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Orchestra Baobab- Ethan Daniel Davidson


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Our spotlight on vinyl spins hot new wax from African band Orchestra Baobab and folk singer Ethan Daniel Davidson.

Orchestra Baobab - Specialist in All Styles
Originally released in 2002, this reissue of Specialist in All Styles represents the first time this album has been released on vinyl. Part of the ongoing effort of World Circuit Records to bring quality and often hard to find global music to appreciative fans, this release also coincides with Orchestra Baobab's 50th anniversary celebration.

Orchestra Baobab is based in Dakar, Senegal, but as this album's title suggests, their performance style varies and reflects a knowledge of music native to many West African nations. "Sutukun," for example, is a joyously bouncy cut that's sung in Mandinka and that is well known throughout West Africa; saxophones not otherwise heard during the song make a surprise appearance at song's end, adding earthiness to the already sensual groove. "Dee Moo Woor" is a lamentation for a dead parent; slow and contemplative, the cut is enhanced with psychedelic guitar, representing perhaps the internalized misery of those left mourning. "Jiin Ma Jiin Ma" flawlessly melds an African melody and a samba groove while more Afro-Latin music comes in the form of "El Son Te Llama," a Cuban song sung in Spanish (complete with the rolling r sound) by Medoune Diallo, who passed away a few years ago.

While Orchestra Baobab are still together, obviously with their 50-year history they have suffered other losses, including Balla Sidibe, a band founding member appearing here who died in July. Among the many other singers are guests Ibrahim Ferrer of the Buena Vista Social Club, also deceased now, and famed Senegalese singer-turned-politician (and Peter Gabriel collaborator) Youssou N'Dour. Specialist in All Styles is presented in a gatefold jacket with a credits insert and pressed on two discs of heavyweight 180-gram vinyl. A listen to this cherished recording will have fans seeking out more music from Orchestra Baobab; those can also be found in the World Circuit Records catalog.

Ethan Daniel Davidson - Come Down Lonesome
A Detroit-based folk singer, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist, Davidson presents this album with a no-frills jacket where just his name and album title appear in print. The starkness of the package is a good hint at what waits within as the effort begins with a dirge, the Rev. Gary Davis cut "Death Don't Have No Mercy." Mississippi John Hurt's "Louis Collins" is also mesmerizing in its dark cloak but the traditional song "Leaving Cheyenne" gives Davidson a chance to perk up a bit, although there is inherent sadness in that song too. Davidson is adept at portraying misery and his cover of the traditional song "Turkle Dove" is a perfect example as a slow handclapping cadence over a consistent drone is the perfect accompaniment to his vocalization of impending death. Another cut about the acceptance of inevitable events is the self-penned "Someday I'll be Caught." It's not just Davidson's plaintive voice that grabs attention throughout, it's also how he uses effects, like squalling guitar feedback on his cover of Bob Dylan's "I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine." Not for everyone, but those who appreciate the dark side of folk music will be hard-pressed to find it done any better than right here.

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