Sometimes Lyrics Suffice

Folkies Multiply in a Time When So Many Are Singer-Songwriters and So Few Admit It

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Pick Hit

KIMYA DAWSON
My Cute Fiend Sweet Princess
Important

Mommy and Daddy, your baby is grown," she overtaxes her child-soprano to proclaim at the end of the first song. "This isn't a come-on, but come on, let's face it/The come on your face is really just mayonnaise," she singsongs flatly in the hooked-on-phonics second. "The air is filled with computers and carpets/Skin and bones and telephones and file cabinets," she whispers dreamily in the anthrax-nightmare fifth. There's a song about small-town hell and a song about alcoholic hell and a song about how cool it is not wanting to be cool, and then the invention wears down a bit. I note disdainfully that her first CDR-gone-legit had better homemade music and no one noticed, I warn that the simultaneously released Knock-Knock Who?is as insular as boors will think this one is, I insist that these are major songs, and I hope she's just getting started. A MINUS


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Pick Hit

WARREN ZEVON
The Wind
Artemis

Naturally he fends off death-the-fact the way he fended off death-the-theme—with black humor. "I'm looking for a woman with low self-esteem" is how he sums up the succor he craves, and he finishes off a painful "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" with impatient cries of "Open up, open up, open up." But "El Amor de Mi Vida," "She's Too Good for Me," "Please Stay," and "Keep Me in Your Heart" mean what their titles say. Only by hearing them can you grasp their tenderness, or understand that the absolute Spanish one seems to be for the wife he left behind, or muse that while the finale addresses his current succor provider, it also reaches out to the rest of us. Everyone who says this isn't a sentimental record is right. But it admits sentiment, hold the hygiene, and suggests that he knows more about love dying than he did when he was immortal. A MINUS


MAHMOUD AHMED
Almaz
Buda Musique import

Full-voiced and emotional, the strong Middle Eastern cast of his delivery evoking soul shout as well, Ahmed is the biggest singing star Ethiopia has produced, a young comer who negotiated the insane political particularities of his ancient land to become a respected pro. These muscular early recordings from 1972 or so, a/k/a Éthiopiques 6, sound rougher but no less fevered and distinct than the circa-1975 stuff collected on his certified classic Ere Mela Mela. On both I love the sour two-man sax sections and crudely insistent rhythms. On both I wish I knew what he was trying to tell his world. B PLUS


AMY ALLISON
No Frills Friend
Diesel Only

The Maudlin Years? Sad Girl? Here's where she gets really bereft. After declaring abject loneliness in the title tune—"If you want to take a walk downtown/I'd be happy just to move my legs around/We don't have to say a word, but then again/We could just make comments now and then"—she makes a principle of dashing her own hopes, song by song. The wanly jubilant "Baby, You're the One" leads directly to "What will we do when the money runs out?" "Don't String Me Along" generates "Say It Isn't So." "Dreaming's Killing Me," she knows it, only then it's "Thank God for the wine/That made me lose my mind" and also "loosened up his tongue." The finale is a love duet with her producer in which she proposes they "leave the world behind." It'll never work out. A MINUS


THE BLUE SERIES CONTINUUM
GoodandEvil Sessions
Thirsty Ear

Jazz musicians so often try and fail to modernize their rhythms that I wondered what the secret of the latest Matthew Shipp- William Parker collaboration might be. Clever devils—no drummer. All beats electronic, generated by Brooklyn production duo Danny Blume and Chris Kelly, who relax into cunning patterns that leave room for Parker to bend his bass toward an equivalent of the reassuring body groove that jazz folk associate with swing. Only this groove doesn't swing—it's more like techno that realized acid jazz was garbage and went back home to mama. Shipp riffs, hooks, and decorates, leaving theme and cognitively dissonant variation to name trumpeter Roy Campbell and two trombonists, who have most of the fun. Not deep, not intense. But for atmosphere, it hangs on there, and it keeps growing on you. A MINUS


THE KLEZMATICS
Rise Up!/Shteyt Oyf!
Rounder

Their first true album in six years would have arrived in 2002 if the release date had survived whatever squabbles delayed it. But with only violinist Alicia Svigals gone her own way, blame the mood shift on history rather than personality—lots of slow ones to go with lots of grief. Leaning on the mournful Eastern European modalities the shtetl assimilated long ago—check especially the Matt Darriau threnody and Frank London prayer—the Klezmatics conjure an album as soaked in 9/11 as The Rising, whose similar title is no coincidence. But this doesn't mean they jettison the jazz passages and upful wedding tunes. The marriage of heaven and hell, Blake called it. A MINUS


THE ROUGH GUIDE TO SOUTH
AFRICAN GOSPEL
World Music Network import

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