Saturday, August 27, 2011

Star Maker Debuts: A Mixed Bag

Tomorrow will be taken up in my house with preparations for the arrival of Hurricane Irene, so I don’t expect to have time for another post on this week’s theme. So here are three artists I wanted to get to this week who have nothing else in common.

Mance Lipscomb: Police Station Blues


When I listen to acoustic blues from before World War Two, I often wish I could take modern recording equipment back in time, and capture these amazing performances the way they deserve to be heard. Luckily, some of these artists were recorded better during the folk music revival of the 1950s and 60s. Many of these artists have been on Star Maker Machine before, but not Mance Lipscomb. Lipscomb is not the best known, but he was a very talented musician. Just make sure you never called him a bluesman. Lipscomb was born in 1895, and he represented a link to a tradition that predated the blues. He called himself a “songster”, and his repertoire included songs like Shine On Harvest Moon, which clearly were not blues at all. But, listening to Lipscomb’s music, I can hear the influence of the blues in everything he played. Lipscomb also was unusual among folk revival artists in that he was not discovered until after the war. He made his first recordings in 1960.

Rokia Traore (with The Kronos Quartet): Bowmboi


Rokia Traore is one of the best known singers in Africa these days, despite the fact that she has only done four albums. The foundation of her music comes from the traditions of her native Bambara tribe of Mali, but she is not a traditional singer. Traore gets a much smoother vocal tone than traditional singers, and her songs incorporate elements from many lands and peoples. This, the title track from her album Bowmboi, is one of two collaborations on the album with The Kronos Quartet, and the results are stunning.

Save Ferris: Come On Eileen


Finally, I could not resist sharing this one. You know Come On Eileen from the original version by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, but have you ever heard the ska version? Save Ferris made an EP that got them signed to a major label for their brand of ska. Their Come On Eileen was on their major label debut, a wonderful pop-ska album that I can heartily recommend. But, by the time they recorded the follow-up, the band was moving away from ska, and into unremarkable pop. They broke up soon after that follow-up was released. But there was a brief moment when they made one of the most fun albums I have ever heard.

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