Now that our anything-but-lame duck of a President has finally grown a set of balls in doing everything by himself without the dickhead Republicans, I wanna go to Havana! Oh man, baseball! Music! Beaches! I hear the hotels won’t really be top-notch ready for years but still…

Meanwhile, we have Mboko (ECM) by pianist/composer/visionary David Virelles. Dude lives in Brooklyn. Born and raised in Cuba, he moved to Canada in 2001 and here in 2009. His music explores the mysterious, haunting, religioso folklore of a country shrouded in secrecy since their revolution from being a gangster playground for wealthy Americans during the Batista regime.

In Afro-Cuban culture, Mboko means “voice” but not the human voice. It’s the “Divine Voice” of the Abakua, a secret society of male initiation rites with masked dances akin to certain tribes in West Africa. You know what’s really cool? I’ve been saying for years that music, to me, is a spiritual experience. How many times have I come away from a profoundly powerful concert in a daze, likening it to religion? Plenty. That’s because music is my only practicing religion. I never knew there was an actual religion where sound itself is to be worshipped. Sign me up.

Virelles’ intent is to approximate the sacred ritual traditions from deep in the foothills of rural Cuba. Just like in Africa where the sound of drums relays a message for the people within earshot, Virelles has researched this goulash of enticing and delicious proportions.

The last CD, Continuum (2012), made more than few best-of-the-year lists. Usually, when artists get even a whiff of critical success, they veer towards accessibility. Not this guy. Subtitled Sacred Music For Piano, Two Basses, Drum Set And Biankomeko Abakua, these 10 tracks are dense, complicated, meandering and complex.


Among the dozen beauties Included on Lucky Dog (Montrose Records) by Brad Absher & Swamp Royale are covers of Leon Russell (“I’d Rather Be Blind”), Allen Toussaint (“Lipstick Traces”), William Bell (“You Don’t Miss Your Water Until Your Well Runs Dry”) and Bill Withers (“Same Love”). The guitarist sings (similar in tone to Withers) some of his own tunes as well as lighting a fire under the ass of Jesus by totally revamping the trad-gospel chestnut “Jesus On The Main Line.” This Gulf Coast stalwart still has his day job at Houston’s Rockin’ Robin Music Store but he’s built quite the following (this is his sixth album) by infusing his bluesy soul with the kind of guitar licks his hero, Ry Cooder, is known for. Add some Swamp Rock due to the fact he was raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and that never leaves you. 20 years on, he’s coalesced it all into Lucky Dog and we’re the lucky ones to have this party on CD.


Tas Cru, on the other hand, says You Keep The Money (Crustee Tees). This guy’s a total hipster and knows he ain’t gonna make no money playin’ the blues. It’s also his sixth album. He claims he’s drunk “Half The Time” despite “Heart Trouble” but he still won’t give up his “One Bad Habit.” Hey, at least he’s honest. In “Take Me Back To Tulsa,” he sings about NASCAR, the Tennessee Highway Patrol (of which he’s intimately acquainted) and his hero JJ Cale. Then, of course, there’s sex. He covers that tender topic in “Bringing Out The Beast.” Don’t ask. With a big band of cigar-box guitars, dulcimer, drums, harmonica, piano, organ and bass, he knows from where he came and it all comes out on “A Little More Time” where he pays homage to his forebears. This guy’s a real character. We could use more like him.

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