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  Listen Up! 5/20/03 Listen Up!

Tuesday, May 20

Tony Allen, “Home Cooking,” Narada World. Tony Allen was, once upon a time, the drummer in Fela Kuti’s great band. This album carries on that tradition, with plenty of rhythmic invention, but not nearly as much intensity. Some occasional rapping aligns Allen with the youth of today, but nothing really hits me hard here. It’s all quite pleasant, and sounds fine as background music in the office.

Various Artists, “The Legend Lives On: A Tribute to Bill Monroe,” Koch Records. I’ve been listening to the excellent Bill Monroe “Anthology” just released on one of the Universal labels, so I was interested to hear this tribute from a whole lot of big names in bluegrass. Great cuts from Del McCoury, John Hartford, Ralph Stanley, and Jim & Jesse, and nothing is less than good. I prefer the last Bill Monroe tribute, that came out a few years ago, but these live cuts are spirited and capture the entertainer’s heart that Monroe displayed so well.

Charlie Poole, “The Legend of Charlie Poole Vol. 3,” County Records. Sixteen cuts recorded between 1926 and 1930, and sounding pretty great. Poole was a singer who belted out folk songs he’d obviously known his whole life. It sounds like he’s adapting the techniques he’d known as a child to the modern world of belting into a microphone; I detect the vaguest hint of contemporary pop vocal techniques mixing with his country twang. The instrumentation is banjo (Poole’s instrument), fiddle, and guitar. A lot of fun here.

--Steve Pick

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