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Category: soul music

Van Morrison Puts Out a Witheringly Funny, Politically Spot-On Magnum Opus

At 75, Van Morrison has made the longest and best album of a hall-of-fame career. He’s never written more acerbically, he’s never had a better band behind him and his voice is undiminished. Over the course of the 28 tracks on his Latest Record Project No. 1 – streaming at Spotify – the godfather of Celtic soul never loses his sense of humor despite tackling some serious-as-death topics. Case in point: Breaking the Spell, one of the album’s most upbeat tracks. “I’ll be staying in the country til the military dream’s in flames…they’re ringing the bell, but I’m not so obedient,” Morrison relates, full of cheer and determination. And he wants the girl to go up and pay him a visit. It’s a thinly veiled protest song that you can dance to.

Several of the other songs here are much less thinly veiled, or not at all, but you can dance to many of those too. Morrison has timed this perfectly to capitalize on the never-ending 60s soul revival, and nobody does it better. The songs are relentlessly catchy, slyly aphoristic, and disarmingly straightforward without being preachy. The oldschool 70s-style production is period-perfect, with low-key, tasteful organ and piano, occasional horns or sha-la-las from the backup singers, plus congas along with the usual rock rhythm section. Morrison also distinguishes himself with his bright, purposeful alto sax work. If Joe Strummer had been a soul singer, he would have made this record. You could call this magnum opus Morrison’s Sandinista.

In the first song on the second disc, the briskly pulsing Double Agent, Morrison calls out his fellow celebs for their cowardice in failing to stand up to plandemic totalitarianism. “Some drink the koolaid, some did the right thing, but some moved on over to the dark side,” Morrison accuses. Over the jangly one-chord roadhouse vamp of Where Have All the Rebels Gone, Morrison ponders, “Why don’t they come out of the woodwork now? One for the money, two for the show, it’s not very rock n roll.”

The album’s funniest track is Why Are You on Facebook? Over the band’s Highway 61 jangle, Morrison taunts the social media-obsessed:

Why do you need secondhand friends?
Why do you care what is trending
Or is it something that you’re defending?
You kiss the girls and run away
Then you won’t come out to play

Morrison goes after cancel culture in The Long Con, a shuffle blues. He pokes cynical fun at the record industry in the album’s blithely swinging title track, and has a good laugh at the expense of the 90s therapy meme and those that followed in the otherwise amiably swaying anthem Psychoanalysts’ Ball: “Can we say that you’re clinically insane?”

Mass formation and brainwashing by the corporate media are persistent themes here. “Stop listening to the mainstream media.” Morrison warns in the lush, gorgeous Blue Funk: it’s Morrison’s The Thrill Is Gone.

The best song on the album is Double Bind, a slow, slinky minor-key tune fueled by organ and Rhodes electric piano:

It’s always the opposite of what they say
…Trying to police everyone’s mind
You have to be careful of everything you say
But it’s all by design
That’s why we have to break the double bind

Duper’s Delight, a pulsing midtempo ballad, could be about a femme fatale, or lying lockdowners: “You don’t notice when they’re trying to confine you, you don’t notice when they doublecross.” The backstory gets even more sinister in He’s Not the Kingpin: “He’s just the fall guy – follow the money, follow the story, ” Morrison explains

He’s assembled a first-class, semi-rotating cast of musicians behind him. Richard Dunn excels on gospel-infused organ and blues piano. Dave Keary adds banjo along with layers of guitar in the upbeat but ominously aphoristic Up County Down, and later in the scrambling mid-60s Dylanesque Western Man, an eloquent look at the price of liberty being eternal vigilance (and the consequences of failing to do so.) And his chord-chopping guitar intro to the triumphant My Time After Awhile – where Morrison observes that “99 out of a hundred people just can’t be wrong” – is one of the album’s high points.

Throughout the record, Morrison is at the peak of his game as a lyricist. The minor key blues A Few Bars Early is a prime example:

I was in jukebox alley when I went to make my move
Couldn’t see very clearly but then I snapped back in the groove
I was a few bars early when I had my very last drink
And you said play that song Later Than You Think

The ending, where everything comes crashing down, is spot-on.

