La Tanya Hall – Say Yes



Title: Say Yes
Artist: La Tanya Hall
Label: Blue Canoe
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: November 8, 2019

 

Versatile jazz vocalist La Tanya Hall began her career touring with the great Harry Belafonte and has since collaborated with other black music icons including Diana Ross, Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin, and Patti Labelle. Hall is perhaps best known, however, for her work with Bobby McFerrin. In addition to guest appearances on McFerrin’s recent albums, Hall has been a member of his 12-voice ensemble Voicestra since 2002 where she became adept at performing concerts where “everything is totally improvised.” These skills are clearly displayed on Hall’s latest project, Say Yes, backed by Andy Milne (piano) & Unison Trio (with bassist John Herbert and drummer Clarence Penn).

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Moonlight Benjamin – Simido

 

Title: Simido 
Artist: Moonlight Benjamin
Label: Ma Casa
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: February 21, 2020

 

Haiti’s high priestess of voodoo rock and roll, Moonlight Benjamin, returns with her latest release, Simido. As with her previous breakout album, Siltane, the lead vocalist performs primarily in her native Creole language, with lyrics that always delve deep into the soul of Haitian culture. Now based in France, Benjamin strives to honor her roots and harness the spiritual power of her homeland. At the same time, she expresses concern that as a woman, she must constantly affirm her existence and command respect. As she states, “It is, unfortunately, an eternal battle for us who are women.”

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Tim Brooks – The Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass Media

Title: The Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass Media: 20th Century Performances on Radio, Records, Film and Television
Author: Tim Brooks
Publisher: McFarland
Formats: Book (softcover, 290 pages), Kindle Ed.
Release date: November 15, 2019

 

Tim Brooks, author of the award winning tome Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919 (2004), draws upon his decades of experience as a media researcher and recorded sound historian for his latest book, The Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass Media. Tracing the shift from staged minstrel performances in the 19th century to the silver screen, airwaves and turntables of the 20th century, Brooks explores the second fifty-plus years of this “strange American phenomenon.”

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Chineke! Orchestra & Chorus – Spark Catchers

 

Title: Spark Catchers
Artist: Chineke! Orchestra & Chorus
Label: NMC
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: January 17, 2020

 

Royal Academy of Music professor and double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku has a laudable mission: championing change and celebrating diversity in classical music. Through her Chineke! Foundation, Nwanoku nurtures new generations of talent by commissioning works and supporting music education programs including a youth orchestra. Her flagship group, the Chineke! Orchestra, was founded in 2015 and is comprised of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) classical musicians working in the UK and Europe. The orchestra recently won the inaugural Royal Philharmonic Society Gamechanger Award for filling the stage with BME artists, drawing a far more diverse audience to concert halls, and “restoring BME composers past and present to their rightful place amongst those we regularly revere.” These achievements are showcased on the Chineke! Orchestra’s latest album, Spark Catchers. Featuring works by six of the UK’s leading BME composers, the performances (except where otherwise noted) are led by African American conductor Anthony Parnther, music director of the Southeast Symphony in Los Angeles and the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra.

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Sheku Kanneh-Mason – Elgar

 

Title: Elgar
Artist: Sheku Kanneh-Mason, London Symphony Orchestra
Label: Decca Classics
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: January 10, 2020

 

London-born cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason rose to prominence in the UK after winning the BBC Young Musician Award in 2016 and received international attention for his performance at the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in 2018. A member of the remarkably talented Kanneh-Mason family, 20-year-old Sheku has often performed with his six brothers and sisters, all classically trained musicians between the ages of 10-23. His debut album, Inspiration, was released in 2016 on the prestigious Decca Classics label (his sister, pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason, is also signed to Decca). On his sophomore album, Elgar, Sheku performs Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85 with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, plus several short chamber pieces by Elgar and other composers. As a testament to the number of people inspired by the young musician, Elgar is already a best seller, making Kanneh-Mason the first classical musician to break into the Top 10 of the UK album charts in over 30 years, a position currently shared with grime star Stormzy.

