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Music of the Moment – August

July 29, 2016 - 4:56 pm

Check out these five new albums we’re loving right now.

Karl Blau  – Introducing Karl Blau
Céu – Tropix
Crater – Talk to Me so I Can Fall Asleep
Erynn Marshall – Greasy Creek
Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals – Call It What It Is

Karl Blau – Introducing Karl Blau

For a brief moment in the 1970s, R&B and C&W musicians looked to each other as a way to stretch themselves, to find fresh inspiration, and possibly even create something new. Linda Martell, Bobby Womack, Jim Ford, Dan Penn, Otis Williams, and Donnie Fritts, to name just a few, began to mix themes and sounds. They found more similarities in the genres than differences and country-soul was born. Songs like “The Dark End of the Street,” “The Chokin’ Kind,” “The Games People Play,” and “That’s How I Got To Memphis” were written during this time and widely covered by both black and white artists. Karl Blau, a native of Anacortes, WA picks up the tradition on his latest album with a mixture well-chosen country-soul covers. The record, simply called Introducing Karl Blau, was produced by Tucker Martine. Martine and Blau find a terrific balance in keeping the songs recognizable without being beholden to the originals. Think of the album not so much as a covers project, but as a master singer interpreting great songs.

Céu – Tropix

Born and raised in Sãu Paulo, Brazil Céu grew up listening to the classical music of her country mixed with Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and eventually Erykah Badu and Lauyrn Hill. Her music is lovely, intimate, and complex. The song arrangements, languid and lush, steam around her voice like a heat wave and somehow the album becomes perfect for both a late night romance and the morning after. We’re hearing much about Brazil with the coming Olympic Games, and sadly instead of a celebratory moment for a rich and varied culture the news cycle is mired in all the internal strife and difficulties the games have highlighted. There’s always more to a country, though, than its problems and listening to Céu’s Tropix is a pretty good place to start.

Crater – Talk to Me So I Can Fall Asleep

I’m told that Crater writes songs for the “post-internet era.” I don’t know what that means. I thought about it for a moment and then stopped. I listened to the album instead and recommend that you do the same. All I can tell you is the facts: Crater was founded in Seattle by Ceci Gomez and Kessiah Gordon. Their music is deeply textured. If you play it while watching 2001: A Space Odyssey with the sound off it syncs up perfectly. Lyrically, the duo eschew cleverness and go for clarity instead. That’s surprisingly refreshing. Last fact: late one recent night I meant to listen to the first track and ended up listening to the whole album. Twice.

Erynn Marshall – Greasy Creek

Erynn Marshall’s Greasy Creek is a clear cool drink from the well. The album features twelve original fiddle tunes steeped in the old tradition and showcase Marshall to be a masterful fiddler. She’s backed by a group of stellar old-time musicians including her husband Carl Jones, and also Eddie Bond, Bob Carlin, Adam Hurt, Beth Hartness, Kyle-Dean Smith, Snake Smith, Phill Woddail, and Joe Dejanette. It must be said, though, that the fiddle, always front and center, has just enough sweetness to waltz to and just enough grit for a good buck dance.  I would like to think that someone is already learning these tunes off the record and will be playing them around a campfire or dance soon. Just remember to mention who wrote them and maybe even give her bandcamp site a visit.

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals – Call It What It Is

Reconvening for the first time after nine years a band is surely going to have some rust to work out. Fortunately Ben Harper and The Innocent Criminals get it out of the way on the clunky opening track “When Sex Was Dirty.” After that the band gets down to business with a mixture of deep blues, reggae and mellow rockers that come together to make a sonically rich and varied album. The album manages to be both socially pointed on songs like “Call It What It Is” and “Deeper and Deeper,” while mixing in one of the best summertime songs of the year with “Shine.” It’s really too bad that albums like this don’t get played on the radio anymore – wait, hold on! They do. You just have to be listening to the right frequency.