Beyond the Bloodhounds
(Canvasback /Atlantic ***)
nolead ends "I don't know nothing about Southern belles," Adia Victoria sings on "Stuck in the South." "But I can tell you something about Southern hell." The debut album by the 29-year-old native South Carolinian, who's now based in Nashville, doesn't go in for pastoral reveries about dear old Dixie. Instead, the African American guitarist turns them on their heads, chillingly evoking a lynching, for instance, as she sings about "dreaming of swinging from an old palmetto tree."
Without belonging entirely to either genre, Victoria makes music that draws on the suffering of the Mississippi Delta blues and the fatalism of unflinching, hardscrabble country. But whereas "Howlin' Shame," "Dead Eyes," and "And Then You Die" are sample song titles that convey a sense of dislocation and emotional torment, Victoria, who grew up in a strictly religious Seventh Day Adventist household, doesn't make music that's merely despairing.
Sure, it's sorrowful stuff, but from the opening cover of Ray Charles "Lonely Avenue" to the R&B lament "Mortimer's Blues," a longing for human connection carries her forward as she immerses herself in musical traditions of the land she finds herself unable to escape.
- Dan DeLuca
Adia Victoria plays Johnny Brenda's, 1201 N. Frankford Ave., at 9 p.m. June 20, opening for Margaret Glaspy. Tickets: $10. Information: 215-739-9684, johnnybrendas.com.
nolead begins Miles Davis & Robert Glasper
nolead ends nolead begins Everything's Beautiful
nolead ends nolead begins (Columbia/Legacy ***)
nolead ends Reimagining the work of the dead isn't a new task or an adventurous aesthetic. The postmortem remix is a thing - a thing that composer-pianist Robert Glasper doesn't do when approaching the catalog of late jazz great Miles Davis. Given carte blanche access to Sony's Davis vault, Glasper chose to work with multitracks, rare and familiar, along with bits of raspy Miles dialogue and other loose-end elements. Together with participants such as a chattering Erykah Badu (who joins the late trumpeter on the brisk bop hop "Maiysha (So Long)"), a saucy Bilal, (a grouchy blues "Ghetto Walkin'"), a harmonious King (the noisy, neo-soul "Song for Selim") and others, Glasper remodels each track into a work more "inspired by" than scratched, sampled, and mashed-up.
One of the more interesting elements of this epically melodic effort is that Glasper, a Grammy-winning pianist, doesn't play much piano, and that Davis, jazz's most identifiable trumpeter, doesn't play much trumpet. Along with hand claps and finger snaps, a surprising amount of dialogue shines through, creating scuffed-up versions of early rap on slippery songs such as the cranky, reconfigured "Milestones," where a ghostly Davis states, "You got to cool it a little bit, man. I mean, you got to let it carry you."
- A.D. Amorosi
nolead begins Karl Blau
nolead ends nolead begins Introducing Karl Blau
nolead ends nolead begins (Bella Union/Raven Marching Band Records **1/2)
nolead ends Karl Blau is a prolific and talented singer-songwriter, based in Washington state, who's been closely associated with K Records of Olympia and Knw-Yr-Own Records of Anacortes. The title of his newest has to be tongue-in-cheek: Blau has had more than a half-dozen releases since 1997. Introducing is a collection of covers, too, so maybe he's completely pulling a fast one on us. (I'd argue that 2009's Zebra was a lovely introduction.)
If that weren't enough, these are country-soul songs that feel like a warm blanket on a cool night in the woods, or a cool sip of water on a dusty, sunbaked voyage. They're comforting and clever.
"Fallin Rain," for starters, is a Link Wray tribute that includes Jim James of My Morning Jacket and his longtime collaborator, Laura Veirs. It's a sumptuous, 91/2-minute affair. "Woman (Sensuous Woman)" is a gem from Don Gibson. "To Love Somebody" goes off like rockets, thanks to the Bee Gee brothers Gibb, with grandiose, late-Elvis-meets-Righteous-Brothers vibes.
Sonic comparisons on this record to Sturgill Simpson (more 2014's Metamodern Sounds in Country Music than this year's A Sailor's Guide to Earth) and Jason Isbell are apt. Tom T. Hall's opener, "That's How I Got to Memphis," feels just right, too, perhaps because Tucker Martine produces here. He's the son of the great Layng Martine Jr., a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.