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Bentley’s Bandstand:Vieux Farka Toure, Watermelon Slim, Marcio Local

Posted By Karen Young On August 10, 2009 @ 9:30 am In Arts & Culture,Music,spotlight | No Comments

billbentley1101BY BILL BENTLEY

Vieux Farka Toure, Fondo, Six Degrees Records

bentley810fondoIt’s hard to come from musical royalty and still be seen as your own person. It takes that extra talent and drive to get past being in someone else’s shadow. But when your abilities as strong as Vieux Farka Toure’s, all bets are off. His father Ali Farka Toure may be one of the greatest African guitarists of all time, but the son has more than his own soul to share. Fondo is a tour de force of West African sounds married to modern elements, giving every song a distinctive edge. Farka Toure’s guitar is amazing. He goes deep into ancestral grooves, pulling out styles that are as ancient as the Earth itself, but also sets himself free in how he approaches his music. There are no strict lines drawn in the desert sand about what can be played. Instead, on something like “Souba Souba” or “Sarama,” the relentless pursuit of intensity sets fire to everything. Vocalists come and go in the song, like they are on a quest of freedom, and the rhythm section simply does not let up. African music is such a part of the social fabric, way beyond entertainment, and that kind of spiritual power surges through everything here. Vieux Farka Toure’s second release points to future greatness, as the Malian musician leads his fellow players to the promised land and proves that someone the son can walk in his father’s shoes and not fall down. Hooray for everyone involved, because they’ve not only created one of the best albums of the year, they have shown how the past and the present can be put together to hurtle us into the future. Hold on.

Watermelon Slim, Escape From The Chicken Coop, NorthernBlues Records

bentley810watermelomOne thing needs to be made perfectly clear right away. There just isn’t anyone out there right now quite like Watermelon Slim. He doesn’t act like other humans, and he sure doesn’t sing like them. There is a backwoods aura to the man’s voice that sounds like he grew up making moonshine, and spent a few years outrunning the law before getting caught and spending some time as a guest of the state. There are miles and miles of experience on Watermelon Slim’s soul, and you can hear it in every word he sings. In real life, the Vietnam vet also drove commercial rigs across the country and has a bona fide understanding of what it’s like to be southbound and down. After three burning blues albums, Escape From The Chicken Coop switches gears a bit and heads for the country corner, though it’s such a tongue and groove fit with the blues there’s no need to pitch pennies on what to call this music. What it is is a slice of American reality that captures what life is like outside the media glare of big cities, instead sharing the feel of big dance halls located on the edge of town where people go on Saturday night to drink, dance and do their damnedest to forget the pressures of life. Roy Acuff’s “Wreck of the Highway” shows the heart of where Watermelon Slim is heading, with originals like “America’s Wives,” “Hank Williams You Wrote My Life” and “18, 18 Wheeler” demonstrating where he’s been. The next time the polish of modern music has you reaching for the eject button, consider these songs as an alluring alternative. They may not make the charts or get talked about on television, but out where the working class live, Watermelon Slim will be tearing up the highway and smiling all the way to the barroom.

Marcio Local, Don Day Don Dree Don Don, Luaka Bop Records

bentley810marcioTruth in advertising. That’s what Luaka Bop Records has going for it, because when they put out an album there is always going to be some interesting music on it. Always. Label whizzes David Byrne and Yale Evelev have an uncanny way of tapping the source for sounds off our radar. Take Marcio Local. He is a supreme heavyweight from Brazil who is able to start with the coolest shades of samba and turn the heat even higher. He calls this amalgamation New Adventures in Samba Soul, and means it. There is such an unrelenting drive in Marcio Local’s creative spirit that the results are downright dizzying. He puts funk, reggae, rap, rhythm & blues, jazz and a few undefineable qualities into the mix to fashion his unique stew, and is unapologetic when he takes these songs into the outer limits. But what is so beautiful about Don Day Don Dree Don Don is how natural songs like “Happy Endings,” “Minha Rosa” and “Represento” are. They flow with fire, even when the emotional edges are sweet and smooth. World music comes in many shapes and sizes–it’s a big world after all–and none fit better or make life brighter than the incredible music of Marcio Local.

Bill Bentley is a writer, musician, publicist, record producer and A&R director. He once played drums with Lightnin’ Hopkins. For more reviews and music news, go to www.sonicboomers.com

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