Title: The Iron Pot Cooker Artist: Camille Yarbrough Label: Vanguard/Craft Recordings Formats: LP (first vinyl reissue; 180-gram Record Store Day ed.)* Release date: September 26, 2020
Twenty-nine seconds into track one, “But It Comes Out Mad,” Camille Yarbrough takes a breath. This is not a simple breath, but a deep breath, an exasperated breath. In that one breath, she sets up listeners for the premise of the entire album. The Black community is under pressure, being cooked, and we are tired.
Title: Celebrated, 1895-1896 Artist: Unique Quartette Label: Archeophone Formats: 10-in. Vinyl EP, Digital Release date: May 29, 2020
The Unique Quartette, a pioneering African American vocal group founded and led by Joseph M. Moore, holds the distinction of being the first black quartet to record commercially. According to newspaper accounts, the group was actively performing in the Northeast by the mid-1880s and remained quite popular until disbanding around 1899. The quartet made its first recordings in December 1890 for the New York Phonograph Company, intended for playback on coin-slot phonograph machines. Two of their early wax cylinder recordings were issued in 2005 on Archeophone Records’ GRAMMY-winning two-disc compilation, Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1891–1922,which bears the title of the book by Tim Brooks. In his chapter devoted to the Unique Quartette, Brooks’ concluded: “Were it not for the few, fragile brown wax cylinders that have survived from the early and mid-1890s, we would know little of a style of black quartet singing that was polished, engaging, and highly popular in its day.”1 Archeophone’s new release, Celebrated, 1895-1896, offers the opportunity to hear six exceedingly rare and expertly restored cylinders by the Unique Quartette, all but one revealed for the first time in nearly 125 years.
Detroit native Deitrick Haddon launched his solo gospel career in 2002 with the album Lost and Found, which peaked at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Charts and received a GRAMMY nomination. Since then he has released a string of critically acclaimed albums as well as singles that have been played extensively on both gospel and mainstream R&B radio stations. Known for his progressive, urban style of gospel music, Haddon is also the founding pastor of Hill City Church in Los Angeles and a former cast member on Oxygen’s reality television show Preachers of L.A. Haddon’s new album, TIME (Truth Is My Energy), has been hailed as his “best work yet.”
Title: La Danse à St. Ann’s Artist: Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys Label: Nouveau Electric Formats: CD, Digital Release date: May 29, 2020
Living legend Goldman Thibodeaux, a mainstay at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival for over 20 years, is one of the last musicians performing in the traditional French Creole country style known as “La La.” Now 87-years-old, Thibodeaux’s mixed Cajun-Creole roots reach back to early 20th century Louisiana, when as a young boy he saw the great Amédé Ardoin (1898–1942) perform at a local house party. One of the most revered Creole musicians in Louisiana and an early recording artist, Ardoin’s Afro-Creole accordion style paved the way for zydeco music back in 1920s and inspired Thibodeaux to take up the accordion. By 1966, he was playing with the Lawtell Playboys, a group originally founded in 1946 by Bébé and Eraste Carriere (aka Les Frères Carrière) and kept alive by several generations of family members. Now the leader of the group, Goldman Thibodeaux and the Lawtell Playboys present their latest album, La Danse à St. Ann’s.
Title: Vodou Alé Artist: Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers Label: Bongo Joe Format: Digital, LP Release Date: May 22, 2020
Vodou Alé is the first full length collaborative album between Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers which showcases Afro-Caribbean voodoo influences from Chouk Bwa’s native Haiti. This debut release offers nine-tracks that merge Haitian mizik rasin (roots music) with the electronic production style of Brussels-based duo The Ångströmers, putting a modern spin on traditional music.
Title: Satirifunk Artist: Junko Beat Label: Drumparade Format: CD, LP, Digital Release Date: June 5, 2020
Trance-inducing, cutting-edge, and improvisational: all are terms that have been used to describe the newest release from the New Orleans progressive funk outfit Junko Beat. On their sophomore album, Satirifunk, the group presents an innovative musical fusion of New Orleans funk and West African tribal jazz with electronic and Latin-Caribbean influences. The result is a powerful, rhythm-heavy sound that truly captivates the listener.
This month we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the great horn-driven funk band Tower of Power with a review of their 30th album, Step Up.
In the category of string music, we’re featuring African American fiddler Jake Blount’s first solo album, Spider Tales, and the album L.E.S. Douze Volume 2 from Le String Noise, a group featuring fiddler and vocalist Louis Michot of Lost Bayou Ramblers, violinists Pauline Kim and Conrad Harris of String Noise, and cellist and vocalist Leyla McCalla, of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Our Native Daughters.
Jazz releases include drummer Jonathan Barber’s sophomore album, Legacy Holder; tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III & guitarist Matthew Stevens follow-up project, In Common 2; the Spanish Harlem Orchestra’s Latin Jazz Project; the Ruthie Foster Big Band’s Live at the Paramount; and the Brooklyn-based jazz-world music ensemble AJOYO’s sophomore album War Chant.
Blues releases include Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood’s Blue Sky, and a celebration of Chicago electric blues with Alex Dixon (son of Willie Dixon) on The Real McCoy.
After 50 strong years of music making, Tower of Power is back with their 30th album, Step Up. Known for their wall of sound horn-driven funk, the multi-instrumentalist ensemble has been performing and creating music since the late 1960s under the direction of bandleader and tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo. A Detroit native, Castillo moved to Oakland, CA where he met baritone sax player Stephen “Doc” Kupka, and they formed a band that would soon become known as Tower of Power. After famous concert promoter Bill Graham heard the group perform at the Fillmore in 1970, he signed them to his label and their debut album, East Bay Grease, was releasedthat same year.
Title: Spider Tales Artist: Jake Blount Label: Free Dirt Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: May 29, 2020
Jake Blount has teamed up with a group of talented, young, and mostly queer folk musicians to assemble a thoroughly moving and often harrowing collection of songs by Black and indigenous folk musicians. Blount is a rising star in the folk scene, becoming the first Black person to make the finals at the prestigious Appalachian String Band Music Festival (better known as Clifftop), and the first to win in the traditional band category. Three years later, he placed first in the banjo contest, playing three tunes from Black banjoists including Dink Robert’s “Roustabout,” which appears on Spider Tales, Blount’s first full solo album.