It's Tuesday, which means that it's time for Tuesday Reviewsday, our weekly new music segment. This week we're joined by music critic Steve Hochman and associate editor of Latin and Special Features at Billboard, Justino Aguila.
Artist: Regina Carter
Album: Southern Comfort
Release Date: March 4
Songs: “Shoo Rye,” “Honky Tonkin”
Regina Carter certainly has justified being awarded MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2006. Already established as the preeminent jazz violinist, equally adept at swing, be-bop, standards and modern styles, and a formidable classical presence, recording Paganini pieces on his own violin.
In part with that MacArthur money, she took on intensive study of traditional African styles, which she wove masterfully into her own musical creations on the vibrant 2010 album "Reverse Thread." That, now, has led her back stateside, musically speaking, with the equally exciting Southern Comfort, which in the liner notes she describes as “a musical journey tracing my father’s roots in the American South.”
What Carter found in her own journey through this music is, as with what she found in Africa, much more varied than some might have thought. Southern music brings together many different cultural stream — African of course, but also Scottish, German, French, Spanish among the many peoples who streamed to that region over the generations.
All that is represented here, from children’s game rhymes (“Shoo Rye”) to French Cajun dance tunes (iconic Louisiana fiddler Dennis McGhee’s “Blues de Basile,” a lively duel between her fiddle and Will Holhouser’s accordion) to bedrocks of modern country music (Hank Williams’ “Honky Tonkin’,” centered on parries between Carter and Adam Rogers’ guitar). The latter might be a surprise in this context, but the way she and her band play it — the way they play everything — the thread remains strong. Or, should we say, she is the strong thread through this.
The way they play it is swingin’. Like "Reverse Thread" this is all thoroughly researched, but never sounds academic. Not staid in a classical sense or forced in its jazziness, but true to both the material and the artist. It’s all loose, free. Ideas unwind, the melodies take improvisational flight, the musicians clearly playing off each other. Even the somber tunes have a playful vivaciousness.
At times it’s a folk-jazz hybrid recalls mandolinist David Grisman’s classic bluegrass-jazz excursions, or country-jazz comparable to some of Bill Frisell’s albums of Nashville material. “I Moaned and I Moaned” builds to a rock-informed atmospheric intensity. But it never really sounds like anything other than Regina Carter, which makes us eager to see where the thread will lead next.
Artist: Linda Perhacs
Album: The Soul of All Natural Things
Release Date: March 4
Songs: “The Soul of All Natural Things,” “Children.”
Recently we talked about Neneh Cherry with her first album in 16 years. How about someone with a first album in 44 years?
You’re forgiven if you’ve never heard of Linda Perhacs. Her 1970 album "Parallelograms" was, well, “obscurity” doesn’t quite cover how far below the pop radar it was, and Perhacs apparently returned to the life of a dental hygienist she had been living in L.A. But in the mid-2000s the album and its experimental folk-pop — sort of a mildly psychedelic spin on Joni Mitchell’s early sound — found its way to some young music explorers and with a reissue came to be a celebrated as a shared secret by artists from freak-folker Devendra Banhart (who ultimately got her to sing backup on one of his songs) to sonic adventurers Daft Punk (who used the song “Parallelograms” in a film).
A couple of years ago, she was coaxed into coming out of the shadows by musician-producer Fernando Perdomo, who along with Bill Price set to work on a new album. With some contributions from Julia Holter — who we featured in a recent reviews segment — and Ramona Gonzalez of the group Nite Jewel — the result is the album "The Soul of All Natural Things," a charming renewal of the early promise. As the title and title song tip off, there’s a New Age spirituality running through the album.
There is some modern artiness, such as the electronics on “Intensity” but for the most part it’s an update of her Aquarian folk-pop, not a recreation so much as a continuation befitting someone who is 44 years older. Her voice is maybe a little shaky here and there, but that adds to the personal touch, all honored and enhanced by her young admirers, who are clearly thrilled to be giving her another shot.
Album: Someday New
Release Date: March 4
Songs: Strawberry Fields Forever and Cumbia Morada
La Santa Cecilia's previously released song "Ice El Hielo" was written in tribute to undocumented residents of the U.S. The bilingual band has a fan in Elvis Costello who previously recorded "Losing Game" with the band. Lead singer La Marisoul also appeared with Costello on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."
La Santa Cecilia, the Los Angeles-based band that recently won a Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album, returns with new and illuminating music. Led by La Marisoul, the soulful songstress with undeniable chops, the group returns with an EP, 7 new songs and 2 previously released tracks.
It is the critically acclaimed songs "La Monedita" and "El Hielo" that have resonated and helped the band reach a wider audience. Those two offerings, from the 30 Dias project, are included on the EP with compositions that build poetically with the new music that represents the bands versatile style, which can go from romantic Mexican ballads to blues-inspired melodies and to an occasional cover song.
One of those new songs is "Cumbia Morada," which shows the power of La Marisoul's vocals. Accordionist Pepe Carlos, percussionist Miguel "Oso" Rami and bassist Alex Bendaña all work in unison to create a sound that is making fans out of many including Elvis Costello who appeared on the group's previous album.
La Marisoul takes on "Strawberry Fields Forever" this time, giving a new dimension through an arrangement that’s smooth, smart and genuinely a fresh take on the classic Beatles song. The album is produced by Grammy-winning Sebastian Krys, who has worked with singers such as Shakira and Marc Anthony.
Release Date: March 25
Songs: Quiero Bailar (All Through the Night) featuring Becky G and La Noche Es Tuya featuring Gerardo Ortiz and America Sierra.
The three DJs that make up 3BallMTY started making beats when they were barely teenagers. Now they travel the world both with music that's rooted in regional Mexican music and electronic dance music. They opened up for Justin Bieber in 2012 when he performed at the Zócalo, the main square in the heart of Mexico City as 200,000 music filled up the area.
3BallMTY, which consists of Erick Rincon, Sergio Zavala and Alberto Presenda, have been making a name for themselves even when they were barely teens and creating beats for music they would mix for their live DJ sets. Now the trio returns with their sophomore album, which includes the tribal guarachero sound that made them the talk of the industry and eventually landed them a recording contract with Latin Power Music and a distribution deal with Universal.
The new album, Globall, once again ignites the energy that the DJs brought with their first album complete with more offerings in a hybrid genre that ultimately has become an urban sound that's catching on around the world. "La Noche Es Tuya," featuring regional Mexican star Gerardo Ortiz and America Sierra, is a nod to 3BallMTY's beginnings in a club-friendly song pairs the vocals of Ortiz and Sierra, each who have in recent years gained a steady base.
It is the L.A.-based rapper Becky G who shines in "Queiro Bailar (All Through the Night)," which allows 3ballMTY to show some of their best work in an album that was produced by veteran producer Toy Selectah, who helped take the group to a new level that's now extended beyond the U.S. and Mexico with fans around the world.