Nation Beat- Growing Stone
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Nation Beat
Growing Stone
Barbes ( www.barbesrecords.com)

While the thumbnail description of Nation Beat might be a melding of American and Brazilian country music, the band’s latest album once again shows the band to be more multi-faceted than that. On “Rafa’s Pé,” for example, a fuzzy guitar adds an element of garage-band rock, or there is the funk-drenched bass on “Puxa o Boi.” So while the dual-rural elements are the most unusual ingredients to blend, Nation Beat is liable – and able - to take a song in any direction, carried along by the strong polyrhythms pounded out by its leader, drummer Scott Kettner.

The liner notes on the new album seem to say that Kettner and Brazilian-born vocalist Liliana Araújo are the only regular members of the band, while the other musicians are listed as guests, which is a change from the group’s debut album. Regardless, the band maintains a consistent identity despite the diversity of sounds it lays down.

Typically, there are unusual touches that add interest without sounding gimmicky or distracting. So while “Growing Stone,” which is about the plight of small farmers, sounds right out of Nashville – albeit with the accompaniment of a triangle played Brazilian style -- there is a break halfway through when the mandolin and fiddle give way to a chorus of Afro-Brazilian drums.

Not surprisingly for a band whose leader is a drummer, Nation Beat’s songs are rhythmically propulsive with a strong core of percussion carrying along the silky melodies. Kettner was originally a jazz drummer, but immersed himself in the rhythms of northeastern Brazil when a teacher suggested he explore them. Back in New York, he found musicians that were adept at merging American and Brazilian styles, but sealed the deal when he came across Araújo, who became a focal point of the band’s sound. On “Forr for Salu,” Kettner shows the complex rhythms a great player can get out of a pandeiro, a tambourine-like frame drum, while a northeastern raebeca and country fiddle trade lines across the cushion of percussion.

”Crown Heights Boogie” shows Kettner’s jazz roots with a brass section that throws out a New Orleans sound, which alternates between precisely articulated formations and a joyful ruckus. “City Blues” which sounds has some gospel shouting and clapping and a harmonica accompaniment. On the closing After decades of Brazilian musicians cannibalizing foreign genres – from rock to reggae – and making them their own, Kettner and company return the imitative flattery and create a fresh, vibrant hybrid that plants a foot in two disparate cultures and still dances up a storm. -- Marty Lipp

The band's web site: www.nationbeat.com

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