Harvey Taylor A Story for Scheherazade
So wildly varied is the recording output of Milwaukee poet, singer, trumpeter and activist Harvey Taylor that one never knows where he will go from one album to the next. Inspired by last year’s Middle Eastern uprisings, Taylor and various local musicians of diverse backgrounds created A Story for Scheherazade, a sonically eccentric mix of regional folk music, appropriate variations of ethno-techno and generous portions of horn from Taylor. He recites three poems, and his political anger and bent for the mystical dovetail into the inspiration at hand. It makes for a hilly journey from the discotheque (or rave chill-out room) to the Sufi meditation chamber and back to the belly dance studio, with what sounds like a brief layover somewhere between Hawaii and Brazil. Time will tell, and likely soon, how just the fruits of the “Arab Spring” will taste, but Taylor and his friends have crafted a sincere and engagingly tuneful piece of modern exotica by way of the overthrow of dictators.
—Jamie Lee Rake
The Habit Lincoln Has Won
(Reel to Reel Records) Few bands claiming the Americana label are as alive in the present as well as the past as The Habit. Lincoln Has Won opens with the rousing “War Is Done,” which reverberates with Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom,” an especially inspired night at an Irish pub in Brooklyn and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” from a Union perspective. If The Clash had ventured into alt country, then “Ballad Of” could be a lost track from London Calling. With lovely balladry, campfire folk songs and raging bursts of ’60s rock guitar, Lincoln Has Won deserves consideration among the year’s best albums—in Americana and any other category.
Chicha Libre Canibalismo
(Barbes/Crammed Discs) Although the band is far away in time and place from the origins of the music that inspires them, New York City’s Chicha Libre builds from a long-lost Peruvian genre, chichi—the sound of Latin music converging with the Swinging ’60s. The title Canibalismo refers to the band’s cannibalization of whatever strikes their fancy, but their omnivore’s delight remains based on scratchy South American vinyl of ’60s vintage. Chicha Libre’s snappy rubber-band rhythms carry along trebly electric guitars and Farfisa organs. A few tracks come closer to heavy rock via Tito Puente of early Santana, and “The Ride of the Valkyries” turns Wagner into the theme for an imaginary Western.