This World Is Not My Home
Legendary Memphis producer Jim Dickinson, who lends his piano talents to much of this album, says that singer-bassist Amy LaVere "can triple-slap an upright bass like Willie Dixon on steroids." That's a hell of an endorsement, and it may be true (LaVere played in a punk band as a teenager in Detroit), but here LaVere prefers a picking approach that's as supple as the arrangements built around her singing.
Backed by an extraordinary cast that also includes guitarist JimboMathus, mandolinist Tommy "T-Bone" Burroughs, and producer Paul Taylor, LaVere haunts this finely crafted roots music like some modern spirit traveling backwards in time. She strikes a fine balance between eerie, awkward, and lovely with her voice, sounding neither from our world nor from the bygone world she re-creates in song.
Free of the over-calculation and repressive purism that bogs down too much "old-time" music though, LaVere lifts traditional sounds to glorious places they seem never to have been.
--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni
News on the Rail
Marty Ehrlich may not yet be a household name, but he's been a mainstay on the jazz scene for over two decades. In addition to 18 sessions as a leader, Ehrlich, known for his prowess on alto sax and clarinet, has been featured as a sideman on over 100 albums by innovators like George Russell, JakiByard, and OliverLake. His new CD, News on the Rail, should assure his status as a major force in his own right. Each of the album's eight original compositions is unique in terms of texture and complexity. One reason for this: Ehrlich adds the low, guttural sound of Howard Johnson on tuba, baritone sax, and bass clarinet to the standard quintet configuration. The resulting combination may remind you of Charles Mingus in his heyday. From the lyrical swing of "Erica" to the infectious funk of "Hear You Say," News on the Rail is never less than superb.
The album is launched by James Zollar on trumpet, playing over the powerhouse ensemble on "Enough, Enough." Ehrlich and James Weidman (piano, melodica) follow with excellent solos and the album is off to the races. On the title tune, Ehrlich, Zollar (flugelhorn), and Johnson (tuba) engage in some exceptionally riveting interplay. Weidman's keyboard skills are nicely showcased on tunes like "Dance No. 2" and the beautiful closer "Keeper of the Flame." Bassist Greg Cohen stretches out on "Seeker's Delight," an abstract tune somewhat reminiscent of "A Love Supreme." Drummer Allison Miller provides stellar support no matter the challenge.
Perhaps Ehrlich's greatest achievement lies in his ability to retain his edge while offering tunes that grab you and won't let go.
--- Ron Netsky