Cyro Baptista and Kevin Breit
Supergenerous, Canadian string wizard Kevin Breit and Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista, amble into town, slinging a clang-and-twang cornucopia that spills like welcome rain across a dusty tumbleweed planet parched with its own deranged ambitions. Theirs is a found-sound journey that may leave the saddle-weary wondering just what controlled musical substance spikes this genre-bending neo-western sarsaparilla. Think firmament-busting Laurie Anderson, Bela Fleck, Bill Frisell, John Zorn, altogether beyond.
They deploy a stringed-instrument arsenal (mandolin, mandolo, mandocello, guitorgan, and guitars acoustic, tenor, steel, and electric slide) and an unruly battery of percussion (Balinese gongs, cowbells, cymbals, snare drums, surdo, symphonic bass drum, plus Rube Goldberg wonders like metal refrigerator doors, PVC pipes and organic homemade stuff). They sound the earthy atmospherics of producer Craig Street, whose singular sensibilities color the work of vocal stylists k.d. lang, Meshell Ndegéocello, Susana Baca and Cassandra Wilson.
Wilson herself has a vaporous cameo on "Home on the Range," proffering an obscure but majestic verse against the glittering heavens and whispering wind on the high lonesome plains. "The Legend of Johnny Cactus" is a finger-popping "West Side Story" and the Jets kind of spacious slide guitar groove, while "São Paulo Slim" glides north and south in a cosmic drugstore-cowboy kind of way. The loping laid-back guitar of "Dreaming of a Train" weaves a cymbal-sinuous tapestry with "Take the A Train." "God's Parking Lot" is a gamelan-fevered launch pad for Pluto, segueing into the boozy gut-plunking blues of "Steinbeck," and the cartoonish surf-guitorgan traffic-jam berimbau of "Marisa O'Brien." A menacing National steel guitar extracts unforeseen marvels from "Caravan" in a down-home Delta-Algerian blues. Wrapped with a zany "Love Is All Around" (earth calling Mary Tyler Moore) and a samba-wheezing "Whistling in the Rain," plus gems unmentioned, Breit and Baptista offer an enchanted aural palette for disenchanted times. - Michael Stone