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The Meters – Gettin’ Funkier All The Time

 

Title: Gettin’ Funkier All The Time: Complete Josie/Reprise & Warner Recordings 1968-1977
Artist: The Meters
Label: SoulMusic/Cherry Red
Formats: 6-CD Box Set
Release date: January 24, 2020

 

Released just in time for Mardi Gras, this new box set celebrates the kings of New Orleans funk, otherwise known as The Meters. Featuring guitarist Leo Nocentelli, bassist George Porter, Jr., keyboardist/vocalist Art Neville, and drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste, The Meters combined street rhythms with second line vibe and fatback drums to create their own unique, laidback style. Compared to James Brown’s hard driving, frenetic performances, The Meters just let the good times roll through the Big Easy accompanied by a funky backbeat. Produced by SoulMusic’s David Nathan, Gettin’ Funkier All The Time takes listeners on a journey through The Meter’s eight studio albums recorded between 1968-1977, their non-album singles and  bonus tracks issued on previous compilations, plus a few surprises thrown in like beads along the parade route.  In other words, this set has it all.

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Various Artists – Jubilee Showcase

 

Title: Jubilee Showcase
Artist: Various
Label: Time-Life Music
Formats: Digital
Release date: January 17, 2020

 

Chicago was the birthplace of two of the earliest gospel music television series. The half hour syndicated show TV Gospel Time aired on NBC Sunday mornings from 1962-1965, and a 2-DVD set of selected programs was released in 2010 under the title Soul of the Church. Now, ten years later, Time-Life Music is releasing “36 raw, live performances” from the more famous Emmy® Award winning series, Jubilee Showcase. Created and hosted by Sid Ordower, a Jewish civil rights and labor activist, Jubilee Showcase aired on ABC’s Chicago affiliate, WLS Channel 7, from 1963 to 1984. These programs introduced gospel music and Black culture in general to a much broader audience during the peak years of the Civil Rights Movement.

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Various Artists – You’re Not Gonna Hurt Me (A Valentine’s Day Kiss Off)

 

Title: You’re Not Gonna Hurt Me (A Valentine’s Day Kiss Off)
Artist: Various
Label: Perpetual / EMG
Format: Digital
Release date: January 31, 2020

 

Not feeling the love this Valentine’s Day? Are you experiencing a relationship that has gone sour? Let the sisters set you free! You’re Not Gonna Hurt Me was compiled “to empower women to kiss off those men that don’t treat them with the utmost respect they deserve.” Featuring 15 classic soul tracks “performed by powerful women with powerful voices delivering a powerful message,” this album “serves as a scathing anti-Valentine’s Day card.” Included are songs such as ‘You’re the Dog (I Do the Barking Myself)” by Irma Thomas, “Lot More of Me Leaving (Less of Me Coming Home)” by Ruth Brown, and “Divorce Decree” by Doris Duke, plus gems by lesser known artists like “I’m Moving On” by Chyvonne Scott and “Casanova (Your Playing Days Are Over)” by Ruby Andrews. All tracks have been newly re-mastered for this release.

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Katherine Jolly – Preach Sister Preach

 

Title: Preach Sister Preach
Artist: Katherine Jolly
Label: Navona
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 9, 2019

 

American soprano Katherine Jolly has graced many opera stages over the course of her budding career.  After winning the Metropolitan Opera National Council Grand Finale in 2006, she went on to perform with the New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and Florida Grand Opera, among others. In concert repertoire, Jolly has taken the route of many lyric sopranos, specializing in the repertoire of Bach, Handel and Mozart. On her debut recording Preach Sister Preach, however, she selected three contemporary works by young American composers. The project was undertaken while Jolly was on the voice faculty at the IU Jacobs School of Music (JSOM), and was recorded on the stage of Auer Hall in 2018 and early 2019 by audio engineer D. James Tagg, who is also on the JSOM faculty. Continue reading

The String Queens Self-Titled Debut

 

Title: The String Queens
Artist: The String Queens
Label: Self-released
Format: Digital
Release date: November 25, 2019

 

Renowned for their genre spanning repertoire, the Washington, D.C. based trio The String Queens have been changing the ways audiences engage with classical music. The three women—Kendall Isadore (violin), Dawn Johnson (viola), and Élise Cuffy (cello)—are “school teachers by day and concert performers by night” who have a strong commitment to artistic integrity and music education. Though they might not yet be a household name, you have likely heard TSQ backing artists such as Solange, Janelle Monae, and Jennifer Hudson, as well as Aloe Blacc on his recent video of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” filmed on the grounds of Monticello. The trio has also been featured on concert stages around the world, including Carnegie Hall, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Royal Festival Hall, and Shanghai Grand Theatre. Continue reading

Bobby Rush – Sitting on Top of the Blues

 

