september 2009

thumbnailOTIS TAYLOR: PENTATONIC WARS AND LOVE SONGS— Pentatonic Wars and Love Songs returns him to the Afro-centric themes of some of his early albums such as When Negroes Walked the Earth (1997) and White African (2001) and features the strongest writing of his career, truly gripping tales centered on various desultory experiences of love, and that don't mean pie-in-the-sky.

DUKE ROBILLARD: STOMP! THE BLUES TONIGHT— After doing so much good guiding other artists' recordings the past couple of years, it's about time Duke Robillard got some props for himself. He could hardly have done more to deserve them than offering Stomp! The Blues Tonight, an exciting, horn-laden, guitar-rich romp through some timeless entries evoking late '40s-early '50s R&B, and adding three original tunes to the mix for a little extra spice. Speaking of extra spice, given the number of tunes here associated with great vocalists on the order of Roy Milton (two tunes in fact-double the pleasure), Wynonie Harris, Lowell Fulson and others, the album wouldn't be what it is without some outstanding singing to go along with the robust playing. Duke delivers on that count, too.

thumbnailDANI WILDE: HEAL MY BLUES—A native of Wiltshire, England, Dani Wilde sounds like she grew up at various times on Chicago's South Side and in the dark heart of the Mississippi Delta, maybe with a pit stop along the way in Motown. Like a number of outstanding female artists emerging in the blues field in recent years, she's not averse to mixing in with her blues some country ingredients and hard driving rock 'n' roll (one such example of the latter is the furious, unrelenting title track, the second cut on this disc, which features not only a relentlessly rocking rhythm track but a gritty vocal by Wilde made doubly appealing by her unself-conscious squeals at a couple of junctures that arise not by design but by the sheer intensity of her immersion in the moment). She's also a heck of a guitarist, as any number of solo spotlights prove herein, with a lot of Buddy Guy's searing attack in her own elegantly crafted excursions. And, not least of all, Wilde leaves no emotional stone unturned as a singer.

ALBUM SPOTLIGHT: LOST HIGHWAYS by Christopher Hill—While it's easy to see how the concept might have been fleshed out with a little more flair, Lost Highways works as a trunk-full of intriguing curios, some treasures, some junk, all speaking something about that other country where they were created.

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