How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Guitarist Kevin Breit and percussionist Cyro Baptista form an expressive duo that finds room in their performance for country & western, funk, folk music, and a lot more. Parts of the album are New Age, and all of it is forward-looking contemporary. A few quick looks at Duke Ellington fold in the familiar, but most of their program is highly original.
Using impressionism as a basis, the two talented artists dish out generous portions of overdubbed music. For the most part, Breit offers the melody on guitars and mandolins. Overlaid electric guitars provide a strong harmonic layer. Baptista colors with various impressions. Thundering drums introduce "Home on the Range." A talking drum and overlaid backbeat drum set offer some clues to the persona of "Johnny Cactus." Shakers and a conga-like drum make "A Sigh and a Shiver" seem happy and light in places, although Breit’s minor mode mandolin and guitorgan sections suggest melodrama and romance. Somewhat resembling the sound of an accordion, the guitorgan fills in quite well. A terrific "old school" blues on "Caravan" moves in one direction, while the theme from television’s long-running sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show leans in another.
Cassandra Wilson sings the traditional "Home on the Range" with the very same natural appeal found on all her projects. Pure and simple, Wilson’s vocal refrains are intended to remind the listener that music is a universal language. Whether working as flexible sidemen or as a duo on their own album, Baptista and Breit offer a little something for everyone.
Track Listing: The Legend of Johnny Cactus; S
Personnel: Kevin Breit- acoustic guitar, tenor guitars, electric slide guitar, steel guitar, guitorgan, mandolin, mandolo, mandocello, pennywhistle on "Whistling in the Rain;" Cyro Baptista- surdo, Balinese gongs, symphonic bass drums, snare drum, cymbals, cowbells, metal refrigerator drawers, many instruments of his own design, and much more percussion; Cassandra Wilson- vocal on "Home on the Range."