Morrison has fun with amateurs out on a Deadbeat Saturday Night, where “It’s more pricks than kicks, the hicks from the sticks don’t know what makes them tick.” And he wraps up the album with a wise, knowing, vintage Allen Toussaint-style New Orleans soul hit, Jealousy, beefed up with a balmy Muscle Shoals arrangement. It could be a simple dis at wannabes, or it could have more global ramifications. Either way, Morrison wants everybody to know that “I’m not a slave to the system like you.” Although there’s nothing here as corrosive as his late-2020 singles, like No More Lockdown, this is the best rock, or soul, or blues album of 2021.

An Organ Jamband Dance Party With WRD

Robert Walter has been a fixture on the jamband circuit pretty much since it existed. The perennially energetic organist distinguishes himself with his purposeful, vintage soul-infused playing: you’ll never hear him do Emerson, Lake & Palmer or Medeski, Martin & Wood. His latest instrumental project is WRD, with guitarist Eddie Roberts and drummer Adam Deitch. Their wickedly catchy album The Hit is streaming at Bandcamp. Although the instrumentation is totally 60s, the songs are a mix of the retro and the here and now.

The opening number, Judy has punchy blues-infused organ, Deitch rattling out a shuffle beat, and choogling guitar back in the mix, Roberts firing off a chicken-scratch solo. That pretty much sets the stage for the rest of the record: it’s best experienced as a whole in a place where there’s room for people to get up and dance.

The trio are good with titles: the second track is Sleep Depraved, Walter shifting between 70s soul-style minor seventh chords and punchy hip-hop-influenced riffs, Roberts chopping his way up to a fierce peak. He breaks out his wah for Chum City, which has a lot going on for a mostly one-chord funk jam with guest saxophonist Nick Gerlach.

Bobby’s Boogaloo is more Booker T than, say, Joe Cuba. The band nick a famous pseudo-Mexican theme from the 50s for Poison Dart, while Red Sunset is a latin-tinged seaside highway theme.

How meditative is Meditation? Not very – this early 70s-style Herbie Hancock-style Blaxploitation vamp’s going to pull you up on your feet no matter how relaxed you are. Happy Hour is not the LJ Murphy classic but a rapidfire early JBs style hard funk workout. The bluesy Hot Honey is an amped-up take on Booker T, with a clustering, smoky sax solo.

There are hints of a big Isley Brothers hit (and an Edgar Winter cheeseball) in Corner Pocket. The band close with the album’s most extended, loose-limbed jam, Pump Up the Vallium: they’re going to need more than one of those to wind down from this relentlessly adrenalizing record.

Irresistibly Catchy, Edgy Oldschool Funk and Dance Sounds From The Gold Souls

The Gold Souls‘ new album Downtown Sound – streaming at youtube – is a party in a box. What’s coolest about it is that it’s not just a good, psychedelically-tinged funk record. It’s got lyrical bite, the musicianship is sharp and purposeful and the songs can be hilarious.

The group hit the ground running with the opening number, ’94 Chevy, about the band’s sturdy vintage tour van getting pulled over by the po-po. “Heading down south where I can be free,” frontwoman Juniper Waller snipes as guitarist Darius Upshaw and keyboardist Alex Severson punch in hard over Billy D. Thompson’s drums and Avery Jeffry’s strutting bass.

Jeffry snaps a little harder in the second track, Strongman, Waller bringing a sarcastic hip-hop edge:

If you chase what you want with greed
The thing you want is the thing you need

At this point in the record, the party is really cooking. There’s wah-wah on the keys as well as the guitar and the rhythm section has more of a swing than most of the retro funk bands out there. The organ swells, Upshaw spirals around tantalizingly and a few of the tracks have horns.

As far as the rest of the party goes, Got It, the next song, has more of a rolling oldschool disco groove. The band slow down and get sunnier for Heart Curves, a knowingly playful look at gender stereotypes, with a tasty ska-flavored sax solo. Then they pick up the pace with Streetcall Recall, a venomously funny dis at losers who harass women on the street.

The band hit the disco floor again for PTO, a bright, lyrically detailed number that brings to mind Lake Street Dive. The Coffee Song is the most psychedelic number here, with Upshaw’s most haphazardly entertaining guitar work. The coffeeshop scene midway through is priceless.

The album’s title track, a Bill Withers-style blues, is a snide spot-on look at the destructive effects of gentrification on cities and scenes. The group close the record with a towering gospel-tinged ballad, Tears in My Eyes. If you’ve followed this page for any time this year, you know how slow 2021 has been for new albums by independent bands, but this is one of the best of the bunch.

