World & Latin

VOICES Notes and news on World & Latin releases

Out of the blu

28 SEP 09 JOHN C. BRUENING

Guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Corey Harris has a fascinating way of demonstrating the interconnectedness of diverse musical traditions from around the globe. blu.black, his new Telarc release, offers 14 original songs that examine the rich and exotic African-American story that stretches back three centuries and still resonates in the 21st century.

From his perspective, there's a continuous thread that runs through virtually every culture on the planet -- African, European, Caribbean, Appalachian and more -- and it reveals itself most clearly in the blues, reggae, gospel and other roots music from every continent. blu.black's unusual title is a mashup of the closing track ("Blue") and the opener ("Black"). "The record is both of those things and everything in between," said Harris. "All the styles in all the songs represent  everything between blue and black."

Harris covers a lot of ground in 14 tracks. Almost entirely acoustic, the arrangements vary from the minimalist to the multi-layered. The end result is consistently genuine and organic. The opener, "Black," is built on a foundation of '70s soul, but derives its edgy vibe from a segment of rap lyrics. "My Song" is a nod to the gospel tradition, with stirring vocals by backup sisters Davina and Davita Jackson. "Babylon Walls" is a reggae-driven warning of the coming of Judgment Day, while the closer, "Blues," is a traditional 12-bar blues shuffle.

Just last year, Harris appeared on Otis Taylor's African expedition Recapturing The Banjo. More than just a set of songs, blu.black continues his life-long expedition. It is a story of a cultural thread that transcends history and geography. It's a tale that's sometimes painful, sometime joyous and continuously unfolding. Look for it when it hits stores tomorrow.

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