VINCIUS CANTUARA & BILL FRISELL
Brazilian singer-song- writer-guitarist Vinicius Cantuaria is best known for spare, progressive bossa nova of the highest, most-haunting order. Frisell? He’s the Buddha of jazz-guitar timbre, with equally wise footing in country swing and bluegrass, with an ambient swell all his own. They’ve collaborated in past outings, but Lagrimas Mexicanas, their first full-on teaming, finds them primed for weirdly atmospheric, Spanish-language pop that borrows from their musical and ethnic lineage without sounding like anything either (or anyone) has done previously. As their guitars intertwine with the brittle delicacy of a fresh spiderweb, Cantuaria’s supple baritone saunters through the stunning array of (occasionally rough) textures and rhythms in a manner evocative of Joco Gilberto. The ride is bumpier than bossa’s usual cool on the dozily spaced- out, wah-wah-infused “Mi Declaracion”; the calm, watery wonk of “El Camino”; and the fuzz-toned “Calle 7,” with its nuanced brand of norteno. Sumptuous.
NORTH MISSISSIPPI ALLSTARS
Keys to the Kingdom
“Keys to the Kingdom” moves from anger (“This A’Way,” “Jumpercable Blues”) to acceptance (“How I Wish My Train Would Come,” “Hear the Hills”). Along the way there are potent collaborations with Mavis Staples on the gospel testifying of “The Meeting” and Ry Cooder on the sobering conviction of “Ain’t No Grave.” The album wraps with rollicking, randy takes on mortality (“New Orleans Walkin’ Dead,” “Jellyrollin’ All Over Heaven”) and a haunting coda by Jim Dickinson’s favorite piano player, Spooner Oldham.
The Allstars play with unassuming ardor, letting the rawness seep through the edges of the arrangements. Drummer Cody Dickinson in particular delivers exactly what each song needs, nothing less, and keeps things swinging. It’s the kind of unsentimental yet passionate tribute a musical legend and family cornerstone would surely appreciate.