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The Best Music That You’ve Probably Never Heard

August 3, 2009

Oh, how easy it is to recline in the comfortableness of routine and allow ourselve to never be challenged.  Our musical tastes tend to stagnate when we fall into the trap of listening to the same songs by the same artists over and over.  Often we connect those songs or that band with particular events or feelings so that repeated listening allow us in a small way to relive those events.  In that way, the lack of variety in a musical diet is understandable.

But most of us have had the pleasure of hearing something that is foriegn to our ears but somehow shapes a new experience for us.  This is a rare and wonderful thing that probably doesn’t happen enough.  We hear a new band in a club or while surfing on the internet, we get their CD or download their album and then proceed to listen to it 50 times without trying anything new for months.  Today, we’ll introduce you to 3 recent albums that should challenge your eardrums and broaden your musical horizons.

Magnolia Electric Co., Josephine

If you’re a fan of classic country music, then the latest release from Jason Molina’s Magnolia Electric Co. moniker is for you.  Josephine is in some ways the most accessible album MECo has put out and is full of songs that will remind you of all that’s good about country music.  MECo is kind of an acquired taste as their songs are often melancholy with very contemplative lyrics.  But if you’re into that sort of sound, Josephine is for you.  You won’t find yourself rocked out by this record, but you will find songs that speak to a life on the wrong side of the tracks, maybe a life that some of us have led from time to time.  Fans of My Morning Jacket and Bonnie “Prince” Billy should enjoy this album, as will Tim McGraw and Brad Paisley fans.

Lee Fields & The Expressions, My World

Lee Fields is definitely not a household name, but he probably should be.  Known in 70’s soul/funk circles as “Little J.B.”, Fields has been the forgotten godfather of the soul revival that began in the late nineties and continues today in the music of Sharon Jones and Raphael Saddiq.  Samples of old Fields’ recordings can be found scattered through hip-hop records, most recently by Madlib.  Fields and his band, The Expressions, recently released My World, which is an absolutely terrific soul record.  Fields can still recall plenty of his idol James Brown’s funk and the band puts out an outstanding cover of the Supremes’ “My World Is Empty”, but this record is truly an original.  If you have any kind of affinity for classic soul music or listen to indie rap artists like the Roots, this is the release for you.

Vieux Farka Toure, Fondo

We here in the States tend to take guitar playing for granted, lazily resting on “Clapton is God” or “No one plays better than Hendrix” motifs.  Now I’m not taking away from Clapton or Hendrix’s talent, but over the years the African continent has given us an impressive list of guitar virtuosos that are second to none.  If you have any appreciation at all of fine guitar playing, you owe it to yourself to listen to Malian guitar virtuoso Vieux Farka Toure.    Toure’s new album Fondo is a terrific introduction to African music in general and to alternate methods of electric guitar playing specifically.  The songs on this album are short, tight pop songs that are structured around Toure’s busy guitar playing and an equally busy percussion section.  The album as a whole will have a familiar sound to the Western ear even though the songs aren’t sung in English.  Use this album as an appetizer for broadening your musical horizons, it’s well worth it.

  1. August 3, 2009 5:22 pm

    I second Vieux Farka Toure. He and his father Ali are most excellent, but Vieux comes closer to bridging the gap between the sound of the continents, with something approaching an American swagger to his sound. Heard him on NPR and went exploring from there.

    • Caleb permalink
      August 3, 2009 10:10 pm

      Thanks Mark, I agree. I don’t think Vieux would be all that foreign to someone who listens to American rock. The main reason I chose him to profile though is his guitar playing…simply amazing! And if you ever watch him play it looks effortless.

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