Guy Davis: Juba Dance

Acoustic blues virtuoso Guy Davis will release his new album, Juba Dance, on September 10th. The album’s thirteen tracks, most of which feature harmonica player Fabrizio Poggi, are a mix of Guy Davis originals and covers of songs by Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Rev. Robert Wilkins and Blind Willie McTell.

Singer Lea Gilmore duets on “Some Cold Rainy Day” and The Blind Boys of Alabama lend vocals to the chilling “See That My Grave is Kept Clean.”

The standout tracks are: the buoyant Muddy Waters cover “My Eyes Keep Me in Trouble;” the uniquely rhythmic original “Dance Juba Dance” and the bluesy “Black Coffee.”

The only track I don’t like at all is “Have You Seen My Baby.” I admire the concept of dueling vocals and harmonica, but the result is an irksome listen. But that’s a minor complaint for an otherwise excellent album.

You can watch Guy Davis and Fabrizio Poggi perform “That’s No Way to Get Along” live below…

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Guy Davis Official Site

Cassie Taylor: Out of My Mind

Judging from the title and cover art, I expected Cassie Taylor’s new album, Out of My Mind, to be some kind of avante-pop or alterna-rock. Instead Out of My Mind is a wonderfully bluesy, though still unusual, collection. Turns out Cassie is the daughter of Otis Taylor. The standout tracks on her album are the brassed up ditty “New Orleans” and the sultry, seething “Gone and Dead.” You can stream tracks from the album below.

Cassie Taylor Official Site

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Tom Jones: Spirit in the Room

I really wanted to hate this album, or at least feel indifferent enough to ignore it. I tried, really I did. I didn’t even listen to the unrequested advance promo I received. Then a second promo arrived from Jones’ record label, so I thought I’d see how bad it is while I mopped the kitchen floor. I still can’t believe I like a Tom Jones album. The man best known to my generation for his vomit-inducing cover of Prince’s “Kiss” and even more atrocious dance hit “Sexbomb” has recorded what I must admit is a twisted, bluesy and actually quite good Americana album. A collaboration with producer Ethan Johns, the album was recorded in Peter Gabriel’s Real World studio and features covers by such artists as Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and The Low Anthem.

The weird, Western noir isn’t quite Nick Cave, the blues wailers aren’t quite Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and the reflective old man country songs aren’t quite Johnny Cash, but you can hear those influences in several songs and they definitely suit Jones’ voice. And there’s no denying the instrumentation on the album is superb.

Highlights are Leonard Cohen’s “Tower of Song” (the video of which you can watch below), Tom Waits’ “Bad As Me,” Joe Henry’s “All Blues Hail Mary,” “Hit or Miss,” and Blind Willie Johnson’s “Soul of a Man.” The album also includes a cover of The Low Anthem’s “Charlie Darwin.”

So yeah, judge me if you must, but I like a Tom Jones album.

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Tom Jones Official Site

Dayna Kurtz: Secret Canon Vol. 2

Dayna Kurtz’ new album, Secret Canon Vol. 2, is a thing of beauty. The followup to last year’s Secret Canon 1, Secret Canon Vol. 2 is a collection of rare blues and jazz covers from the 1940-60s with a few originals in the same vein. Dayna calls the album her “New Orleans record.” It’s bluesy, it’s bold and so very, very classic.

I was shocked to discover that the opener “I Look Good in Bad” is a Dayna Kurtz original. The song structure, lyrics and instrumentation seem so classic it could easily be a Bessie Smith cover. It’s one of many songs on the album that showcase the rich and robust range of Dayna’s voice. M.C. Records was kind enough to allow me to share the song, which you can stream below.

Dayna also delivers a stunningly beautiful and emotive rendering of the vintage soul ballad “Reconsider Me” — originally recorded by Johnny Adams, but probably best known as a 1970s country hit by Narvel Felt. You can stream that song at MC Records.

Other highlights include “One More Kiss,” “Same Time, Same Place,” “All I Ask is Your Love” and “I’ll Be a Liar.”

I love, love, love this album. Fiercely, immensely, wholeheartedly. It reminds me of the first time I heard Dayna’s magnificent voice at Mountain Stage in 2002 (sadly my Muruch review of that concert was lost in the great archive disaster of 2005). I had never heard of Dayna before that concert, which I attended to see Natalie Merchant. Dayna walked out onto the stage, sat down in a wooden chair, and tuned her guitar for a few minutes without saying a word. Then she opened her mouth to sing “Love Gets in the Way” (from Postcards from Downtown) and her extraordinary, soaring voice commanded the attention of every single audience member. Like the classic songs she chose to cover on Secret Canon Vol. 2, Dayna’s voice just gets better with age.

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SoundCloud stream uploaded w/ permission of M.C. Records

Dayna Kurtz Official Site

Eric Bibb & Habib Koite: Brothers in Bamako

American singer-guitarist Eric Bibb and West African singer-guitarist Habib Koité have joined forces for the new album, Brothers in Bamako. The two first met and became friends a decade ago when Putumayo Records invited both musicians to play on Mali to Memphis and they’ve finally gotten around to recording together. More than a simple duet album, Brothers in Bamako is a true collaboration. In addition to singing and playing together, Bibb and Koité co-wrote most of the songs to marry their respective folk-blues and world music styles. Brothers in Bamako will be released on Novemeber 6th.

I’ve been a fan of both artists for so long, I may have been a little too excited to hear their substantial talents unite. I was very disappointed with the two lackluster opening tracks, “On My Way to Bamako” and “L.A.” Perhaps the problem was that Bibb and Koité were divided for those introductory songs. The tracks co-written by and co-starring both artists are much more interesting.

Things greatly improve on their first proper collaboration, “Touma Ni Kelen/Needed Time.” As I’d hoped, Bibb’s gospel-influenced, bluesy folk style and Koité’s fusion of traditional and modern Malian rhythms complement each other perfectly.

The stand out tracks are the multi-instrumental duet “Tombouctou,” a revamped “With My Maker I Am One” (originally featured on Bibb’s Booker’s Guitar album), Koité’s haunting “Foro Bana” (from his Ma Ya album) and a beautifully subtle rendition of Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind.”

Other highlights include “We Don’t Care,” the pretty instrumental “Nani Le” and the banjo-driven “Khafolé.”

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Eric Bibb Official Site
Habib Koité Official Site