Music Reviews: September/October 2007

| September / October 2007


Various Artists (Verge)

The music and the poverty of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, are both world famous and inextricably linked. Many of Brazil's musicians are from Rio's most dilapidated slums (favelas), and poverty provides a backdrop to much of the country's music. The Inspiring New Sounds of Rio de Janeiro, the first release by the independent Verge Records label, makes this connection explicit, bringing together hip-hop, reggae, rock, reggaeton, and more traditional Brazilian influences like samba and bossa nova while delivering a strongly political and humanitarian message.

The album is a compilation by five artists on the Verge label, including three tracks by the group Movimento Na Rua ("Street Movement" in Portuguese), whose ranks include former gang members who are now outspoken critics of the drug trade. The song "Soldados Nunca Mais" ("Soldiers Never More") is a hard-rocking anthem about their conversion. * Music's power to change lives is one of the driving forces behind the album. Verge donates a portion of its profits to fund youth arts programs in the impoverished neighborhoods where the music came from and has partnered with the nonprofit Schools Without Borders to improve education for children in Rio de Janeiro. The two groups are also working together to build a local recording studio, so more albums like this can be made. --Bennett Gordon



Drummer Jim White has played before with Nina Nastasia, recording and touring as part of the folksinger's band. But in their first official just-you-and-me project, the sound is surprisingly, beautifully fresh--swooping, exhilarating music underscored by delicate yet crashing drums. Nastasia has a sweet, urgent voice, and she's capable of turning on a dime and kicking an aching whisper into a heart-thumping battle cry. Her guitar playing is equally commanding, and White, a member of Australia's instrumental trio the Dirty Three, answers her with complex and expressive percussion. His feisty drums hiss and punch, transcending any charges of rhythmic backbone to become the other half of a balanced equation. The resulting sound is absolutely arresting. --Julie Hanus

PETER CASE: Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John

(Yep Roc)