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: 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.
Title: L.E.S. Douze Volume 2 Artist: Le String Noise Label: Nouveau Electric Formats: CD, Digital Release date: April 17, 2020
The Stone is a Lower East Side experimental music venue that has no bar and allows no speaking – the music is the sole focus. It was in this environment that artist-in-residence Louis Michot and the three other members of Le String Noise recorded their latest release, L.E.S. Douze Volume 2. The ensemble is a collaboration between fiddler and vocalist Louis Michot of Lost Bayou Ramblers, violinists Pauline Kim and Conrad Harris of String Noise, and cellist and vocalist Leyla McCalla, alumna of the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Our Native Daughters.
Title: Blue Sky Artist: Reverend Shawn Amos & The Brotherhood Label: Put Together Music Formats: CD, LP, MP3 Release date: April 17, 2020
Self-proclaimed blues preacher Shawn Amos returns to his Americana, singer-songwriter roots on his latest album, Blue Sky. Since his 2018 release, The Reverend Shawn Amos Breaks It Down, Amos shifted his home base to Texas and has been touring nonstop with a faithful band of compatriots. Designated The Brotherhood, this group includes drummer Brady Blade (Dave Matthews, Indigo Girls), bassist Christopher “CT” Thomas (Norah Jones, Macy Gray), and Amos’s longtime guitarist Chris “Doctor” Roberts. Collaborating with additional friends and family, Rev and The Brotherhood traverse spiritual and emotional territory littered with heartbreak, displacement and redemption.
Multi-instrumentalist and music historian Don Flemons, otherwise known as “The American Songster” and co-founder of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, has become one of the foremost experts and practitioners of African American folk music traditions. Flemons garnered a Grammy nomination and multiple awards for his last solo project, Black Cowboys(2018). Now Flemons is offering his first compilation, Prospect Hill: The American Songster Omnibus, which includes his Prospect Hill solo album from 2014, the EP What Got Overoriginally released on vinyl as a 2015 Record Store Day premium, and a new collection of twelve previously unissued instrumental tracks he’s pulled together under the title The Drum Major Instinct. If you didn’t score copies of these records when they first dropped, you should definitely pick up this nicely packaged two-disc set with extensive liner notes by Flemons and Vania Kinard and evocative tintype photographs by Timothy Duffy.
Title: Homeless Oakland Heart
Artist: Homeless Oakland Heart Collective
Label: Electric Cowbell
Release date: October 11, 2019
Every day brings more stories to light about the burgeoning number of homeless people throughout the U.S. Due to rapid gentrification and “hyper-capitalism” in Oakland, CA, the situation is especially dire. Homeless Oakland Heart, released to coincide with World Homeless Day, offers a collection of songs and stories recorded live on the streets of Oakland. This project from Grammy-winning producer and author, Ian Brennan, attempts to capture the “street” cred and raw-ness of the individual performers, with tracks “ranging from old school beat-boxing to free jazz guitar to ballads and electronica.” Despite their brevity, songs such as “Food Not Drugs,” “Money Honey” and “Sidewalk Cemetery” hit hard. The tenderness and vulnerability will certainly pull heart strings, but more importantly, Brennan seeks to humanize the homeless and alleviate suffering. Any and all profits will be donated to Coalition on Homelessness. A vinyl release is planned for Record Store Day on April 18, 2020.Continue reading →
Title: Good Time
Artist: Ranky Tanky
Label: Resilience Music
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: July 12, 2019
Ranky Tanky‘s Good Time is a beautiful project that honors the Gullah culture while also celebrating African and African American culture and music. Their music represents the African concept of music, life and religion as a unified entity. Because of this “oneness,” many of Ranky Tanky’s songs such as “Freedom” and “Stand By Me” are intertwined with social and political messages, conveying issues in contemporary Black life while also using religious overtones. These sacred overtones are heard throughout the song “Good Time,” which “takes you straight to church” as they say in the vernacular. Ranky Tanky also revisit the storytelling folk tradition of their Gullah heritage to convey the messages found in each song.Continue reading →