Naima Shalhoub Launches a Fascinating Middle Eastern/Blues Collaboration

In mathematics, zero is undefined. We get the English word “cipher” from the Arabic “siphr,” meaning zero. On her debut studio album Siphr – streaming at Bandcamp – first-generation Lebanese-American songwriter Naima Shalhoub draws inspiration from that mystical concept, a number neither positive nor negative, conceivably both a beginning and an ending.

.It’s a stark collaboration between Shalhoub and Tarik Kazaleh a.k.a. Excentrik on electric guitar, embellishing his alternately stark and frenetic lines with all sorts of Middle Eastern ornamentation. He also plays oud on several tracks, often in the same song. The result is a strikingly original blend of the blues and the Middle East.

The opening number, One (Remembrance) is a minor-key one-chord jam with both bluesy guitar and spiky oud over a boomy, undulating dumbek groove. Two (Rivers in the Desert) is a spare, Malian-tinged duskcore tableau: in Arabic, Shalhoub sings of a metaphorical irrigation coming our way.

Excentrik’s elegant, spiky, 70s-style soul-jazz guitar sets the stage for Three (Loved), Shalhoub’s take on a Stylistics-style ballad: “From your tears, revolutions come.” The low-key Four (Roumieh Prison Blues) features Arabic lyrics written by prisoners at the infamous Lebanonese prison, where Shalhoub has performed.

With its message of empowerment, Five (The Calling) is a diptych: a simple but direct solo Shalhoub piano ballad that brings to mind Alice Lee, then a long, edgy, psychedelic outro with Marcus Shelby’s bowed bass up in the mix. There’s a similar hypnotic quality to Six (Distraction Suite), a triptych: first a cello-and-vocal jazz piece which brings to mind Jen Shyu‘s work with Mark Dresser, followed by a brooding, noirish blues interlude and a triumphant outro that’s a mashup of Afrobeat and a levantine dance.

The most unselfconsciously gorgeous number here is Seven (Lamma Badda Yantathamma), a bouncy oud-and-vocal tune with one of Shalhoub’s most expressive vocals.

Excentrik takes a turn on the mic in Eight (Arab-Amerikkki), a cynical anti-racist hip-hop broadside. The duo close with Nine (The Return), a psychedelic soul variation on the opening theme with some sizzling guitar and oud tremolo-picking. It’s rare to hear such dissimilar styles mashed up so originally, unexpectedly and seamlessly.

New York Underground Legends Faith Bring Their Shapeshifting Sound Outside

Faith are one of the most individualistic and resilient bands in the history of the downtown scene. They’re also one of the very few left from that era. As far back as the 80s, frontwoman Felice Rosser made a mark with her imaginative, melodic, reggae-inspired bass playing and a distinctive, earthy contralto voice with a disarming falsetto. They have some outdoor shows on their East Village home turf coming up: Sept 25 at around 4 they’re at Tompkins Square Park, then on Oct 1 at 8 they’re at the LUNGS Festival in the Green Oasis Garden, 368 E 8th Street between Aves. C and D.

Their new album Shadowman is streaming at Bandcamp. Rosser has gone deep into dub, and improvisation, and low-key soul and funk in recent years, so this plunge into retro 80s rock is a real departure – and proves she’s just as much at home with a harder, more straight-ahead sound.

The first song on the album is Hey Emily, which has a catchy three-chord hook and a steady new wave beat from drummer Paddy Boom that gives away the band’s origins. “I found the thing that you gave me, it was in my purse with my loose change, it was still empty but I couldn’t throw it away,” Rosser explains. We never find out what it was.

The album’s title track shifts back and forth between an altered reggae beat – something Rosser is an expert at – and a straight-up new wave pulse, anchored around guitarist Nao Hakamada’s lingering, moody chords and jazzy octaves.

Surrender has spare, vintage 80s chorus-box guitar and a big, icy, oscillating chorus: it’s the band’s big stadium anthem. Rosser goes to the top of her range in Oh Father, a steady, understatedly aching soul ballad in 6/8 time with an unexpected reference to the Cure. It’s one of the band’s biggest audience hits in recent months – ok, years, considering that we were rudely interrupted in 2020.

There are two versions of the album’s final song, Saving All My Love, the first a cheery, Marley-inspired reggae tune, the second a wickedly psychedelic dub by E Blizza. No doubt the band will be airing out all these flavors and more over the next week or so.

