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From the Inside Out

"Curiouser & Curiouser": Global Beat April 2007

By Published: April 9, 2007

Most of II, although pleasant enough to hear, sort of just floats by without effect or impact, like it's waiting for something else to happen ("Last Book and "Eyes in the Heat, featuring classical Indian vocalist Shweta Jhaveri, were in fact originally composed as film scores, and sound like it). It sounds great, but doesn't always deliver a rewarding listen.

Robert Randolph & The Family Band
Colorblind
Warner Bros.
2006

In a relatively short time, Randolph has become generally renown as "the Hendrix of pedal steel guitar, expanding the instrument's vocabulary and approach beyond its familiar country / pop settings. He's in what must be a rather exclusive club of musicians who have guest-starred, upon request, with the Five Blind Boys of Alabama and with Ozzy Osbourne. "I'm trying to create a new field and a new style that'll influence some kids to go, 'Wow, I can be Black and be from the inner city and I don't have to be a rapper!' Randolph allows. "I look at Sly Stone, how he came in and just ripped the music industry apart - I think music fans are ready for that again.

The stylistic mixture of Colorblind puts Randolph's music where his mouth is. "Deliver Me twitches off of rhythm guitar riffs and a staccato vocal that roar with all the punk-funk power of a Red Hot Chili Peppers hit. "Thrill of It moves toward the "black rock advocated by guitarists James Blood Ulmer and Vernon Reid in Living Colour. Put together, "Diane and "Thrill of It prove that the Family Band's rhythm section, bassist Danyel Morgan and drummer Marcus Randolph, play with the funkiest bottom this side of Christina Aguilera.

Co-written with Steve McEwan, songwriter of hits for country stars Faith Hill and Kenny Chesney, "Stronger features McWean on acoustic guitar, Leela James on vocals, and this set's most familiar country/western use of Randolph's slide guitar.

This cover of the Doobie Brothers' running blues "Jesus is Just Alright in tandem with blues-rock guitar king Eric Clapton boils the lid completely off. Clapton's vocal in the "Jesus, He's my brother... bridge burns hoarse yet hot, and it's a tribute to Randolph's own playing that you cannot identify whose electric guitar is shooting off which sparks. If there was more music like this on Clapton's recent records, I'd have tried harder to stay awake and get all the way through more of them.

Jef Stott
Six Degrees Emerging Artists Series: SoukSonik (Digital only)
Six Degrees
2007

Among the first entries in Six Degrees' digital-only Emerging Artists series, SoukSonik is a bustling interethnic marketplace of musicology. Literally: "Souk is Arabic for the commercial, or market, area of one's hometown, and Stott is not only a trained anthropologist but has also studied traditional stringed and percussion instruments with master musicians from Morocco, Egypt, Iran and Turkey. Stott currently resides in San Francisco, where he serves as a remix and world music expert, work which led to his signing with Six Degrees, the global beat / electronica label also located there.

SoukSonik sounds like DJ music folded, spindled and mutilated by an expert in Middle Eastern percussion and other instruments, which is precisely what it is. Stott's mixture of ancient and modern, as well as western and eastern, cultures leads to deeply hypnotic beats and trances that prowl the same deep jungle as the outer-space ethno-electro-jazz pioneered by trumpeter Jon Hassel and others.

"Lamaset (DJ Oud remix) features Reda Darwish on bongos and dumbek knitting together cool modern threads from scraps of very old music, with vocals moaned and chanted and thick percussion rhythms slamming headlong against strings. "Sono One Drop crosses another cultural divide, as what first sounds like a saxophone grows more pierced as it writhes the serpentine rhythm, until the melody and the tone of its lament pierces like an ancient Hebrew clarinet or other reed instrument.

Percussion leads the ending, seven-minute "Blissmi'lah, rising up from a distance through its thick, swirling instrumental soundstorm, ending as if all the percussion and electronics are sort of just picked up and blown off by the desert wind, leaving one solitary string to close.

Zaman8 & Hafez Modir
Six Degrees Emerging Artists Series: Suryaghati EP 1 (Digital only)
Six Degrees
2007

Another Six Degrees Emerging Artist based in San Francisco, the Zaman8 duo of Sanaz Ebriana and Dan Newman (each contributing programming and production skills, plus Ebriana on vocals and Newman on guitars) also seem to examine Middle Eastern and electronic music in mutual contexts.

Newman's father was a part-time musician and part-time film producer who produced the extraordinary, extraterrestrial Sun Ra biopic Space is the Place. "We do have strong influences coming from jazz, in particular the exploratory power of improvisation, which we're all deeply invested in, Dan says. "We want our music to have that intensity of a great solo.



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