By Erik Hage
& Springtime (The Rev)
It’s interesting and ironic to hear how many musicians tucked
among the suburban sprawl of the Capital Region find expression
in Appalachian-isms and decidedly rural strains. You can certainly
add Laura Boggs to that list of artists; her Whiskey &
Springtime is packed with rootsy, sparse and dreamy folk
ruminations and occasionally straight-up old-timeyness (as
in the capable romp through the traditional “Jenny Jenkins”).
Lyrically, Boggs has a nice way with a phrase and an interestingly
resonant voice—though she certainly conjures up a host of
female troubadour influences. More specific reference points
include the bruised, poetic balladeering of Songs: Ohia, Iron
& Wine, and local predecessors knotworking. (Members of
that latter group also happen to guest on this CD.) Though
the CD can seem a bit “samey” at times in its themes, instrumentation
and melodies, Laura Boggs is clearly a gifted local songwriter
and one to watch in this little suburban Appalachia we call
Now 71, Dino Saluzzi, one of the finest bandoneon players
on the planet, is at the peak of his powers. On his latest
album, named for a childhood friend, the title piece is rich
with layers of emotional minutia, fleeting passages feel much
like wisps of memory swirling across a lifetime. The album
as a whole also adheres to a thematic identity of memory,
with the pieces feeling like vignettes, portraits that come
into view and then drift away, like leaves on the surface
of a pond in autumn.
The lineup is a family affair (they’ve also toured as the
Saluzzi Family Project), all being Saluzzis except for one.
Dino’s son Jose Maria is the guitarist, his brother Felix
is the saxophone and clarinet player, his nephew Matias is
the bass player, and family friend U.T. Gandhi is the drummer.
A sympathetic ensemble, they seamlessly blend jazz, tango,
European classical motifs, cabaret, folk antiquities, and
open-ended modernity. This is crossover music in the best
sense of the word (and it is a concept that has been forced
into unreasonable contortions in the name of the middling).
It resonates with a nicely diverse range of listeners, from
those conversant in the genres at hand, to those just glad
to have it wash over them.
God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal (Numero Group)
folks at the Numero Group label have, in a relatively short
span, created a remarkable body of work. They specialize musical
genres that are not commonly recognized or that overlap freely
with others. They’re motivated by a passion for records that
has them enduring hours and hours of middling works to get
the full wallop of excitement that comes from finding the
God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal is their latest release, and,
as the title suggests, this is a set of thematically gospel-fueled
entreaties rolling forth from delectably incessant grooves.
The 18 tracks date mostly from the ’70s and are drawn from
fairly obscure Midwestern labels. Based mostly around the
major cities of the region—Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland,
etc.—the performers range from hopped-up James Brown-inspired
singers to the more churchly bearing of vibratoed tenors.
What’s remarkable is how varied the music is. This is a testament
to the set’s compiler, Rob Sevier. Many of these releases
were pressed in small quantities and not distributed very
far from their source, some sold just to a particular congregation.
This disc is filled with highlights, each given their proper
due by its placement in the hourlong sequence. “O Yes My Lord”
by the Voices of Conquest offers a choir singing a melodic
chant over just drums, similar to what Sun Ra was doing with
his troupe around the same time. Sam Taylor’s “Heaven on Their
Minds” mixes in grand flourishes (vibes, tympany) over a core
combo that supports a ballad punctuated by a chorus singing
“Jesus” in a meter that defies the uninitiated to jump on
board. The song was from a cast recording of a funky reinterpreted
musical titled The Soul of Jesus Christ Superstar.
And absolutely not to be missed is the raw-edged “That’s Enough”
by Brother John Witherspoon.
Throughout, these songs are all so danceable, so funky, so
honest and committed that they dare not break the hypnotic
grooves by proselytizing. They just exhort listeners to dance,
to move, to hear and believe.