Album Round up Episode 3

Ibrahima Cissokho & Mandingue Foly      Liberte Mom Sa Bop                        NarRator

Out Now

Mandingo Afro Rock is how kora player Ibrahima Cissokho describes the music on this album, and that sums it up nicely. Domiciled in France for around 12 years now, he has assembled an international array of high class musical talents who embellish and enhance his own considerable skills.

A Senegalese griot in the Mandingo tradition, he retains the soul of this music, but has opened it out to include funk and rock influences. While he is not, perhaps, the first to do so, he has certainly done it with flair and panache, the disparate elements blending seamlessly to make one joyous whole.

Cissokho’s warm vocals have the power to soar over the swirling, driving bass, percussion and saxophone of his bandmates, and the mix leaves plenty of room, too, for his undoubted skills on the kora.

An album of uplifting music in these strange and unusual times.

Eliza Meyer                Hello Stranger                       Self                  Out Now

This is a pretty impressive album even before you find out that Ms Meyer is still in High School. She’s been racking up praise and plaudits for her singing and playing for some time now, and given the number of extremely fine talents there are in the field of Appalachian music, that’s a feat in itself.

Among those who rate her highly you can name Cathy Fink and Liam Purcell, who co-produced this album and contribute their own talents on a number of tracks. And Eliza has further backing from Marcy Marxer, Sam Gleaves, and Alice Gerrard among others.

However, Meyer remains very much front and centre throughout, demonstrating her vocal and banjo skills on a wealth of well-chosen material. From the traditional Darlin’ Corey and The Cuckoo, Hazel Dickins’ Workin’ Girl Blues and Hills of Home to songs by Si Kahn, the Louvin Brothers and more, the range is wide but the quality is constant.

A talent to look out for.

Mr Alec Bowman      I Used to Be Sad and Then I Forgot           Self      Out Now

Mr Alec Bowman has the knack of writing a song that makes you feel that you’ve heard it before, even though you know full well that you haven’t. Go back and listen again, it sounds like something else entirely. A good talent to have, it means he’s constantly engaging your attention. And the songs on this album are certainly worthy of repeated listening.

This is the first album released under his own name, a fact that may just point to the personal nature of the lyrics rather than a change of musical direction. IUTBSATIF comes dressed in a sleeve that features Mr Bowman in the midst of a field of buttercups and would not have looked out of place in my record collection in the ‘70s.

Possessed of a gentle voice with a wistful edge, he would not have sounded out of place there either, but the songs here have more depth than ballads of unrequited love, and the sometimes unsettling subject matter – Hand in Hand, for instance lists ways in which he does not want to die (Forth Bridge gets a mention here) leaves you much to ponder after listening.

Produced by “long-time misery botherer and harbinger of melancholy” and sometime collaborator with the mighty Kit Downs, Josienne Clarke, who seems to know exactly when to add a touch or leave something alone, this is an album that will stay with you.

Chickenbone Slim                 Sleeper                        Self                  Out Now

One of the most uplifting blues albums I’ve heard in a while, Chickenbone Slim’s latest release mixes a healthy respect for the tradition with a highly original line in songwriting that sets it apart from the crowd.

Recorded at Greaseland with Kid Andersen producing, and featuring guest appearance from Laura Chavez (always a plus in my book) this is a collection of original songs that, while fitting nicely into the groove that you might expect from a blues album, add to that by mixing in some fine, slightly idiosyncratic lyrics and some strong melodies.

Slim (I guess Larry Teves didn’t have that authentic blues sound to it?) knows how to write a song with a hook and words to make you listen, even if opening track Vampire Blues does sport the opening line “I woke up this morning…” (sure I’ve heard that before somewhere…). He’s also sings pretty well, unlike some modern day electric bluesmen who tend to shout rather than sing their lyrics.

I’m playing this one on repeat.

Jim Welsh     

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