Trax 061214

By Bliss 06/11/2014

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COLLEEN RENNISON, See the Sky About to Rain (Black Hen): Four Stars out of Five
Heads-up to Toni Price and Bonnie Raitt fans: There’s a touch of both those earthy stylists as well as Janis Joplin in this Canadian singer’s gutsy vocal style throughout a winningly arranged set of soulful covers drawn mostly from the 1970s songbooks of The Band, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Townes Van Zandt and Neil Young. Standouts include Tom Ghent’s Memphis horn-drenched “Whiskey, Whiskey” and Booker T. & Priscilla Jones’ “My Crew” (both recorded by Rita Coolidge), a swampy romp through Gentry’s “Fancy” and heart-rending reading of Tom Russell’s “Blue Wing.” Blackhenmusic.com
 
 

JOSÉ JAMES, While You Were Sleeping (Blue Note): Three Stars out of Five
Spirit and seduction remain the soul-jazz crooner’s thematic metier, though his intent’s sometimes hard to track here. He veers into angsty rock territory with “EveryLittleThing” and “Anywhere U Go,” which circles around guitarist Brad Allen Williams’ repetitive riff without actually going anywhere. More effective are the rhythmically complex, violin-dressed “4 Noble Truths,” a delicious cover of Al Green’s “Simply Beautiful” and the delicately grooving “Dragon,” featuring Becca Stevens’ ethereal soprano. James remains an intriguing artist, but this lacks the compelling emotion of last year’s “No Beginning No End.” At the Hollywood Bowl June 15. Josejamesmusic.com

 
MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO, Comet, Come to Me (Naïve): Four Stars out of Five
The mercurial bassist follows 2012’s moving tribute to Nina Simone with this sonically polished keeper, opening with a reverb-layered redo of Whodini’s “Friends” that sets the edgy emotional tone for what follows. R&B, dub, hip-hop, jazz and pop all contribute to the intricate compositional weave as Ndegeocello unsentimentally considers the various pieces necessary for a human or musical relationship to work. Highlights: “Conviction,” “Choices,” “Tom” (“How it slips away, love/ The force that passes through our heart and the truth of knowing something’s wrong”). meshell.com

 
VARIOUS ARTISTS, Brasslands: A Motion Picture Soundtrack (Evergreene/MeerkatMedia): Three Stars out of Five
Spirited soundtrack from last year’s documentary about the world’s largest trumpet contest, held in the Serbian village of Guca. While the 12 tracks can’t capture the political and racial complexities of the competition between Serbian, Roma Gypsy and American bands, they do represent different regional styles of Serbian brass music, offering a handy primer on Slavic brass music that’s most appealing when the bold horns and woodwinds dance in tempo with local folk rhythms. brasslands.com

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