Paul A. Harris Professor Skank Kevin O'Hare, Newhouse News Service, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
"FIDDLE & A SONG"
Byron Berline (Sugar Hill)
Bluegrass fans picked up Byron Berline's trail in the mid-1960s, when he played in Nashville with Bill Monroe. Later in that decade, Berline moved to LA, where he did session work on an assortment of rock-era recordings, including the Rolling Stones' "Let It Bleed" (his fiddle is heard on the album version of "Honky Tonk Woman").
Berline's latest disc gathers old friends, including Monroe and banjo picker Earl Scruggs. Also on hand are Vince Gill and other members of Berline's '70s ensemble Sundance. The Doo Wah Riders, an LA acoustic band, join the fiddler for a surpassing performance of Fred Rose's Western swing classic "Roly Poly" and for a Cajun medley that includes "Diggy Liggy Low," Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Down at the Twist and Shout" and Hank Williams' "Jambalaya." Mason "Classical Gas" Williams sings and narrates a warm and genuinely humorous 8-minute musical bio of Berline's career.
Fans of traditional American acoustic music will find a whole lot to like on this exceptional recording.
Paul A. Harris
Foundation (Island Jamaica)
Foundation, from St. Mary, Jamaica, was discovered by legendary producer Jack Ruby in 1988. This harmony trio subsequently released two well-received albums on the Mango label. The next year, Ruby died, and the group's career came to a standstill.
Now, after a six-year hiatus, these roots rockers are back with a vengeance, taking reggae into the next century with the release of the extremely powerful "One Shirt."
Issued on Island Jamaica (one of the hottest labels in the industry), this disc is truly one of the most crucial releases by an unheralded group in recent memory.
The sound is crisp and clean, with a roots feel, as some of Jamaica's best producers and studios were utilized. The result is almost an hour of smooth, up-tempo reggae.
Lead vocalist Keith Douglas has a captivating and emotional voice similar to that of the great Albert Griffiths of the Gladiators, and with harmony from Everton Thomas and Emilio Smiley, Foundation seems destned to become one of reggae's top acts.
Highlights include "Set the People Free," "Africa," "Universal Unrest," "Struggling Man," "Fire Is Buring," "Friendsd" and the re-make of Foundation's late-'80s track "Beverly Hills," this time with DJ work by Prezident Brown.
Words alone can't conveny what an excellent release this is. From the cool cover picture to the righteous lyrics and relentless, infectious rhythms, "One Shirt" deserves a place in every fan's collection.
"THESE CATS CAN SWING"
Maynard Ferguson & Big Bop Nouveau (Concord Jazz)
Trumpet dynamo Maynard Ferguson recruited his youthful nine-piece ensemble, Big Bop Nouveau, from this country's most prestigious collegiate music programs. …