Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Kiwi – Mischief Reigns

You just gotta love it – a Brazilian-inflected dub reggae cd by a band named after New Zealand’s tasty green version of the blueberry. True to their name, Kiwi have made a tasty album, warm, summery and hypnotic like all the best roots reggae is. This is the group that big up-and-coming retro soul buzz band the One and Nines spun off of. The two bands share a vocalist, the irresistibly soaring Vera Sousa, a guitarist (the smartly incisive Jeff Marino), a tenor sax player (Barami Waspe) and a keyboardist. On this album Sousa shares vocal duties with Alex Tyshkov, who distinguishes himself on bass, guitars, keys, percussion and more. The rest of the laid-back horn section comprises Kasey Lockwood on trumpet and Matt Ryan on trombone, with Will Hansen on keys, David Delgado on drums and G.D. Hemmings on percussion. The bass is always way up in the mix, guaranteeing that it’ll sound fat even if you’re playing it on a lo-fi system. Like the One and Nines, a band who completely nail the ambience, arrangements and spirit of 60s Memphis soul music, Kiwi’s sound is straight out of Kingston, 1977 but with sonically improved production values.

The album opens with a tantalizing bass-driven interlude with organ, giving way to No One Else featuring Sousa doing one of her irresistible, wise, slinky vocals. Most of these songs segue into each other, often separated by little interludes, mostly brief, introspective guitar instrumentals except for a completely unexpected, rippling, gamelanesque passage toward the end. The third track, Lemon has reverb organ and fat bass with a stripped-down John Brown’s Body vibe, a feeling that returns on the sixth track, Against the Wall and later on the catchy midtempo pulse of And You.

After a tense, mostly solo guitar meditation, the fifth track reminds of Bob Marley around the time of the Kaya album, when he was blending an American R&B/soul influence into his songwriting. Track eight, Return is fat, dubwise and kind of morbid; the title cut is understatedly hypnotic – they don’t waste a note – and Sousa’s wary voice on harmonies in the background is arrestingly exquisite. She also gets to slide and shine, in both English and Portuguese, on Aprendiz, a duet with Tyshkov. The album winds up with its most psychedelic track, Cherry Tree, and then a cut that has the feel of being a catchy One and Nines groove rearranged as reggae. This is one of those rare albums that doesn’t have a single lame track, not even those little interludes. Watch this space for NYC area shows.

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June 9, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, reggae music, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: The One and Nines

If you love oldschool soul music, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings or Eli “Paperboy” Reed, you will love the One and Nines – they are the real deal. With piano, organ, horns, understatedly gorgeous guitar, a slinky rhythm section and the warmly irresistible, heartfelt vocals of frontwoman Vera Sousa, the vibe is totally mid-60s. If the band had existed when John Waters did Hairspray, this album would have been the logical choice for the movie soundtrack.

The album kicks off with Walked Alone, a gorgeously catchy, upbeat tune straight out of Memphis, 1968 with big honking baritone sax. Sousa shows off an effortlessly bright, soaring, unselfconscious style in the vein of 1960s soul icon Bettye Swann while the guitar and bass soar just in the right places. The second track, Wait is a longing, insistent 6/8 ballad like Sharon Jones in a particularly vulnerable moment – horns rise out of the end of the verse, then it’s just tremolo organ and Sousa’s sweet voice.

“You say I look like I’m always bored, but are you just speaking for yourself?” Sousa asserts gently but insistently in Something on Your Mind, backed by gently incisive guitar and a Willie Mitchell-inspired horn chart. Just Your Fool is a duet, one of the guys joining with Sousa’s fetching harmonies for a pre-Motown vibe, from right around the time doo-wop started to morph into something more interesting. The band follows Sousa as she builds intensity on Anything You Got, a psychedelic soul groove with organ and then Steve Cropper-esque guitar, finally fading out with soulful muted trumpet over the band’s shuffling rhythm. Guitar finally takes centerstage, if only for a few moments on the bright, bouncy horn-driven Tears Fall. The secret bonus track, an alternate take of Just Your Fool, might have the best vocals on the whole album. All of these songs would have been hits in the 60s – or some hardcore soul fan would be rediscovering them right about now and trying to get the surviving members of the band back together, that’s how good this is. Mixed by Hugh Pool at Excello and mastered by Fred Kevorkian, the production has the feel of an old vinyl record, vocals up front, drums back where they need to be. Even better news is that the band’s got a 7″ vinyl single coming out hot on the heels of the album – get your 45 adapters ready. Watch this space for NY-area live dates.

January 23, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments