Elemotho: Beautiful World

Elemotho’s Beautiful World is a jewel with facets that reflect topographical and human landscapes. The Namibian singer-composer traces his songwriting to childhood memories of storytelling around campfires in the Kalahari and uses forthright lyrics to turn ignorance toward understanding, loss toward hope and to find beauty in unexpected places. Singing traditional and new works in English, Setswana and other Namibian languages, he works with … More Elemotho: Beautiful World

Las Cafeteras: Tastes Like L.A.

Bob Dylan warned the Establishment that a raging battle would “soon shake your windows and rattle your walls/For the times they are a-changin.’” Five decades later, If I Was President, the signature protest track from Las Cafeteras’ new album, is likewise animated by the idea that anyone can imagine the power to repair the world: “Mr. President, I’ve come to make clear/That I don’t have the papers to work over here,” it begins, proceeding to a priority … More Las Cafeteras: Tastes Like L.A.

Seydu: Sadaka

With his smooth and generous voice, Seydu is poignant in singing about the impact of war, incisive in warning of corruption, reverent about the beauty of African women and upbeat regarding the power of a smile. Such themes animate Sadaka (The Gift), his third album, broadly focused on the redemptive power of giving. Born into a musical family in Sierra Leone—a nation scarred by the slave trade and, more recently, by blood diamonds … More Seydu: Sadaka

Daoirí Farrell: True Born Irishman

Daoirí (pronounced “Derry”) Farrell is a performer and scholar of Irish music. Two of the songs on True Born Irishman, his award-winning second album, are compositions by the late folk singer Liam Weldon, who was not only a role model but also the subject of Farrell’s master’s thesis at the University of Limerick’s music school. Across the album’s ten tracks of jaunty and mournful songs and masterful arrangements, Farrell’s voice sparkles with … More Daoirí Farrell: True Born Irishman

Coope Boyes & Simpson: In Flanders Fields

World War I hostilities began in Europe on August 4, 1914—and 976 days later the United States joined the conflict. On August 4, 2014, the English a cappella trio Coope Boyes and Simpson released a sweeping 50-track homage to the songs of the war and the British soldiers and civilians who sang them. Now, some 976 days after the album’s launch, a review from an American music blog seems belatedly on time. In Flanders Fields is a landmark … More Coope Boyes & Simpson: In Flanders Fields

17 Hippies: 20 Years – Anatomy

The Berlin-based world/folk group 17 Hippies emerged in an open-minded Europe that valued diversity. Operating less like a band than a village in which each resident carries instruments and tastes acquired on foreign adventures, the collective’s disparate elements work beautifully together, against expectations. The result is a floating musical center of gravity as inspiring as it is fun, with dominant elements (Balkan rhythm, French chanson, Weimar … More 17 Hippies: 20 Years – Anatomy

Claire Lynch: North By South

Among Claire Lynch’s many talents is an uncanny ability to embody a man’s song—her angelic voice not imitating the opposite sex but simply erasing the importance of gender. She memorably personified a Civil War soldier in Kennesaw Line and on her latest album she’s a deckhand-turned-ship’s captain who spends 50 years with the love of his life, the Molly May (video 1). The song—written by J.P. and Gervais Cormier—is bittersweet, like any story … More Claire Lynch: North By South

Claire Hastings: Between River and Railway

No single album can capture the entire arc of Scotland’s musical culture, but there is a breathtaking sweep to what Claire Hastings accomplishes in the 10 tracks of her debut album. She gambols across time and space (from 17th-century hillside to 20th-century factory); weaves between joy and heartbreak; blends traditional songs with her own masterful lyrics and music; contributes a new melody to a poem by her Dumfries townsman … More Claire Hastings: Between River and Railway

Francesca Blanchard: Deux Visions

Francesca Blanchard’s debut album is rich in the contrasts on which art thrives—connection/solitude, wisdom/experience, anxiety/uplift. As for the form/content duality that animates critics, she offers a soft and stunning voice and incisive lyrics, carried aloft by a blend of folk and French chanson, accented with jazz, country and pop touches. At the album’s heart, the two visions—more complementary than contrasting—reflect the tension and creativity of Blanchard’s bilingual life (French … More Francesca Blanchard: Deux Visions

Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material

Kacey Musgraves is a traditional country singer driven by a honeyed voice with a Texas twang. She’s also a progressive in a conservative world, penning lyrics about marijuana, acceptance of homosexuality and questioning of religion. She’s won two Grammys and three CMA Awards while defying labels, and on her fifth album she focuses on small town values and foibles, on family, community and individuality. Biscuits (as in mind your own) is a bouncy live-and-let-live classic … More Kacey Musgraves: Pageant Material