Open Air Currents: Andrew Bird, Mama's Broke, Adrian Quesada, G Love
This week on Open Air Currents, a fun summer release by G Love, Andrew Bird waxes philosophical on Inside Problems, a new release from Canadian folk duo Mama’s Broke and Adrian Quesada’s new album of boleros.
Andrew Bird – Inside Problems
Andrew Bird takes on internal struggles, as the title suggests, on his new release Inside Problems. His 2019 release My Finest Work Yet, spoke more to the global political turmoil of the time. The author Joan Didion plays a role on a couple of the new tracks. Atomized, the first single, is based on her 1968 essay collection Slouching Toward Bethlehem. On Lone Didion she is the main character as imagined by Bird coping with the real-life loss of both her husband and a child over a short period. In addition to the Didion inspiration, Atomized also borrows from the second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony for the melody. The leadoff track Underlands is vintage Andrew Bird with pizzicato violin and whistling set to a relaxed groove. Elsewhere, Inside Problems has a more rock feel. The Night Before Your Birthday feels like a Velvet Underground song with Bird taking on Lou Reed’s sarcastic drone. Inside Problems is an enjoyable album just to listen to — it also has a lot to offer those wanting to take a deep dive into the lyrics and musical textures.
Adrian Quesada – Boleros Psicodelicos
You may not know the name Adrian Quesada, but you have likely heard the guitar player’s work. He's half of the duo Black Pumas, a member of Grupo Fantasma, and the collective Spanish Gold. Quesada was inspired by hearing a Peruvian ballad from the 1960s and became obsessed with the theatrical desperation of the vocals, thick reverb, shimmery organ tones, harpsichords and fuzzy guitars. It was the Latin answer to the psychedelic sounds emerging in rock and roll at the time. Boleros Psicodelicos is Quesada’s homage to the era. It features an impressive line-up of Latin American singers including Angelica Garcia, Puerto Rican singer and former member of Calle 13, iLe, Gabriel Garzon-Montano, and Gaby Morena. Morning Edition's A. Martinez may have said it best, “If Quentin Tarantino was from Mexico, some of these songs would be on the soundtrack to his next movie.”
Mama’s Broke – Narrow Lines
Since forming in 2014, the Canadian duo Mama’s Broke (vocalists and multi-instrumentalists Lisa Maria and Amy Lou Keeler) has toured relentlessly in Canada, Europe and the US. Their 2017 debut album Count The Wicked earned them a Canadian Folk Music Association Award for ensemble of the year. Though known as folk musicians, their influences run deep from old time Quebecois to punk, blues, bluegrass, Celtic and doom metal. These varying styles combine well on Narrow Lines. Without being constrained by any one genre, Mama’s Broke treat each song like a distinct piece of work rather than a formulaic example of any specific tradition. Banjoist/singer-songwriter Kaia Kater calls the duo “... twin prophets who bend our ear effortlessly and beckon us ever forward.”
G Love – Philadelphia Mississippi
Blues legend Jim Dickinson produced G Love’s 1995 album Coast to Coast Motel. Dickinson's son, Luther of the group North Mississippi Allstars, produced the new release Philadelphia Mississippi. The title is a great description of the new content, a blend of urban sounds from Philly and the delta blues of Mississippi. It hits a sweet spot in merging the two musical cultures, a sound G Love helped to pioneer. For the project, he enlisted a who’s who of heavy hitters, including Christone “Kingfish” Ingraham, Alvin Youngblood Hart, RL Boyce, Jontavious Willis, Chuck Treece, Schooly D of the legendary Philly hip hop group Arrested Development, rapper Freddie Foxxx, and Southern Avenue drummer/singer Tikyra Jackson. If you’re familiar with those names and their work, you probably already have a good idea of what this album sounds like. It’s funky, gritty, slinky, bluesy and unmistakably southern. The first single, Laughing in the Sunshine, is a great summer song that reminds me of the the Mungo Jerry classic In The Summertime with a simple hook and tons of fun in the sun. Guitar Man, featuring Christone Kingfish Ingraham is an acoustic porch blues tune. Hip Hop Harpin with Alvin Youngblood Hart takes the blues to the porches of Philly with a hip hop beat and dueling harmonicas. Tikyra Jackson joins G Love on the funky organ groove I Ain’t Living. This is a fun, light-hearted album overflowing with talent that will make many “best of summer” lists.