New Music Friday Vol. 29

"World" music, jazz, and folk inspirations for your mid-May...


Bombino - Deran

One of the brightest highlights of the week is Bombino, a Tuareg musician from Niger. Bombino is a masterful guitar player, he sings entirely in his native Tuareg language, and his music is loaded with drums and percussion. This is a marvelous record.

Ray LaMontagne - Part of the Light

Inspired to become a musician by hearing Stephen Stills on the radio, Ray LaMontagne has used that that '60s/'70s folk rock aesthetic as a launching point for most of his albums. Part of the Light is no exception. I remember seeing him play in a little bookstore in SoHo in 2004 in advance of his debut album, and I was hooked.

Matthew Sweet - Tomorrow's Daughter

Sweet has been a power pop devotee for decades, creating jangly singer/songwriter tunes, clearly inspired by bands like Big Star and, of course, The Beatles. His sound has remained steadfast. If you know and like Matthew Sweet's catalog of recordings, you'll like this one, too.

Nellie McKay - Sister Orchid

Nellie McKay is a quirky and charming individual with a solid rebellious streak. Chanticleer had the opportunity to work with her several years ago on a concert set, and she was unique and perfectly lovely. McKay (rhymes with “eye”) has always been able to access a Blossom Dearie quality to her singing, and she appropriately dials that in for Sister Orchid, which is her first album of jazz standards.

Family of the Year - Goodbye Sunshine, Hello Nighttime

When I was first visiting my now-wife in Vienna, Austria, we decided we wanted to catch a concert together, we just happened upon Family of the Year, an indie folk pop group from Los Angeles. The show didn't change our lives, but it was pleasant music. And now it's fun to hear them and be reminded of one of my first dates with my wife.

The Last Poets - Understand What Black Is

The Last Poets are political spoken word jazz artists from the late-'60s/early-'70s who practically, unintentionally, invented rap. While their verses were delivered with youthful energy and the insistence of protest movements, it's fascinating to hear their poetry today delivered with matured, soulful, patient voices, exploring current issues that so easily echo those of their youth. This is their first album in decades and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the group's formation.

Brad Mehldau Trio - Seymour Reads the Constitution!

Mehldau's trio doesn't disappoint with another fantastic album of a few originals, standards, and unlikely covers. The album's title apparently comes from a dream he had in which Philip Seymour Hoffman read the Constitution while a melody played underneath. Okay. I guess, take inspiration however it comes. Regardless, Mehldau is such a consummate musician, a true artist; it's always a thrill to listen to him play.

Modern Studies - Welcome Strangers

This is the second album from Modern Studies, and the first I've heard of them. They're a Scottish group playing indie folk chamber pop with wistful male and female vocals. Singer and songwriter Emily Scott has uncanny echoes of a youthful Joni Mitchell in her singing. This is equally relaxed and ambitious music that could easily accompany a grey, dreary day or a sunny one with blue skies and a gentle breeze. Don't ask me how they pull that off.

Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy - Let Your Light Shine On

Described as a cross between soul and spiritual Afro-jazz, this album is led by an Italian guitarist, Nicola Conte, who has assembled a widely international collection of musicians who aren't afraid to establish a groove.

Brian HinmanComment