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War & Peace
The Colombia Plan: April 2000
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Bully Pulpit Indeed
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60 Z MAGAZINE JUNE 2000
Kronos Quartet, Caravan (Nonesuch)
The Kronos Quartet has long been subverting notions of high art and classical music by infusing elite traditions with classic tunes from folk, rock, and jazz. Challenging the strictly Eurocentric hold on classical, the group has also developed a wide repertoire of compositions by composers from all over the globe. Now, with the recent release of Caravan, the quartet brings this wide ranging multicultural interest to record. Including music from Mexico, India, Iran, Argentina, and Portugal, Caravan is the groups richest and most compelling foray into world music since Pieces Of Africa.
Dead Prez, Lets Get Free (Loud); Common, Like Water For Chocolate (MCA)
Theres a new breed of Hip-Hop rising and Dead Prez and Common are at the forefront of an overdue turn away from the cliched and destructive values of gangstaism. Self-billed as a cross between NWA and Public Enemy, Dead Prez is aiming its anti-capitalist, Black Panther-influenced politics at people of color sick of living in this bullshit. Rather than rehashing tales of urban gang life and moral decay pervasive in modern day rap, Stic.man, and M-I employ their firebrand rhetoric to attack the system. In tunes such as They Schools, Behind Enemy Lines, Police State, and We Want Freedom, angry, hard- pumping beats fuel a call to arms and awareness detailing school brain washing, police brutality, and the steady growth of the prison industrial complex. Like Public Enemy in days of old, however, some of the toughest rhymes are aimed at brothers and sisters sold out to the values of me, materialism, drugs, and crime.
The Chicago-born Common has much the same agenda, but a different way of making his point. With sterling musical support from jazz trumpeter Roy Hargrove, soul man DAngelo, vibist Stephon Harris, and rappers Mos Def and the Roots, Common lays down a variety of multi-textured backdropsenhancing moods that alternately soothe and rage. In the end, however, Common, like Dead Prez, is out to turn his peers toward community activism and social responsibility. And, yes, that includes new attitudes toward women.
Jerry Garcia, David Grisman, Tony Rice, The Pizza Tapes (Acoustic Disc)
From a loose and very informal two-night jam comes this wonderful recording of three superb musicians making music for the pleasure of creative play. Recorded in 1993 in mandolinist David Grismans basement, The Pizza Tapes captures guitarists Tony Rice and Jerry Garcia joining Grisman for a relaxed exploration of common folk and bluegrass roots. Playing mostly standards such as Man Of Constant Sorrow and Shady Grove, Garcia and Rice take turns inspiring each others inventive solos while Grisman supplies a steady bed of rhythms and riffs to keep things nailed down. Here and there Garcia kicks in raw, heartfelt vocals, but the real fireworks come in the fluid interplay between Rice and Garcia.
Kate Wolf, Weaver Of Visions:
The late northern California-based singer-songwriter Kate Wolf always remained too folkie to make a commercial splash in country or rock. These days, however, alternative country and roots music fans are beginning to pick up on her long-neglected legacy. With that upsurge of interest in mind, Rhino has released a 2-CD anthology providing an essential overview of her work. A collection of 35 songs, featuring 10 live performances and 2 previously un-released tracks, Weaver Of Visions spans Wolfs career and includes most of the hits. Like kindred spirits Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, Wolf confronts lifes hard knocks with courage, intelligence, and resilience.
Tarbox Ramblers, Tarbox Ramblers (Rounder); Bad Livers, Blood & Mood (Sugarhill)
Though Boston-based, the Tarbox Ramblers play a style of dirty mutant blues that sounds like it crawled out of some forgotten backwoods town in the deep south. But with their rough and rowdy ways, the Ramblers are too impure to be taken for traditionalists. Theres strong strains of country and jug band running through their Delta-rooted noise. In the old-time vocals of Michael Tarbox youll hear echoes of Spider John Koerner and Dock Boggs.
For an even more twisted take on southern music, check out the most recent release of the Bad Livers. Although still rooted in old time country and bluegrass, the Livers are now mongrelizing tradition with hip-hop. With sampled beats and assorted electronic effects thumping under and around banjos and guitars, Blood & Mood creates a kind of contemporary hillbilly blues resonating alienation and disenfranchisement reminiscent of country singers in the 1920s and 1930s. A weird and true slice of rural America in the new century. Z