This week’s releases include a Properbox set featuring 100 songs celebrating all things alcoholic, a collection of The Be Good Tanyas‘ greatest hits, plus new albums from Marc Johnson & Eliane Elias and Antonio Forcione.
Various Artists – Drunk: 100 Smashed Hits (Properbox)
Far be it from me to entice you into alleyways of insobriety and lost weekends but I’m bound to say this celebration of the juice that cuts you loose is a heady concoction, remarkably coherently compiled and annotated given the selection of tinctures on offer. 100 reflections on the ups and more frequently downs of alcoholic excess by a broad spectrum of US topers who variously fell over sideways, laughing, crying, nodding wisely or screaming insanely, twixt 1929 and 1960. Whether in their cups in the sad-sack, coal-black dead of night or feeling frisky on a sunny afternoon, they all had the bottle to entertain.
The imbibers – for the most part respected and successful stars in their spheres of style – include rural blues and country music soaks, city jazz jump-jivers and R&B quaffers, and urbane tipplers as might be dubbed the Rat Pack. One man’s, or indeed woman’s, jug of moonshine is another’s slug of bourbon, scotch, gin or beer. Mine’s a large glass of Alligator Wine if you’re offering. [Reviewed by Cliff White]
The Be Good Tanyas – A Collection (2000-2012) (Nettwerk)
Coming out of Vancouver, The Be Good Tanyas, combines three exceptional talents in Frazey Ford, Samantha Parton and Trish Klein, having lost founder Jolie Holland early on to the stress and strain of touring. Releasing their first album entirely under their own steam, they were surprised when it was picked up and championed by The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which ultimately led to a deal with Nettwerk, who released the debut and two subsequent albums around the world. In 2008 the band was put on hold, as the trio pursued other projects and took time to recover from a fairly intensive touring schedule. But getting back together last year, they hit the road again and now this compilation serves as a reminder of just how good they are.
From the off its charms are obvious, the three distinct voices weave around each other, while the musical backdrop is distilled down to a kind of minimalist perfection. Songs like the opener Ootischenia, The Littlest Birds, or the trad In My Time Time Of Dying all become self-contained gems, occupying a space between off the cuff, roughly hewn and finely polished that best reveals their inner beauty. You can laugh along, sing along and cry buckets at the utter gorgeousness of it all. Two new songs, Little Black Bear and Gospel Song, suggest there is so much more to come from this trio. They also offer great interpretations of others’ songs – Townes Van Zandt’s Waiting Around To Die and Neil Young’s For The Turnstiles are veiled, mysterious and quietly glorious. If you don’t own a complete set of Tanyas’ records, then this is tailor-made for you. [Reviewed by Simon]
Like siblings, you can imagine the husband and wife pairing in music can be fraught, such is the legacy of lurid tales or personal and artistic tensions. From the opening bars of the title track that opens Swept Away, however, it’s equally easy to imagine that no such issues afflict Marc Johnson and Eliane Elias and their intimacy adds an almost tangible layer of musical empathy. Marc’s ever inventive, melodic bass inspires his Brazilian born, piano-playing wife to dance across the keys. As Joe Lovano adds his breathy toned tenor to It’s Time, the trio with Joey Baron on drums becomes a four piece of great subtlety, texture and artistry and the CD a thing of rare beauty. But there’s urgency to be found too in the nagging vamps of One Thousand And One Nights and to a lesser degree in the playfulness of Sirens Of Titan.
Mostly, it’s the unflustered ease that impresses and titles like When The Sun Comes Up, B Is For Butterfly, Moments and the bluesy Midnight Blue are rightly suggestive of a relaxing listen. There are still surprises and the closing Inside Her Old Musical Box and the solo bass take on Shenandoah offer a glimpse of even higher hanging musical fruits. [Reviewed by Simon]
Antonio Forcione – Sketches of Africa (Antastic)
This sparkling album is the Italian guitarist’s fifth and finds him on fine form with a selection of compositions inspired by his travels through Africa, kicking off with a lilting tribute to Nelson Mandela – Madiba’s Jive – featuring the nimble hands of Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale, a member of his regular quartet. Next stop is Zimbabwe, where Forcione is joined by acclaimed vocalists Zimbabwean Chiwoniso Maraire and South African Zamo Mbutho (a regular with Miriam Makeba’s group back in the day); Africa, meanwhile, is brought to life by the one-string fiddle (riti) of Juldeh Camara (Gambian multi-collaborator and one half of JuJu with Justin Adams) and Senegalese kora maestro Seckou Keita.
The playing throughout Forcione’s sketchbook is frequently understated yet all the more cinematic for it. Cellist Jenny Adejayan and flugelhorn player Fulvio Sigurta offset Forcione’s clean picking and flamenco rhythms, capturing the spirit of southern Spain on Tarifa, while the simmering melodies of Tar reflect the mood of uprising in Forcione’s composition. The album culminates in the laid-back, jazzy rhythms of Clear Day and the gorgeously atmospheric standout, Sun Groove – a gently undulating musical canvas that takes shape as each collaborator (not least, Zimbabwean wordsmith Dikson) contributes their own brushstrokes. [Reviewed by Sofi]