An Epic, Free Jamband Festival This Weekend in South Dakota

From the perspective of being immersed in live music in New York long before this blog was born, it’s humbling and inspiring to see how many incredible shows there are outside this city, in what has become the free world. For anyone with the time and some reasonable proximity to the southwest corner of South Dakota, there’s nothing more fun happening this coming weekend than this year’s Deadwood Jam at Outlaw Square, at the corner of Deadwood and Main in Deadwood, South Dakota.

People travel hundreds of miles and spend hundreds of dollars for a jamband lineup like this one, which is free. The show this Friday night, Sept 17 starts at 4:30 PM; the Saturday show begins at one in the afternoon. Tuff Roots, an excellent reggae band who use everything in their vast psychedelic arsenal – innumerable guitar textures, melodic bass and horns, and a deep dub sensibility – open the Friday night show. Next up are the Kitchen Dwellers, a Montana crew who are a more jamgrass-oriented version of Widespread Panic. The headliner is a Rusted Root spinoff.

The Saturday lineup is more diverse. The 1 PM act is Neon Horizon, a jangly, catchy stadium rock band, followed by Musketeer Gripweed, the retro 70s hippie rock act responsible for the classic drinking anthem A Train. The group who might be the very best one on the bill are mammoth Colorado soul band The Burroughs, who are fronted by their drummer, Mary Claxton. After that, there’s Grateful Dead cover band Shred is Dead. War – whatever’s left of the legendary Bay Area latin soul hitmakers from the 70s – are headlining.

A few years before blogs existed, the future owner of a daily New York music blog went to see War on a hazy summer afternoon in Fort Greene Park. Looking back, it’s not likely that there were many if any remaining original members in the band, but, surprisingly, the set was as unexpectedly fresh as it was low-key, considering the relatively early midweek hour, and the heat. Elevating a bunch of old hits you’ve played thousands of times to any level of inspiration is not an easy job, especially if you’re stuck with a daytime municipal gig where you probably just got out of the van and need to get back in right afterward and head off to the next city.

There was plenty of obvious stuff in the set, included a radio single-length version of Lowrider – a big hit with the crowd, considering how many hip-hop acts of the 90s sampled it – and a pretty interminable take of Spill the Wine, the goofy novelty song that Eric Burdon sang with them. But the less obvious material was prime: slinky and even biting versions of The World Is a Ghetto, and Slipping Into Darkness, and a spirited take of the wry 1975 anti-racist hit Why Can’t We Be Friends. The horns and rhythm section were laid back and unobtrusive: nobody was trying to make crazed improvisational jazz or heavy metal out of the songs. This wasn’t a bucket-list show but it was a fun way to play hooky from a job where everybody was going to be fired from a company that would be sold at the end of the year to downsizers. That’s a story for another time. No doubt thousands of people will have their own fun stories of what’s happening this weekend in Deadwood.

Bright, Colorful East African-Inspired Jazz Themes on Saxophonist Berta Moreno’s New Album

The main inspiration for Berta Moreno‘s latest album Tumaini – streaming at Bandcamp – is the trip the alto saxophonist made to Kenya, where she fell in love with the region’s many indigenous sounds. The album title is Swahili for “hope,” which resounds throughout this upbeat, optimistic mix of original jazz songs equally infused with soukous, soul and latin influences. We could all use something upbeat and optimistic these days, right?

Singer Alana Sinkëy’s warmly inviting soprano fuels the optimistically clustering, latin-tinged opening number, Karibu, Moreno’s carefree solo soaring over the scrambling groove of bassist Maksim Perepelica, drummer Raphaël Pannier and percussionist Franco Pinna. Pianist Manuel Valera’s brightly rhythmic attack brings the sunshine in, full force. They take the song out with a cheery soca-inflected romp.

Sinkëy multitracks herself into a one-woman choir, singing in her native vernacular in the second track, Afrika. After those balmy, atmospherics, the band pounce into a brisk, bounding groove that could be soukous, or Veracruz folk.

“Stolen sunlight, golden dust around your feet,” Sinkëy muses as The Beauty of the Slum gets underway, an understated trip-hop beat and Valera’s blend of piano and organ anchoring a catchy neosoul tune reflecting how there’s so much more to Africa than destitution and bloodshed.

Sinkëy’s lively vocalese interchanges with Moreno’s terse, blues-tinged lines throughout the next cut, simply titled Dance, Valera’s chords punching through a thicket of beats. Mandhari, a diptych, begins as a slowly undulating but stately soul-jazz ballad, a tribute to a “sacred place,” as Sinkëy puts it. The conclusion is a trickily rhythmic dance, Moreno’s wryly stairstepping solo handing off to Valera’s precisely circling phrases.

