Star-Bulletin Features

Sunday, July 29, 2001


Album covers

Listen Up

Reviews by Gary C.W. Chun

"Many More Roads"

Ky-mani Marley (Artists Only!)

Along with half brothers Ziggy and Damien, this Marley has been a popular reggae artist with the locals, and this second album of his should only secure those infectious feelings. My only problem with it is that Ky-mani's vocal range is too limited at times. Granted, he is not a carbon copy of his iconic father, but he certainly attempts to move his listeners like Bob with a force that his voice just can't yet grasp with any sense of authority. Proof is with the song "Valley of Decision," where he tries his mightiest but falls short with his near-tuneless quaver, waylaying whatever message is contained therein.

It's not the strongest of albums overall, but it does have several tracks where his voice and production work mesh. "Yesterday" has a fine vocal that shows Ky-mani harboring feelings of uncertainty about the future. His best vocal is, ironically, nearly indecipherable due to the thick patois, on the dance hall track "In a de Dance."

"Ska-Ba-Dar" and "Haile I" are the album's highlights, the former for its infectious rhymes and riddim, and the latter for the supporting female vocals and positive message that "Rasta can never be conquered."


Doyle Bramhall II & Smokestack (RCA)

This Austin, Texas, guitarist, the son of a music scene regular who collaborated with the Vaughan brothers, Stevie Ray and Jimmie, has already got an impressive assemblage of work behind him -- first as a teenage second guitarist with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, co-leading Arc Angels with Charlie Sexton, then, after the release of his 1999 debut, touring and writing for the likes of Eric Clapton -- all of this occurring before the formation of this current band, featuring rhythm-mates J.J. Johnson and Chris Bruce, along with Bramhall's wife and co-writer, Susannah Melvoin.

There's a definite retro Southern blues-rock groove to his material, spacious-sounding and unpretentious in approach. That thick, roiling sound comes to the forefront on "Problem Child" and "Last Night." The album's opening and closing tracks, "Green Light Girl" and "Cry," show off Smokestack at its best, with the latter a riveting slow-blues catharsis.


Habib Koité & Bamada (Putumayo World Music)

The entrancing traditional folk music of the West African nation of Mali is combined with a semi-acoustic and contemporary Western approach on this appealing album by a guitar virtuoso with a growing international reputation. The rhythms are gentle but insistent, a delicate interplay of Koité's nylon-string acoustic guitar, the balafon (a wooden xylophone) and assorted percussion.

Whether he's singing about interpersonal or social issues, Koité's vocal is always pleasing to the ear. "Wari (Money)" is an absolutely ingratiating number, with Koité quietly singing about the good a couple of francs could do to ease his life (but not too much, mind you, or else he'd be a slave to it), with a bit of call-and-response over acoustic guitar and harmonica, plus some bass and simple percussive sounds on a metal scratcher, hand drums and handclaps.

He and the group remake their first national hit, "Cigarette Abana," which is probably the most rhythmically charming anti-smoking song ever written.

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