Saturday, April 30, 2011

Playing today: Paul Simon, Lilla Downes, Tim O'Brien and Lucinda Williams

Jumping musical genres this morning from Paul Simon's remarkable new album So Beautiful So What, to bluegrass musician Tim O'Brien's 1999 CD The Crossing, his tribute to the crossing of Irish and bluegrass music, to Lilla Downe's  The Border (La Linea), and finally to Lucinda Williams new album Blessed.

Paul Simon's 13th studio album So Beautiful So What is without doubt one of his best. I just love this CD and can only admire the brilliance of someone who can make such an innovative and beautiful album at aged 70. 

This quote from the Hurst Review, a fine music blog, sums up the album perfectly.
As for the record itself: It’s so beautiful. So wonderfully, disarmingly beautiful. Of all his singer/songwriter peers– including Bob Dylan– Simon is the one who seems most concerned with making every new album utterly distinct from the ones that came before, but So Beautiful isn’t a new path so much as a culmination of all the ones that came before. You’ll hear echoes of his earliest, folk-driven work– indeed, it’s the most melodic and song-oriented album he’s made in twenty years....
As a program of music, So Beautiful is simply magnificent, a thing of rare enchantment, and in a career full of highlights it stands out as both an utterly singular achievement and perhaps the album that best captures the spark of Paul Simon’s muse. Frankly, you’d have to go back to Love & Theft for an example of an artist so skillfully conjuring the entire balance of his creative powers. And that’s ultimately what gives So Beautiful its heft: It constructs a choice– so beautiful, or so what?– and, by conjuring something so ravishing from moments of such sadness, throws its considerable weight behind the option that is the most romantic, and– we can only hope– the most true.
You can read the full review here.

Tim O'Brien is an American acoustic musician whose music falls into the Bluegrass/Applachain/country genres. He is a fine player of stringed instruments- banjo, acoustic guitar, bouzouki, fiddle, mandola- and has made many albums in the bluegrass tradition, including an album of Bob Dylan songs, done bluegrass style.

His 1999 album The Crossing explores the intersection of American bluegrass and traditional Irish music, as well as his own ancestral connection to Ireland. The album includes traditional Irish tunes and instrumentals, as well as songs written by O'Brien and other songwriters. The album includes a long list of distinguished Irish and American collaborators who play and sing with O'Brien, including Paul Brady, Maura O'Connell, Maired Ni Mhaonaigh, Seamus Egan, Frankie Gavan, Edgar Meyer, Del McCoury and Darrell Scott, and not surprisingly the quality of the playing and singing is a feature of the CD.

Lila Downes is an Mexican-American singer songwriter, who writes her own songs, and draws on traditional Mexican and Mexican- American music. Her music  reflects a unique fusion of cultures, languages, genres and politics.

Her 2001 CD The Border (La Linea) is sung in Spanish and English and is a haunting tribute to Mexican migrants and the migrant experience.

 Lucinda Williams new CD Blessed contains  some of her finest work. This is a strong set of songs played beautifully. The CD includes the usual blistering guitar driven material, as well as  ruminations on matters of the heart, war, contemporary social and political issues and the struggle to find meaning and love in a troubled world. 

But it is Lucinda Williams's voice that is the stand out feature of this CD, particularly on  slower songs where her voice is surrounded by acoustic instrumentation. On songs like  Born to be Loved, Blessed, Soldiers Song, Kiss like your Kiss and Ugly Truth, her voice conveys a deep beauty and profundity about the human condition.

You can read a review  of the CD here.

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