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cd cover Various Artists
Deep River of Song: Louisiana: Catch That Train & Testify!

A Trip to the Holiday Lounge

Various Artists
A Celebration of New Orleans Music

Johnny Adams
The Great Johnny Adams Blues Album
Rounder (

Fulani Journey
Knockdown South Records (

Among the first to recognize and document the expressive wealth of the American South, the father-and-son team of John and Alan Lomax left an invaluable trove of Library of Congress field recording, a daunting array of sounds largely unknown outside the region. Louisiana: Catch That Train & Testify (recorded 1934-1940) presents excerpts from the younger Lomax's well-known interviews with and recordings of Jelly Roll Morton; the first Leadbelly sides; and examples of the widespread ring-shout form, Creole work songs, zydeco, juré and string band music. (For a penetrating assessment of the professional indiscretions of Lomax & Co., see Robert Gordon and Bruce Nemerov's Lost Delta Found, Vanderbilt University Press, 2005.)

Louisiana's Charivari carries on the Cajun tradition (with a nod to its Creole counterpart) on A Trip to the Holiday Lounge, referencing the Evangeline Parish dance hall that inspires the recording. This is straight-ahead Cajun dance music, an appealing collection of old and new waltzes, ballads, two-steps and reels, with an admixture of zydeco and klezmer. The quintet comprises dual fiddles, acoustic guitar, accordion, bass and drums, with a pair of strong singers in Randy Vidrine and Jonno Frishberg. (Notes provide lyrics in French Creole with English translations.)

For anyone who slept through the past several decades, A Celebration of New Orleans Music introduces some of the Big Easy's best: Jelly Roll Morton (from the Lomax field recordings), Professor Longhair, James Booker, Irma Thomas, Johnny Adams, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr. and more. All profits go to the MusiCares Hurricane Relief Fund.

The Great Johnny Adams Blues Album culls a dozen sizzling blues from seven Adams R&B releases. Prominent among the guests backing the former gospel singer (who died in 1998) are Duke Robillard (guitar), Walter "Wolfman" Washington (rhythm guitar), Mac "Dr. John" Rebennack (piano) and Dr. Lonnie Smith (Hammond B3 organ), along with a host of Crescent City studio aces. This is New Orleans blues at its best.

Senegalese native and North Mississippi transplant Guelel Kumba plays amplified acoustic guitar and sings in Fulani. Able backing comes from guitarist and Junior Kimbrough apprentice Eric Deaton, Kimbrough's son Kinney (drums), R.L. Burnside's grandson Cedric (drums), a host of North Mississippi session men, and other guests including Memphis sax-flute journeyman Herman Green (Lionel Hampton, B.B. King, Miles Davis) and activist-poet-jazz historian-promoter-DJ John Sinclair (of MC5 and White Panther fame, and a New Orleans resident since the early 1990s).

Recorded in Clarksdale and Oxford, Afrissippi's Fulani Journey springs (per the band's web site) from the "hill country boogie and cotton patch trance blues" tradition. The description is apt enough for Kumba's modal guitar drone and soaring vocals. A world-weary Sinclair uncorks extended spoken-word diatribes on Fulani history, the transatlantic slave trade, and the blues on "Njulli-Fulani Journey" and the video bonus track. Independent releases like this one are the happy product of digital technology's democratic overture, and Fulani Journey's idiosyncratic vitality suggests that the blues in its many guises will continue to find its own way, looking back while moving forward. - Michael Stone

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