Title: Sitting on Top of the Blues
Artist: Bobby Rush
Label: Deep Rush/dist. Thirty Tigers
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: August 16, 2019

 

An octogenarian and elder statesman of the blues, Bobby Rush shows no signs of slowing down. The self-professed “king of the chitlin’ circuit” is currently riding high from his cameo in the acclaimed film, Dolemite Is My Name, where he performed his original song “I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya,” as well as the release of his latest studio album, Sitting on Top of the Blues.  The album’s title aptly describes Rush’s position as a “bluesman who’s sitting on the top of my game, proud of what I do and proud of who I am.” The eleven tracks, all penned by Rush, also speak to his talents as a master storyteller as he regales us with songs about “how I came up and who did I love.” Continue reading

Altered Five Blues Band – Ten Thousand Watts

 

Title: Ten Thousand Watts
Artist: Altered Five Blues Band
Label: Blind Pig
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 6, 2019

 

Milwaukee’s Altered Five Blues Band, led by vocalist Ted Taylor, has been garnering legions of fans since the quintet formed in 2002. On their fifth studio album, Ten Thousand Watts, they generate their own brand of high voltage blues rock across twelve original tracks. The A5’s cohesiveness is immediately evident, a testimony to the band’s seventeen years as a unit and appearances at blues festivals worldwide. In addition to Taylor, band members include guitarist Jeff Schroedl, bassist Mark Solveson, keyboardist Raymond Tevich, and drummer Alan Arber, who joined in 2017. Continue reading

Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues – Roots and Branches: The Songs of Little Walter

 

Title: Roots and Branches: The Songs of Little Walter
Artist: Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues
Label: Alligator
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 5, 2019

 

One of the greatest blues harmonica players alive today, the three-time Blues Music Award winner Billy Branch carries on the Chicago blues harp tradition he learned first-hand from legends such as Junior Wells, James Cotton and Willie Dixon. Following up on his 2014 release, Blues Shock, Branch’s latest project reimagines 15 songs written or made famous by another Chicago harp legend, the late great Little Walter Jacobs. Branch is joined by his longtime band, The Sons of Blues, featuring pianist Sumito “Ariyo” Ariyoshi, guitarist Giles Corey, bassist Marvin Little, and drummer Andrew “Blaze” Thomas. Their goal for this project was to go beyond a mere tribute recording, fusing their own contemporary mix of funk, rhythm and blues, and soul into each and every track. Continue reading

Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – Cypress Grove

 

Title: Cypress Grove
Artist: Jimmy “Duck” Holmes
Label: Easy Eye Sound
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 18, 2019

 

Mississippi bluesman Jimmy “Duck” Holmes literally grew up in a southern juke joint. His mother and father established the historic Blue Front Café in 1948 in the town of Betonia—ground zero for the minor-tuned, acoustic country blues style made famous by Jack Owens and his predecessor, Skip James. Now a prominent stop on the Mississippi Blues Trail, the Blue Front Café has been run for the past 47 years by Holmes, who can still be heard nearly every weekend singing and playing his acoustic or hollowbody electric guitar. As possibly the last living musician who was weaned on the Bentonia blues style, Holmes aims to keep the tradition alive on his latest album, Cypress Grove. Produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, the project captures classics performed in forward looking renditions that stay true to their roots while bringing a spontaneity into the mix. Backing Holmes is an all-star cast of musicians including Auerbach and Marcus King on guitars, Eric Deaton on bass, and Sam Bacco on drums and percussion. Continue reading

Various Artists – 50 Years of Como MS Blues

 

Title: 50 Years of Como Ms Blues (Greatest Blues Songs, Vol. 1)
Artist: Various
Label: Wolf
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 25, 2019

 

The hill country around Como, Mississippi produced several significant country blues artists. Less than an hour south of Memphis, the relatively isolated region also gave birth to a unique blues style that was distinct from the more popular Delta blues tradition. This new compilation from Wolf Records includes both well-known and lesser-known artists from Como, including Fred McDowell, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Eli Green, Ranie Burnette and Othar Turner—all born between 1901-1923. R.L. Boyce, the last living bluesman in Como and Othar Turner’s nephew, represents the younger generation. Continue reading

Viscaynes, Sylvester Stewart – The Viscaynes & Friends

 

Title: The Viscaynes & Friends
Artist: Viscaynes, Sylvester Stewart (aka Sly Stone)
Label: ORG Music
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: December 6, 2019

