the masses, and now headline music festivals and clubs around the world. Their latest release, Therapy (CD, Légère 070-2), provides the slick instrumental virtuosity the band is known for -- the opener, “Old Man Noises,” barrels out of the gate with an intensity that hints at more good things to come. There are several vocals courtesy Denver native Kim Dawson, who lends a soulful 1970s vibe to “I Want You to Stay” and “Soul Sista,” and the good vibes keep coming, straight through the final cut. Therapy will soon also be available on vinyl for the DJ set and audiophiles; anticipate that release before year’s end. This is probably the tightest album I’ve heard all year -- but coming from the New Mastersounds, that’s no surprise.
One perk of reviewing music is that you get to listen to artists you know and love, such as Beth Orton or the New Mastersounds. But the real perk is receiving a disc in the mail from a band or artist you’ve never heard of that becomes a surprising new favorite. The self-titled release by the Nashville-based Carmonas is one such -- the band blends a wide range of musical styles into a cohesive, original sound. With fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, and double bass, I expected a bluegrass sound -- but what I hear is something much more complex. Drums, piano, and vibes add body to the sound, while the songwriting -- for example, “All Things Fall Apart” and “When You’re Older” -- gives me pause. The natural blend of the voices of primary members and siblings Chad, Alison, and Aaron Carmona is what really draws attention to the talent apparent in this Americana group.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t praise the latest release from New Orleans legend Dr. John, who pays tribute to another NOLA legend, Louis Armstrong, on his new Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch. Dr. John has long been known to fill his recording-studio sessions with a royal flush of guests, and he does so here with contributions from Bonnie Raitt, Shemekia Copeland, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and trumpeters Terence Blanchard and Arturo Sandoval, to name a few. In 13 tracks, Dr. John honors the spirit and legacy of Armstrong with utmost respect and his own signature stylings. Few musicians can transport you to another time and place as well as Dr. John does here -- with Armstrong -- to their mutual and universally celebrated hometown.
. . . Shannon Holiday