Random Music Reviews

Toubab Krewe at the PAC3 on January 24, 2012

photo by Craig Silberman
photo by Craig Silberman

I’ve seen Toubab Krewe twice now. I’m reminded of something Jerry Garcia used to say: “ You don’t want to be merely the best at what you do, you want to be the only ones doing what you do.”

There’s no one doing what TK does. They are completely unique. Placing a kora, a kamel ngoni and a djembe in a blues/rock context is exciting and they make it sound completely natural. They make that kora sound like the original blues instrument. Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder have plowed similar territory, but Toubab Krewe, besides being much younger than them, takes that foundation and runs with it, literally. They find that groove and take it up up and away. My favorite juju jam band. Very powerful trance jams kept me dancing late into a cold Tuesday night. I joke with people that my bad ankle prevents the kind of dancing I always loved, so I’ve learned to dance without moving my feet. At the TK show, though, I moved my feet with joyful abandon, and even though I woke up the next morning limping, I didn’t regret it for a minute.

TK showed a few new wrinkles this time around. Kora player Justin Perkins is a damn good singer. He sang a couple blues tunes and nailed them. I hope those will be on the forthcoming new album. And David Pransky, the bass player, sang a couple tunes in Spanish, and made it sound like he’d been singing them since childhood. The vocal element in Toubab Krewe’s music is welcome.

It took four years for TK to produce their second album. I admire their patience. They honed their craft on the road before they ever thought to record again and it served them well. It tells me they completely trust their musical instincts and they have faith in their evolution. They didn’t hurry up to produce mere product. So many times I see a new band with a killer kickass debut, and then their sophomore release disappoints. That didn’t happen with Toubab Krewe. Their second release, TK2, was far superior to their first, and I look forward to their third release coming soon.

And I look forward to seeing them in the Summer outdoors. I want more people to see them. Toubab Krewe deserves a bigger audience in this valley and the West. Mountain Fair anyone?

Band of Heathens at the PAC3 January 13, 2012

Gordy and Ed Jammin' in the Gym. Photo by Craig Silberman.
Gordy and Ed Jammin' in the Gym. Photo by Craig Silberman.

I can’t say I saw the first Band of Heathens show at Steve’s Guitars, their debut in Carbondale, way back when. I did see their second show there, and when they serviced KDNK with their eponymous CD back in 2008, I jumped all over it, like a lot of DJs here at KDNK. I was totally smitten by their songwriting abilities. It seemed so rare to see three equally capable songwriters, singers and guitar players together. Loved their harmonies, loved their stagecraft. Loved everything about them. Saw every local show they did, the best being the Fanny Hill show a couple years back.

Every band evolves I guess, this one being no exception. Colin Brooks, the one who always stood on the left and just wailed on the steel guitar and the slide, has left the band to pursue other opportunities. I wish him well.

The band recently played the PAC3 and the show was disappointing. I got the sense that they are searching for a new chemistry that just wasn’t there this time around. I kept waiting for the old BoH  magic to happen, but it wasn’t. I suppose if I had never seen the band in its beloved first incarnation I would be smitten with what I saw on Friday night at the PAC3. Must be hard to compensate for a key missing element.

The Band of Heathens were invited to play live on the air on Friday afternoon’s Express Yourself show on KDNK. They were scheduled to open the show at 4:05, and didn’t show til 4:15, which played havoc with the other planned segments of the show. They appeared not to care about that and played a couple perfunctory tunes. By contrast, the closing segment, an appearance by Andy Hackbarth and his band, was sparkling on the air. And they showed up an hour before they were scheduled. They really wanted to be there, and their gratitude for the opportunity was evident. The difference between the two was stark, and instructive. I guess Andy had more to prove than the Band of Heathens. I also guess it was possible that there was a good reason they were late. But there were certainly no apologies offered.

I guess I’m over the Band of Heathens. I hate to say it, and I hope their next studio recording kicks ass and re-converts me. I’d love to jump on their bandwagon again. But for now, they have some work to do.

Hindi Zahra

Moroccan-born Parisian chanteuse. Pop is a dirty word to some, and Hindi Zahra is pop, but she has enough exotic appeal to appease those with an eclectic taste in music. Her new release, "Handmade" is a revelation and a joy. Very sexy music.

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