 

The Viscaynes & Friends from ORG Music is essentially a reissue of the tracks featured on the long out of print vinyl compilation, Spaced Out Sly, released in 1977. As many Sly Stone fans are likely aware, the young Sylvester Stewart cut his first singles in 1961-1962, both under his own name and with the Viscaynes, a multi-racial teenage doo-wop group formed by students at Vellejo High School in California’s San Francisco Bay Area. As Rickey Vincent relates in the liner notes, Sly was initially approached by classmates in the Viscaynes to assist with vocal harmonies, and they were so impressed with the multi-talented musician that they persuaded him to join their group. By that time, Sly had been performing gospel music for well over a decade and had also played guitar for other doo-wop and jazz groups. By 1961, the 18-year-old was a seasoned professional who led the Viscaynes to success with the single, “Yellow Moon,” which incidentally is backed by a band featuring saxophonist Jerry Martini, who would later join Sly and the Family Stone. Continue reading

Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection

 

Title: Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection
Artist: Various
Label: Earwig
Formats: 4 CD Box Set
Release date: August 9, 2019

 

Produced by Earwig Music Company’s Michael Robert Frank, Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection is hands down one of the best box sets of the year. The beautifully produced hard cover book includes four CDs inserted into the front and back covers, while the lavishly illustrated inner pages tell the story of the Chicago based independent record company owned by Narvel Eatmon, a colorful character better known on the South Side as “Cadillac Baby.” Frank began this labor of love in 2006 when he purchased the entire catalog and archive of the Bea & Baby label, with the goal of sharing Cadillac Baby’s musical legacy with the rest of the world.  The result is this comprehensive anthology which includes all released and unreleased tracks (with a couple of exceptions), ranging from urban and country blues, gospel, doo-wop, soul, and comedy, to rap. Along the way, Cadillac narrates his own story through six spoken word tracks interspersed throughout the collection. Other “expert witnesses” from Chicago include Jim O’Neal (Living Blues magazine), Bill Dahl, and Robert M. Marovich (Journal of Gospel Music), who all contributed to the informative liner notes. Continue reading

VP Records 40th Anniversary Box Set – Down in Jamaica

 

Title: Down In Jamaica: 40 Years of VP Records
Artist: Various
Label: VP
Formats: Limited Edition Box Set, Digital
Release date: October 25, 2019

 

Reggae fans will appreciate the new limited edition box set, Down in Jamaica: 40 Years of VP Records, whichtells the story of a continually owned and operated family business at the heart of the global growth of reggae, dancehall, and Caribbean music.” Founded by Vincent and Patricia Chin, VP Records was started as Randy’s Record Mart, a record store in Kingston, Jamaica, and over the years grew into the world’s largest reggae music company. This 94-track anthology focuses on singles released by the esteemed label and its more obscure sublabels, offering many rare gems that have long been out of print. In addition to well-known musicians on the VP roster who are still active such as Barrington Levy, Yellowman, Shaggy, and Beenie Man, there are many tracks from earlier artists such as “Gi Mi Di Weed” by Jigsy King, “Lots of Signs” by Tenor Saw, and “Roots Natty Congo” by Johnny Clarke. This bountiful package includes a 24-page booklet that tells the history of the label, as well as four 7-inch singles, four 12-inch singles, and four CDs. If you want an overview of reggae and dancehall music from the 1980s to present, this is an excellent place to begin, but act fast because only 2000 copies have been published. Continue reading

Booker T. Jones – New Autobiography and Companion CD

 

Title: Time is Tight: My Life, Note by Note
Author: Booker T. Jones
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Formats: Hardcover, Kindle
Release date: October 29, 2019

 

Anyone familiar with the history of Memphis music and Stax Records will be interested in this new memoir from keyboard wizard Booker T. Jones, who led the Stax house band Booker T. & the M.G.’s. In Time is Tight, Jones riffs on his six decades in the music business, taking us from his formative years in Memphis through his matriculation at Indiana University in the spring of 1962. Any IU alum will especially enjoy his memories of trombone studies under Buddy Baker, playing David Baker’s charts in the jazz band alongside Randy Brecker and Jamey Aebersold, performing with the Marching Hundred, meeting his first wife at Teter Quad cafeteria, living on his advance royalty payment from “Green Onions,” and his appreciation for the music of Bloomington’s most famous native son, Hoagy Carmichael. Continue reading