Future Soundtrack for America b>
Barsuk Records, Music for America and MoveOn.org
This compilation album is the effort of several musicians who joined together to produce a CD "to raise money for non-profit groups working to make our increasingly messed-up country a better place." John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants (who contributed a remix of a campaign tune used by William Henry Harrison and John Tyler in 1840 to beat incumbent Martin Van Buren) became the cause's principal organizer. With the help of Barsuk Records, Music for America and MoveOn.org, the album is now reaching concerned citizens and music fans nationwide. While I had hoped the soundtrack to the revolution would be faster and harder, the Future Soundtrack for America maintains a pleasantly mellow sound -- focusing on softer folk and alternative rockers with only a few minutes of punk and hard rock revelry. Despite some slower love songs that lack any call to arms, politicially inclined listeners will be treated to some real gems. Epitomizing the record is Mike Doughty's "Move On," which laments, "I love my country so much, like an exasperating friend." R.E.M. provides an inspirational anthem directed toward President Bush, inciting, "There's a hurt down deep that has not been corrected. There's a voice in me that says you will not win." And Tom Waits delivers an extremely moving and sorrowful rendition of a letter written by a U.S. soldier in Iraq with "Day After Tomorrow."
-- Michael Beckel
The voice is like no other. At times low and intimate, with a shaking fragility that make you feel she's singing directly to you, other times soaring and animated, Rokia Traoré's extraordinarily flexible instrument speaks of life as an expatriate from West Africa's Mali. Beyond the clarity of her lyrics, sung in native Bamanan with an urgency that suggests she is singing for her life, there lies an authenticity of expression that immediately puts her in the same class as Billie Holiday and Bessie Smith. The U.S. release of Traoré's third album, Bowmbo, preceded her Carnegie Hall debut. With timelessly modern arrangements created in collaboration with acoustic musicians playing traditional instruments, and two tracks brilliantly supported by San Francisco's genre-busting Kronos Quartet, the album stands poised to create a sensation. Including beyond-the-box songs that urge women to transcend traditional gender roles, Traoré's mesmerizing, trance-inducing creation must be heard.
-- Jason Victor Bellecci-Serinus
Marlene Dorcena, a Haitian refugee now living in Belgium, launched her career with a 1991 tour of Europe and performances with a theater troupe. In her debut album, whose Creole title translates as merci (thank you), she applies her captivatingly soft and sensual style to a wide variety of music. With simple, tasteful acoustic accompaniment, Dorcena maintains a smooth, soulful equilibrium. The occasional wail, as in the opening track's saxophone- accompanied "Papa Danmbalah," thus becomes all the more powerful. Most of the tracks are traditional, with Dorcena's own arrangements bearing a distinctive 21st- century stamp. The concluding track, Dorcena's own "Wangol," is sung solo; its lyrics implore the Haitian expatriate to return as "the country is suffering and we're being eaten by worry."
-- Jason Victor Bellecci-Serinus