july 2009

CHILDSPLAY, Waiting For the Dawn & MARK O'CONNOR, String Quartets No.'s 2 & 3— Spirited, ruminative, daring, challenging, beautiful—all these adjectives and more describe the exhilarating new albums from the musical collective Childsplay and Mark O'Connor's dazzling string quartet. More to the point, history resonates in both works, history both American and, in the cases of Bob Childs and Mark O'Connor, deeply personal.

thumbnailMAURA O'CONNELL, Naked With FriendsWhen you're one of the best singers in the world, you can take certain liberties. For one, you can tell those who play an instrument other than their voice to stay home, for once. Moreover, you can tell one of the finest ever to play his instrument of choice that he's free to show up, but only with the instrument hardly anyone has ever heard him use, namely his voice. You then proceed to present a collection of songs from mostly contemporary sources in such a haunting fashion, and with such stark, otherworldly grandeur emanating solely from the human spirit infusing your every uttered syllable, that the entire exercise begins to take on the aspect of the sort of bone chilling premonition encountered in a Shakespearean soliloquy. Is this a dagger I see before me? No, but it is your true love gallivanting with someone else.

TAS CRU, Grizzle N' Bone—If you're a fool for the blues, you've come to the right place if you've cued up Tas Cru's raw, righteous Grizzle N' Bone, yet another Tas outing extending his proclivity for advancing a food metaphor in his album titles. But take note: amidst the gritty, raw blues 'n' soul herein are some tender-hearted moments that give the album a life-affirming sheen.

thumbnailDAVE DOUGLAS & BRASS ECSTASY, Spirit Moves—Imagine a forlorn, muted trumpet, searching bereft through the melody of Hank Williams's "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," finding untapped seams of heartache without uttering a single word. Or a sputtering, funky discourse and variation Otis Redding's "Mr. Pitiful," complete with a tuba burping away in the background. Or a high-stepping strut through "Bowie," a tribute to Lester Bowie with four horns coming at you from different directions, juking and sparring, before twice breaking into unison howls of "Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight." Welcome to Spirit Moves.

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