Valera loops a brooding minor phrase, mingling with Pinna’s shakers as the album’s title track gets underway, vocal and sax harmonies and then a tersely acerbic Moreno solo following a subtly brightening trajectory. Meanwhile, Valera channels his native Cuba, spirals and dips, and chases the clouds away.

Christine, a funky soul stroll, is a portrait of an inspiring, indomitable little girl, with a bitingly modal Moreno solo midway through. She winds up the record with Kutembea, a catchy, understatedly enigmatic, circling anthem, the most distinctly Kenyan-flavored track here. Beyond Moreno’s eclectic tunesmithing, this album is a welcome introduction to Sinkëy, a versatile and potently expressive singer that the world needs to hear more from.

A Soulful, Gospel-Inspired, Overdue Debut From Individualistic Jazz Singer Trineice Robinson

Trineice Robinson brings deep gospel roots to her work in jazz. Like most good singers, she’s covered a lot of ground throughout her career, from classical choral music, to jazz and various touring gigs. So it’s something of a surprise that her new album All Or Nothing – streaming at Spotify – is her debut as a bandleader. She sings in a disarmingly direct, no-nonsense delivery and has a fearless political sensibility. She comes across as an individualist who defies categorization: there’s the immediacy of classic soul music here, coupled to jazz sophistication, gospel rapture and fervor.

She kicks off the album ambitiously, making an inventive diptych out of All or Nothing At All. There’s a gritty intensity in her voice in the hard-driving first part, Don Braden’s tenor sax percolating over Cyrus Chestnut’s emphatic piano, Kenny Davis’ bass and Vince Ector’s drums. The starry interlude midway through is an unexpected touch; the band swing it hard on the way out.

Likewise, she remakes Wayne Shorter’s Footprints as a latin jazz waltz, tenor saxophonist Nils Mossblad breaking out of brassy harmonies with trombonist Ian Kaufman and trumpeter John Meko as percussionist Kahlil Kwame Bell joins Ector in a turbulent backdrop. The lyrics – by Robinson and Nandita Rao – obliquely reflect the challenge that comes with standing on the shoulders of Civil Rights era giants.

Chestnut shines and glitters in a strikingly intimate duo take of Ellington’s Come Sunday, Robinson playing up the song’s unshackled political subtext. From there she makes another diptych out of her blues-tinted original If This Is Love and The Very Thought of You, reinvented as an altered waltz with an unexpected modal intensity and a spine-tingling vocal coda.

Robinson’s supple, unhurried take of You Taught My Heart to Sing draws on the McCoy Tyner version, through a glass, distantly, lit up by Chestnut’s Errol Garner-esque ornamentation. The band have a great time with Monk’s I Mean You, Robinson updating the jaunty Jon Hendricks version with a knowingly sly, very Monkish sense of humor.

She and the group find unexpected tropical joy but also gravitas in Natalie Cole’s La Costa, Braden switching to flute. The band’s suave wee-hours contentment – and Chestnut’s occasional LOL flourish – in Save You Love For Me fuels Robinson’s determined delivery.

Robinson closes the album with a swinging, New Orleans-tinged take of the gospel standard Let It Shine: once again, she leaves no doubt that this is liberation theology.

Her lyrical update to a brisk stroll through Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is also an aptly relevant touch; the cheesy DX7 electric piano that Chestnut gets stuck behind is not.

Lauren Anderson Airs Out Her Powerful Pipes on Her Sizzling New Album

Lauren Anderson has one of those rare, arresting voices you only hear once every ten years or so. She can belt the blues, implore heavenly intervention with a gospel song and channel any kind of soul seduction you could possibly want. Her new album Love on the Rocks is streaming at Soundcloud.

Anderson is a one-woman choir, busting out her most exalted, indestructible gospel intensity for the album’s tantalizingly brief opening track, Keep On, a real showstopper with a 19th century chain gang feel.

The album’s title track, a seduction anthem, shifts between noirish oldschool soul and a big bluesy chorus with a spot-on Bessie Smith reference. Jimi Greene’s searing guitar layers over Hutch’s growling, downtuned bass match Anderson’s potency as the song winds out.

