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Living Memory

By Erik Hage

Laura Boggs

Whiskey & 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 home.

Dino Saluzzi Group

Juan Condori (ECM)

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.

—David Greenberger

Various Artists

Good God! A Gospel Funk Hymnal (Numero Group)

The 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 three-minute gem.

Good 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.

—David Greenberger

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