Various Artists, Women of the World Acoustic
This is one of those CDs that works equally well whether you listen to it closely or play it merely as feel-good background music. Each listener will no doubt find some of the international voices captured here more captivating than others, but every track is pleasing. The Greek singer Anastasia Mousatsou's cool, distant tone doesn't thrill me the way Sandrine Kiberlain's sexy voice does, for example. On the other hand, although I tend to prefer strong or more mature-sounding voices, I've always loved Emiliana Torrini's cellophane-feathery singing, and the folky track she offers here, "Sunnyroad," doesn't disappoint.
Though the artists hail from lands as different as Cameroon, the Czech Republic, Iceland and Chile, the CD has a remarkable consistency of energy and tone. This could be interpreted in a negative way, as a result of Western instrumentation finding its way into ethnic musics of all stripes. But while the differences among these tracks may not bang you over the head, each artist has a uniquely valuable creative voice that you can appreciate by listening with a little care.
The extensive liner notes to the nicely packaged CD provide background on each singer and song. The catchy "Bida Marianu" by Lura, who hails from Lisbon's Cape Verdean community, is one of my favorites. The Colombian singer Marta Gómez's heartbreakingly simple "Paula Ausente" ("Absent Paula"), with its silvery, pan-Latino feel, tugs at the heart. Another top track is the subtle, insistently rhythmic "Sekna," by the Algerian singer Mona. Its lyrics sum up the compilation: "In my life there are too many stories/One thousand and one stories/They make me laugh, cry/They make me sad or happy/But they are all part of me/And they are all in my heart."
At least, that's what the translation says. Other than Torrini's track, only one song here, the beautiful and aptly themed closer "One Voice" by the Canadian group The Wailin' Jennys, is in English. And that's just fine, because this CD is written in the world's language.
Asylum Street Spankers, Mommy Says No!
Indie Round-Up doesn't often cover children's music, as we have our hands full with the gazillions of CDs supposedly made for adults. When it's one of our favorite bands, however, we're delighted to make an exception. The Asylum Street Spankers have always made music steeped in humor, both clever and goofy, so it seems a natural thing for them to have produced a kids' album.