Guest Mike Zito joins Greene and Anderson in supplying simmering, gritty guitar layers over drummer Matt Doctor’s loping groove in Back to Chicago, Anderson delivering a bitter breakup tale in an understated gospel-infused voice, finally reaching for the skies at the end.

The Way I Want is an aphoristically lyrical blues, but with more than a hint of a 70s disco pulse. Organist Kiran Gupta and the string section of Jon and Liz Estes give a stark Indian flavor to Holdin’ Me Down, a trip-hop tune, Anderson channeling the frustration of a claustrophobic relationship.

Greene opens Just Fucking Begun with a nasty pickslide: it’s an insistent, Stonesy stomp with a powerful message about ageist stereotypes, and how women suffer disproportionately as a result. Then Anderson reaches for vintage Tina Turner-style defiance over chicken-scratch funk and then a stomping vintage soul groove in I’m Done.

Stand Still is an unexpected departure into Celtic balladry, Anderson capturing the isolation and desperate need to escape it that’s pervaded these last seventeen months.  Your Turn is the album’s big orchestral ballad, Anderson’s emotionally devastated narrator out on the highway, driving through a haze of wine and tears: “Every time I’m close, the world turns cold, it yanks me back to the starting line.” There are many high points on this album but this will give you goosebumps.

Incendiary Ethiopian Jams on the Upper West Side This Weekend

Anbessa Orchestra‘s latest single Gobez (Brave) – streaming at Bandcamp – is a condensed, slashing version of a big anthem they slayed with for over a year before the lockdown. Then the Israeli-American Ethiopian jazz jamband had to record it remotely over the web since the band members had been scattered across the world. Here, guitarist/bandleader Nadav Peled introduces the big, defiant, ominous Ethiopian modal hook, picked up by the brass and eventually a slithery solo by baritone saxophonist Eden Bareket.

This wild, incendiary outfit are back in action with a free outdoor show on Aug 1 at 7 PM at Pier One on the Hudson; take the 1/2/3 to 72nd St., walk west and take the stairs down to the river at 68th St. out behind the Trump complex. There’s plenty of room for dancing on the pier.

Their most recent album, Live at New City Brewery 11/22/19 hit their Bandcamp page about a year ago and underscores why more bands should make live albums. For a soundboard recording that the band probably never planned on releasing until the lockdown, this is pretty amazing. They are in their element through a relentlessly slinky thirteen-song set in western Massachusetts, a mix of originals and classics. Bassist Ran Livneh and drummer Eran Fink run hypnotically undulating, circular riffs as the band shift from an ominous mode to sunnier terrain on the wings of alto sax player Bill Todd’s jubilantly melismatic alto sax solo on the night’s opening number.

As they like to do, they segue straight into a searing, practically eight-minute version of their signature song Lions, organist Micha Gilad holding down turbulent river of sound behind the biting chromatics of the horns, trumpeter Billy Aukstik out in front. Peled’s supersonic hammer-ons raise the energy to redline through a tantalizingly brief solo: this band can go on twice as long and the intensity never wavers.

Assefa Abate’s Yematibela Wef ((A Bird You Can’t Eat) has a subtext as salacious as the title implies and a bouncy triplet groove. The Gize Suite, a diptych, based on Gizie Biyasayegnem by Misrak Mammo, starts out as a shivery, chromatic, trumpet-fueled clapalong shadowed by Peled’s guitar and rises to blazing, symphonic proportions. Peled brings it down to a spare, ominously jangling solo guitar interlude, then the conflagration starts again.

From there the group hit a balmy oldschool 60s soul bounce with Zemena and Abebe Mellese’s Kelkay Yelelbebet, then an original, Tch’elema (Darkness), a turbulently pulsing salute to resilience in troubled times.

Todd’s spare flute contrasts with the brooding undercurrent of Werik’i (Gold), another original. Mahmoud Ahmed’s Belomi Benna gets a cinematic, relentless drive that goes straight-up ska and then reggae, then the band go back to biting minor modes with their own stomp, Gurage

Once again, they follow a segue, from their Ethiopian reggae tune, Le’b, into Aregahegn Worash’s wickedly catchy Zelel Zelel. “Do you want more?” Peled asks the crowd. “One more set,” a guy in the crowd bellows back. To which the guitarist responds with a menacing, spiraling, reverb-drenched solo into, then the band launch into the angst-fueled Yeleleu Hager Lidj (Man Without a Country). They close with the bounding, strutting, Dera, with solos all around. This is as good an idea as any of what the Upper West is going to get this weekend.