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Reviews Written by
DJ Joe Sixpack ( Middle America)

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Entidade Urbana
Entidade Urbana
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Price: CDN$ 45.12
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre Brazilian rap-pop, July 4 2004
This review is from: Entidade Urbana (Audio CD)
This album by '80s Brazilian rocker-gone-hippopper was released in the year 2000 and is a disappointing follow-up to the more intriguing "Raio X," from 1997. Slick but uninspiring hip-hop flavored rock'n'pop, with occasional stylistic dips in regional Brazilian music. Professionally produced, with a very big, brash sound, but not much subtlety or depth.

Esquina De Minas
Esquina De Minas
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Price: CDN$ 138.70
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5.0 out of 5 stars Dedlicate, subtle Brazilian ballads, July 4 2004
This review is from: Esquina De Minas (Audio CD)
A lovely gem from Brazil..! This is a gentle, acoustic-based homage to the Mina Gerais-based "Clube Da Esquina" scene that included artists such as Milton Nascimento, Lo Borges, Fernardo Brant and Ronaldo Bastos, and which produced several highly regarded, spacy jazz-pop albums of the 1970s and '80s. Singer-guitarist Affonsinho gently runs through over a dozen of their classic songs, including Nascimento's "Cravo E Canela," and Lo Borges's "Para Lennon E McCartney," taking each tune at a relaxed clip, and introducing a stylistic constancy that was not always present in the exploratory efforts of the Clube in its heyday. It's really a rather lovely album -- I went into this album prepared to be dismissive, and wound up thoroughly enchanted, particularly because Affonsinho sounds so much like Caetano Veloso does in his softer acoustic moments. Quite lovely, and definitely worth checking out.

Live at the Ragged Edge
Live at the Ragged Edge
Price: CDN$ 20.28
6 used & new from CDN$ 16.78

5.0 out of 5 stars A playful live set by two bluegrass virtuosi, July 1 2004
This review is from: Live at the Ragged Edge (Audio CD)
Banjo plunker Tom Adams is a veteran player who's been in quite a few high-powered bluegrass bands, including gigs with Jimmy Martin, Rhonda Vincent and the Johnson Mountain Boys, while fiddler Michael Cleveland is best known for his work with Dale Ann Bradley and Rhonda Vincent. Here they team up on a lively, often dazzling set of mostly-instrumental duets, zipping their way through around two dozen tunes, most of 'em played at a lightning pace on fiddle and banjo. The vocal material is nice, too -- in fact, an album highlight comes when Tom Adams flubs the lyrics on "Shady Grove," and improvises with the inspired line, "Blah, blah, blah..." Nice to sometimes see a few cracks in the super-musicianship of the bluegrass upper crust.

Lookin Back at Myself
Lookin Back at Myself
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Price: CDN$ 33.99
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4.0 out of 5 stars One of Tippin's better early albums, June 29 2004
This review is from: Lookin Back at Myself (Audio CD)
This disc opens on a really vigorous, fun (and funny) note, with several mildly raunchy tunes about his woman's good, good lovin' (including the jovial "Lovin' Me Into An Early Grave," which kinda sums up what's best about Tippin's cheerfully low-brow approach). He starts to lose me, though, midway through the album on the dopey "Country Boy's Tool Box," which takes the sexual innuendo gimmick and bluntly pounds it to death. Then the disc sort of loses momentum and focus, with weak tunes like "Bayou Baby," and "You Are The Woman," which are thankfully somewhat balanced by slightly better material such as the moody title track and the name-droppy "Mission From Hank." It's a bummer, though that the whole album isn't as good and as much fun as the first three songs. Oh well. Overall, this is a pretty decent record; it's certainly much better than some of his later efforts.

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4.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag from an old Nashville insider, June 29 2004
This review is from: Passages (Audio CD)
After a brief run of midlevel hits in the early '80s, songwriter Keith Stegall settled into a comfortable mode as a top producer, working with numerous artists, many with a rootsy bent to their work. This solo album opens with a great uptempo number, "Roll The Dice," then settles into a series of slower, sappier ballads, with skillful yet strained accompaniment. When the next honkytonkish song comes up, "Every Time It Rains," it seems clear that Stegall's real strength lies as a full-throated hard county singer -- he's got a great voice for the material, but he kinda loses you on the slower stuff. Still, since he wrote most of these songs himself and produced the album, it's kind of hard to blame its shortcomings on "them" -- Stegall's a Nashville man, and shares Music City's shortcomings, even on his own albums. Sure do like them two songs, though!

