- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 30, 2002

BOBBY MCFERRIN
Beyond Words
(Blue Note/Angel)
What is it about Bobby McFerrin that's so appealing? Most of the time he moves us along in a lyrical lilting way with a steady lighthearted beat, never slowing as he takes us on a jaunty ride of his own multi-instrumental imagining. To term him a vocalist is short of the mark and shortchanges his inventiveness. His latest album treats us to 16 tracks of rhythms from different continents, all of which are his creations except for an improvisation of "Windows" by his friend Chick Corea, a musical contributor. Another contributor is Mr. McFerrin's son Taylor on "Taylor Made."
Joy is a key theme, echoing Mr. Ferrin's hugely successful pop hit of 1988, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" from the album "Simple Pleasures," in which he pays homage to the music of the 1980s. The tunes on this CD have a broader scope, reflecting music of Africa, India and Asia. Sample titles: "Kalimba Suite," "Dervishes" and "A Silken Road." In addition to the great variety of instruments employed, the pleasure for a novice listener is the free-flowing jazz element that has equal importance alongside Mr. McFerrin's singing. Pianist Mr. Corea takes part in six numbers. Instruments in play throughout are percussion, bass, guitar, wood flutes and accordion.
The title speaks of moods and tones, rather than words. The beat is insistent until near the end when there comes a slowing that is almost prayerful. This recording has a physicality about it that engages the senses. Mr. McFerrin, a composer, conductor and performer, gives us a reason to dance, talk or run along with his sequence of sounds. Many of them are repetitive, as is his style. But with joy in short supply these days, the rhythms are very welcome.
Ann Geracimos

TOSHI REAGON
Toshi
(Razor and Tie)
As daughter of local music legend Bernice Johnson Reagon (founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock), Toshi Reagon has had some big shoes to fill. But Miss Reagon has proved to be a capable musician during the past decade, as she melds the social consciousness of her mother with her own love of rock and blues.
She certainly rocks on "Toshi." Miss Reagon sings, "Oh no no no/Not this way/This is not the way we play" on the opener, "Oh No No No," a driving rocker that takes its main riff from the Kinks. The song is a hint of what's to come. The pace doesn't slow, even as the acoustic guitar kicks in on the second number, "Little Light."
Miss Reagon's voice dominates the record, confidently showing off her strength for both blues and funk, and also her gospel and soul roots. She is tender on the breakup song "Slippin' Away," capably fingerpicks through the country-folk-meets-soul of "Mountain Top" and "Big Love" and rocks like Pat Benatar through the dirty-guitar pop of "I Hate/I Love."
The record slows toward the final tracks, as Miss Reagon turns into more of a crooner than a rocker. The highlight is "Just What I Needed," a gentle folk rendering of the famous Cars song, with Miss Reagon's voice crackling underneath the surface. It's a fitting way to end an album that showcases her versatility as an artist and establishes her as one of the most creative independent solo artists in the country. Derek Simmonsen

THE LOST TRAILERS
Passport
(Ryder Stokes Records)
The Lost Trailers produced two short records before combining that material into "Passport," a concept album that adds new tracks and clocks in at more than an hour. Not a bad debut for a local band.
In concert, the group tailors its show to its audience, and the album carries along that idea. It switches from funk rock to country to gentle folk. The concept that anchors it a young man's disillusioned trip from New York City to California to the American South is a rather loose one and acts more as a theme than strict subject matter.
The opening track, "NYC," begins with a two-note guitar and keyboard attack straight out of a 1970s funk album before delving into one of the group's best rock songs, "Family Reunion." The latter mixes a catchy trumpet solo with vocal samples, a bit of record scratching and the fast-paced singing of keyboardist M. Ryder Lee.
Also on the CD are the requisite rock ballads, such as the soulful "Walking Blind" and the bittersweet "Fairweather Queen," with its chorus of "When my pockets are full/she is my everything/but when it rains she is the first to leave." To keep things interesting, Mr. Lee swaps vocal duties with guitarist Geoffrey Stokes Nielson, whose Georgia accent marks his less polished, but more distinct voice.
The record slows a bit midway with its emphasis on rock ballads before kicking into full country gear to close the album. Highlights include the driving blues number "Morning Light"; "Horse," an angry country breakup song that completes the phrase "and the horse you came in on"; and the outstanding closer "Dougherty County," which features only an acoustic guitar and Mr. Nielson's voice tenderly singing, "I fall back on times like these/when life gets a little rough/cause they never go too far" and ends with the comforting phrase "You're always welcome home."
This is an eclectic debut of alt-country and roots rock that deserves attention on the local scene. So far it's available only through the band's Web site (www.thelosttrailers.com), but this much music for $12 is a bargain. D.S.

HANK WILLIAMS III
Lovesick, Broke & Driftin'
(Curb)
With a white hat, slouched stance and sunken cheekbones, Hank III is the very image of his famous grandfather. He has the same catch in his slightly nasal voice. His lyrics sing of lonesome times and pure heartbreak. The heavy bass, fiddle and steel guitar accent the vocals. But, no matter how you try to cloak this generation in the mantle of his ancestor, the music comes up short.
Taken on his own merits, Hank III is a credible country performer, with decent songs, good lyrics and fine musicianship. His voice is workmanlike. Where he falls short of the mark is in a comparison, which you can't help but make because every effort is made by his producers to do so.
The background music on a couple of the tunes is a blatant copy of what grandpa recorded. But Hank III's voice isn't nearly as distinctive in the higher, twang range. He even copies the style of his father, Hank Jr., on the country-rocking "Trashville," in which his vocal shortcomings become even more glaring.
Hank Sr.'s mournful sound was mated perfectly to his original music. The most mournful sound listeners of Hank III will hear is their own moaning after paying for and hearing this disc.
Toledo (Ohio) Blade


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