Home of the Blues
Burton Gaar/Sound Venture Records
Louisiana’s Burton Gaar belts out the blues with conviction. Not a new release, but noteworthy. The CD has created a buzz down in the New Orleans area, partly due to Neville Brothers guitar hero Shane Theriot (now leading his Grease Factor band), and ex-Allman Brothers keyboard ace Johnny Neel. Gaar receives soulful support from a Nashville area horn section. No frills or gimmicks, Gaar’s exciting vocal delivery gets the job done in a robust and soul-drenched sort of way.
Upstairs At Larry’s – Lawrence Welk Uncorked
Upon my initial inspection, I figured this CD to be a reissue of sides by bandleader Lawrence Welk. Essentially, I was primed to run out and snag a bottle of top-shelf champagne for the occasion. Lo and behold, the “uncorked” motif translates into a modernist’s view, ala remixes by various DJ’s and electronics performers. Complete with samples and overlays of Welk’s salutations to various live audiences, his music is transformed into dance grooves, abounding with synths, and techno beats. And while Welk’s muse was primarily geared towards the 50 and over crowd, these musicians succeed at discombobulating a portion of the artist’s songbook. Perhaps it’s a musical parody. Either way, Rob Evanoff’s insightful production offers a truly fascinating and curiously interesting spin on the man who was synonymous with New Year’s Eve galas amid his TV show. Moreover, this wacky portrait of Welk serves as the antithesis to ultra-conservative party music.
The latest from the contemporary jazz titans features more of the same – sensuous, mood-evoking passages, nicely coordinated soloing and affable arrangements. Perhaps not as memorable – in a compositional sense – as some of the band’s earlier albums, but the laid-back vibes offer a calming effect.
Fires Were Shot
Here we have an Austin, Texas guitar duo dishing out a sense of the visual throughout these softly woven guitar parts, in concert with effects processing. The music might be akin to viewing a scientific documentary film of black hole stars. The musicians’ melodic output is spiced with dark, ethereal musings and other elements. The superb recording enhances the blissful presentation.
Avant-garde percussionist Ingar Zach recorded this outing live in an abandoned chocolate factory in Oslo, Norway. He also uses a zither. A very organic and predominately quiet set, as the artist seemingly explores various tones and micro-motifs to coincide with the factory’s acoustic environs. Zinging cymbal swashes, melded with intermittent plucks of the zither and resonating press rolls, evoke eerie and at times, menacing notions.
MerleFest Live! – The Best of 2003
The best of 2003 culled from the 16th annual MerleFest event, featuring four days of bluegrass, country, folk, and other related genres. This jubilant gathering offers a wonderful assortment of works from the likes of legends such as Doc Watson, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and others of note. More importantly, this recording highlights the stylistic differences among the various performers. It’s equal parts artistic excellence and toe-tapping entertainment.