A Great Big World: Is There Anybody Out There?

The hit heartbroken single “Say Something” is by far the standout track on A Great Big World’s Is there Anybody Out There? The album includes both the original, plaintive melody and the Christina Aguilera duet version. The rest of the album has a lot of warmth and charm – of the quirky, Ben Folds variety. Fave tracks: “Say Something,” “Land of Opportunity,” “I Don’t Want to Love Somebody Else” and “Cheer Up!”

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A Great Big World 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

Contest: Win Joshua Bell’s New CD!

Contest Closed

Muruch is giving away Joshua Bell’s new CD At Home With Friends, which features collaborations with Regina Spektor, Sting, Chris Botti, Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Groban, Tiempo Libre, and many more. See contest details below.

The Prize:

One U.S. winner will receive:
1 copy of Joshua Bell’s new CD At Home With Friends.

The Rules:

Comment to this entry with “Joshua Bell” and your email address. All new comments are moderated to avoid spam (which is why you must include the name of the artist in your comment), so it may take a day for your comment to appear if you haven’t commented on Muruch before.

Note: This contest is only open to U.S. residents, and all contestants must enter with a valid email address and the name of the artist in order to qualify. The winner of the contest will also be required to provide me with their full name and postal address for shipping purposes.

The Deadline:

The contest will end on Friday, October 30th. The winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email.

Go now go! And tell others.

Album Review

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Joshua Bell: At Home With Friends

At Home With Friends is the new collection of instrumental and vocal duets by Grammy winning violinist Joshua Bell, who is joined by an eclectic mix of guest musicians and singers. Among Bell’s collaborators are Sting, Regina Spektor, Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Groban, Chris Botti, and Tiempo Libre. The album will be released on September 29th.

The covers that Bell selected for At Home With Friends are as varied as its performers, beginning with a tender rendition of “I Loves You Porgy.” The sweet strings of Bell’s violin blend beautifully with the lonely jazz of Botti’s trumpet on the Porgy and Bess ballad.

Sting lends his voice to the sixteenth century love song “Come Again,” a version of which appeared on Sting’s The Journey & The Labyrinth. I preferred the simpler lute rendition on Sting’s album, but Bell’s arrangement is also very pretty.

Josh Groban’s voice makes a good companion for Bell’s violin in the theme from “Cinema Paradiso.” However, it’s my Cuban boys Tiempo Libre who steal the show with “Para Ti.” The song alternates between peppy brass coupled with rhythmic Latin percussion and soft orchestral interludes.

Kristin Chenoweth’s operatic soprano is lovely, but seems an ill fit for “My Funny Valentine.” And while Bell’s instrumentation in “Eleanor Rigby” is flawless, I think the cover would’ve been more effective had he chosen a different singer or recorded it sans vocals. Frankie Moreno’s voice is nice, just not strong enough to tackle this particular Beatles classic. A better choice may have been Nathan Gunn, whose powerful baritone follows in “O, Cease Thy Maiden Fair.”

Thanks to the wonders of technology, you can hear Rachmaninoff himself play piano in “Grieg: Sonata No. 3.” Bandoneon player Carel Kraayenhof joins Bell on two of the album’s instrumental tracks, most notably the theme from “Il Postino.” And Chris Thile’s mandolin gives the elegant melody of “Look Away” a plucky boost.

Unfortunately for me, Regina Spektor’s “Left Hand Song” is missing from the Sony advance. But it will be included in the final cut of the album. Until then, the hauntingly exotic “Variant Moods: Duet for Sitar & Violin” makes up for its absence. Written by Ravi Shankar, the piece features his daughter Anoushka.

I personally prefer Bell’s classical works – such as his previous release Vivaldi: The Four Seasons – but it is refreshing to hear him experiment with style and play with such a diverse group of musicians.

I was not granted permission to share an mp3 and there are no audio samples available online yet, but there should be streams added at the links below before the release date.

Joshua Bell Official Site

Pre-order @ Amazon

Maura O’Connell: Naked With Friends

Maura O’Connell’s unparalleled vocal power is beautifully displayed in her impressive new album. Naked With Friends is the Irish singer’s humorous way of describing this very serious and poignant work of vocal art. Determined to show that “just a singer” can possess as much talent as any musician, O’Connell recorded this collection of a cappella performances with the help of singers Kate Rusby, Dolly Parton, The Settlers Connection, Jerry Douglas, Crooked Still’s Aoife O’Donovan, Sarah Dugas of The Duhks, Altan’s Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Clannad’s Moya Brennan, Mary Black, Alison Krauss, Tim O’Brien, Darrell Scott, Paul Brady, Liam Bradley, Declan O’Rourke, and Áine Derrane.

Maura’s haunting a cappella opens “The Bright Blue Rose”. The earthy depths of her voice are so astounding, I wish she were unaccompanied for the duration for the song. But Kate Rusby, Dolly Parton, and The Settlers Connection make for a pretty choir on the song.

Jerry Douglas joins Maura for a gut-trembling performance of the traditional “Mo Sheamuseen”, Crooked Still‘s Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Dugas of The Duhks provide ethereal harmony on the ballad “Arrow”, and Alison Krauss contributes her soft croon to a cover of “Some People’s Lives”.

Tim O’Brien is outshone by O’Connell’s pipes on “The Blacksmith”, but Paul Brady does a fine job of keeping up with her on the traditional “Anach Cuain”. But you really must leave it to Irish gals to sing with each other, such as when Altan’s Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Clannad’s Moya Brennan (formerly known as Máire Brennan), and Mary Black lend their voices to “I Know My Love”.

Maura sings solo on a few tracks, beginning with a rafter shaking take on “Ae Fond Kiss” by Robert Burns. She also delivers a stunning rendition of Joan Armatrading’s “Weakness in Me”, which is one of my favorite songs of all time. The result is one of the most chill-producing vocals I’ve ever heard. Those who have heard the original know it’s difficult to imagine anyone successfully mimicking Armatrading’s heart wrenching delivery, let alone bringing anything fresh to the song. Yet the delicate trill and deep chasm of O’Connell’s voice evokes new facets of emotion from the tune.

Maura O’Connell – The Bright Blue Rose (mp3 link removed) *

*mp3 hosted by & posted w/ permission of Welk Music & Sugar Hill Records

Maura O’Connell Official Site
Maura O’Connell MySpace

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