The latter scenario generally produces the best results, and Down In The Basement is a perfect example. Joe Bussard started collecting 78 rpm records (the thick, heavy ones that shatter like dinner plates if you drop them) as a teen in the late ’40s. His collecting methods were simple: Drive up to any old-timer, from Virginia to Tennessee, hold up a 78 and ask, “You got any of these?”
Bussard has collected over 50,000 titles that would make any collector wet, but this 24-song comp is the cream of his bounty. It ranges over jazz, blues, Cajun, country and gospel, including some notables (Uncle Dave Macon, Gene Autry), but more importantly the obscure and beyond-rare (A.A. Gray & Seven-Foot Dilly, Fields Ward, Gitfiddle Jim, Grinnell Giggers). The sound quality is impeccable, considering the antiquity of the source material, and the choices are timeless and full of spirit. There’s even a 70-plus-page booklet, two-thirds of which is given to anecdotes about how Bussard acquired his collection. Fans of the Harry Smith Folkways compilations should take note. (Bryan Ramirez)Mala Rodriguez
La Niña Amor y Respeto
Universal Music Latino
Hip-hop in Spanish has come a long way over the years, and only recently has it been getting the attention and respect that it deserves. For a long time, Latin hip-hop was viewed as a sub-genre of rap music, lacking the authentic rhythm and lyrical treatment that has made English-language hip-hop so popular.
Along comes Spanish rapper Mala Rodriquez with her second collection of songs, La Niña Amor y Respeto. The CD includes some new songs, past hits and several re-mixes of her more well-liked compositions. The title track, “La Niña,” became a number one hit in Spain and stirred an international revival of the genre.
In “La Niña” and the following song, “Amor y Respeto,” Rodriguez tells the story of a girl born to crude social realities, a girl constantly overwhelmed by poverty and parental drug use who finds it difficult to wake up in the morning. The re-mixes are well executed and add new depth to the original versions of the songs. Rodriguez is currently recording her third album, due out in the next few months, and if it is anything like her past two, then it will be well worth waiting for. (Diego Bejarano)Robyn Hitchcock
Back in the mid-ish ’80s, there existed a small cabal that swore Robyn Hitchcock held the key to secrets beyond the psyche, when in fact he mostly wrote about insects, vegetables, death and love in the most interesting metaphorical terms. I was in that cabal, and Hitchcock supplied the soundtrack to our strange, psychedelic lives. For the past 28 years or more, the Lennon/Barrett disciple’s prolific career has been continually astonishing, whether with his original (and newly reformed) band The Soft Boys, or with his former backing band The Egyptians. Or, as with Luxor, by himself with an acoustic guitar.
Hitchcock’s own chemistry is a musical alchemist’s dream: psychedelia brimming with pure romance, his eccentric, warbling, English gentleman’s delivery accompanied by notes in the minor key of life. A friend of the elements, he still sings of gardens, bugs (“Ant Corridor to My Heart”) and yams (“Penelope’s Angles”). Luxor is perfect music to make friends with (through the joint effort of deciphering Hitchcock’s abstract lyrics), or for taking a long mountain drives (soundtracked with his haunting guitar mimicry of seasonal changes).
Luxor surpasses Hitchcock’s last solo release, Jewels for Sophia, delivering another diamond from the legacy mines. Now, it’s time for English folk themselves to realize what a treasure Robyn Hitchcock is. Dude, I live in Montana! (Bryan Ramirez)Johannes Linstead
A friend of mine gave me this CD thinking it would be something I would like, and he was half-right. Ask me if I like traditional flamenco music with its escalating, finger-style Spanish guitar and I would say yes, very much so indeed. Ask me if I like flamenco music with an overtly distracting New Age sound and I would likely say no. Unfortunately, this is just where Johannes Linstead’s new album, Zabuca, lies—within the genre called “nouveau flamenco” made famous by that forgettable character, Ottmar Liebert.
But not all is lost for this album which starts out promisingly with the brassy and upbeat “La Cabañita en la Playa.” Soon, though, the urge to press the forward-track button on the CD player kicks in, and except for a brief instance in the third track, “Guayabera,” and the last track, “Zabuca,” most songs linger between the second and third floors of the elevator.
Some will undoubtedly argue that an album of this kind is to be played on special occasions when the romantic mood needs to be just right. And I would say more power to you. (Diego Bejarano)