Horse and Fish
Horse and Fish
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another off-center set by this Brazilian experimentalist, June 28 2004
This review is from: Horse and Fish (Audio CD)
Another lowkey, jazz-tinged outing by this well-regarded Brazilian expatriate... Cantuaria has come a long way since his days as a percussionist in Caetano Veloso's late '70s band, and from his clunky early solo albums, where he tried to be a New Wave-y Brazilian answer to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. Here he settles deep into a mellow world-jazz mode, as heavily influenced by his recent collaborations with guitarist Bill Frisell as by the hovering, angelic spectre of the late Miles Davis. Longtime collaborator Paulo Braga anchors the album's percussive end, with Mauro Refosco and other folks in the Rio-by-way-of-NYC axis. Most of the songs are Cantuaria originals, while some well-chosen cover tunes -- moody renditions of Roberto Menescal's "O Barquinho," Gilberto Gil's "Procissao," a couple by Jobim -- highlight Cantuaria's ability to reimagine and refashion the visions of other artists. This is an album that will grow on you: songs that at first may seem slick and overly informed by commercial jazz styling take on a subtle gravity, as his profoundly calm, quiet approach slowly asserts itself. Give this disc a couple of tries, and it will richly reward you.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brazilian twee -- a sugary, melodic treat, June 27 2004
This review is from: Mosquitos (Audio CD)
An absolute delight. Finding the perfect midway point between Brazilian cool and sugary indiepop twee, New York's Mosquitos feature vocals by Juju Stulbach, a Rio-born expatriate who combines the airy, insouciance of Astrud Gilberto with the flip, casual, DIY mellowness of the North American cutesy-pop crowd. There's a relaxed love of melody that suggests a debt to Yo La Tengo, as well as a simplicity and cleanness of line that brings New Zealand's The Bats to mind... Stulbach's Portuguese-language vocals are a highlight, with a fluidity and good-natured tone that should draw in any devotee of classic, roller-rinky Brazilian pop, as well as fans of BMX Bandits, Beat Happening and the whole Pacific Northwest lo-fi scene. Admittedly, the cutesy, naifish English-language lyrics of singer-guitarist Chris Root don't hold up as well to repeated listenings, but they put the record into the right context... In short, this is the perfect twee-pop album that native Brazilian indie bands have yet to create: it's lovely and dreamy, full of pretty sounds and foreign words... what's not to love?

Bebel Gilberto
Bebel Gilberto
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bebel Gilberto has truly arrived...!, June 27 2004
This review is from: Bebel Gilberto (Audio CD)
Bebel Gilberto is the daughter of Brazilian bossa nova legend Joao Gilberto, and is a member of Brazil's pop music royalty. For several years in the 1980s and '90s she apprenticed as a musician while touring with her mother, the singer known as Miucha, as well as with her father and her uncle, songwriter Chico Buarque, then, as the new century opened, Bebel became an international star in her own right with her (North American) debut album, the electronica-drenched "Tanto Tempo," which knocked many folks back on their ears.
In the four years since then, Bebel has become an iconic figure in the clubby electro-bossa scene, but as remix disc piled on remix disc, many fans became impatient for new material. For those hoping Gilberto would delve deeper into her Brazilian roots and explore the elegance of the music that made her father a legend, this disc has exceeded all our expectations. The album opens with an English-language version of Caetano Veloso's ironically bilingual "Baby," one of the standards of the early '70s tropicalia scene, and Gilberto ably teases out the song's gentle ironies, which were aimed not at this country or that, but at the very notion of cultural barriers. Gilberto's version may actually prove to be the song's definitive interpretation, surpassing the Veloso original and the well-known versions by Gal Costa. From there, the album glides from one soft, stately song to another, a delicious, well measured bossa nova outing, with modulated, textured electronic ambience bringing a surprising warmth to the sound. Dance music fans will doubtless call "foul," yearning for more beats and mixing -- folks who better appreciate the history of the style and the restraint that the original bossa nova pioneers brought to their art will recognize that Bebel has finally arrived and is one of the fold, an master musician who can make her way in the world as she pleases. Am I gushing? Well, golly, I guess I am. That's because this is an absolutely lovely record, and the awkward moments of her last album are nowhere to be found on this one. It's a good'un... highly recommended!

Return to Cold Mountain
Return to Cold Mountain
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Price: CDN$ 42.29
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nice acoustic, unassuming, old-timeyish set, June 22 2004
This review is from: Return to Cold Mountain (Audio CD)
This is a review about this album, not about the movie "Cold Mountain," (which I thought was pretty lousy). The good news is that the music on here doesn't actually have much to do with "Cold Mountain," other than its being (mostly) Appalachian mountain music, and that the label seems to be hoping it can cash in on the film's name the same way other labels cashed in on the "O Brother" phenomenon a few years ago.
This is actually a fairly sweet old-timey/folkie album, with standards like "Pretty Polly," "Shady Grove," "Lorena," and "Old Joe Clark," some of which date back the Civil War era, and others that, curiously, do not (like the anachronistic gangster ballad, "Back In '29," which makes reference to the most decidedly post-Antebellum automobile...) The opportunistic "O Brother"-ish marketing gambit is a little cheesy, but the album is not. Some heavy hitters like David Holt and Jim Lauderdale appear on here, but most of the musicians are folks I've never heard of, which is always nice... Many, it appears, are North Carolina natives. Not a bad little set.

Dixie Banner
Dixie Banner
Price: CDN$ 18.34
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4.0 out of 5 stars A little off the beaten path..., June 22 2004
This review is from: Dixie Banner (Audio CD)
Guitar/banjoist Tony Ellis strays from the orthodoxies (and instrumentation) of classic bluegrass, in favor of a wider range of Southern culture... Traces of Dixieland and riverboat music snake through this album, with folks like Mike Craver (of the Red Clay Ramblers) pitching in, and cello and tuba joining the twangy chorus... It's probably too mellow for most 'grass fans, but it's an interesting approach, with a new twist on some old sounds.

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