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by Christian John Wikane

18 Feb 2010

A Lone Star’s Amazing Flight

“They say don’t call it a comeback, but I say….call it one!” - Jomama Jones.

CD release concerts are always auspicious occasions. However, a CD release concert doubling as an artist’s homecoming carries extra weight.  Such was the premise when Jomama Jones recently took the stage at Joe’s Pub.

The brainchild of Daniel Alexander Jones, this ‘80s soul superstar has traveled the globe for the past two decades, most recently settling in Switzerland. In 2009, she returned to the US and began writing songs with Bobby Halvorson—who also became the musical director of her comeback show.  The result, Lone Star, produced and recorded by Jones and Halvorson, comprises nine original songs, plus an additional contribution from Grisha Coleman.  Thus the ninth of February was consecrated, marking the 21st century re-emergence of Jomama Jones in downtown New York—a long way from her Mississippi roots, even further away from the Swiss mountains, but ever so close to her devoted fans.

Flanked by The Sweet Peaches and a five-piece band, Jomama Jones delivered a 70-minute set that warmed the hearts and souls of bone-chilled New Yorkers. “It is a privilege and a pleasure to be back”, she cooed to the deafening applause that greeted her first two numbers, “Jomamasong” and “Endless Summertime”. Sensitive to a socio-political climate that was “inhospitable to soul,” Jones explained her reasons for fleeing the US 25 years ago. “Black power got turned off”, she said simply. “Somebody didn’t pay the bill”.

With the exception of the house-oriented “Roots in the River”, Jomama Jones performed Lone Star in its entirety. From the soul-stirring “Down Down Down” (a highlight) to the heart-stopping beauty of “Lilac Tree”, the new wave rock of “Uninvited Guest”, and the coy and clever “Show Pony”, Jones worked the sold-out crowd over with an intimate rapport and disarming stage presence.  Bathed in aqua blue light, Jones dedicated “The Mermaid” to the late Ana Sisnett and later thanked Rhonda Ross Kendrick for championing Lone Star from the page to the stage. In between, Jones graciously turned the stage over to The Sweet Peaches (Helga Davis, Grisha Coleman, and Sonja Perryman), whose performance of “Soul Uprising” intersected with “Uninvited Guest” and “Show Pony” as audience favorites of the evening.

“Pin your wish on me, I’ll carry it high”, sings Jones on the title track of her album. If she should make an appearance in your neighborhood, bring your wishes with you and join her for an amazing flight.

by Thomas Hauner

18 Feb 2010

Victoria Bergsman and her solo venture Taken by Trees took over the Knitting Factory Brooklyn Wednesday night, playing songs mostly from their 2009 release, East of Eden.  Celebrated for its effortless synthesis of Pakistani Sufi melodies and the best of minimalist Swedish indie pop, it is a refreshingly diverse yet accessible record and one of last year’s best.  Performed live, however, Eden’s precise and fluid rhythmic layers lost their form while its hypnotic melodies were reduced to a few unbalanced instruments and Bergsman’s melancholy voice.  More than anything the show was completely devoid of energy.  Beginning with a screening of a short film by Marcus Soderlund, “Taweel Safar-The Long Journey”, the group then performed several upbeat tracks from Eden, like “To Lose Someone” and the Animal Collective cover “My Boys”.  But Bergsman was so listless while gently tapping her tambourine, and beyond simply exuding seriousness, that she appeared more indifferent to their set than those loudly talking over the music at the bar.  Most of the time it was best to just close one’s eyes, listen, and replay Soderlund’s images in one’s mind.

by Dave MacIntyre

13 Feb 2010

Multiple online music forums were abuzz when it was announced that The Magnetic Fields would be playing at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto.  A gorgeous venue that provides comfortable seats and outstanding sound quality to its audience, it was no coincidence that the band performed the entire show seated and playing in an almost orchestral style.

by Thomas Hauner

10 Feb 2010

However fans pronounced the group’s name (“Yeah-sayer”, “Yay-sayer”) all left the Music Hall of Williamsburg buzzing, humming, or both.  It was hard to walk away without a melody or to not bob your head to Yeasayer’s polished sound collage.  Celebrating the release of their second full-length album, Odd Blood, the synth, guitar, and bass trio (backed by a drummer and multi-instrumentalist) still seemed to produce their best sounds while playing material from their debut, All Hour Cymbals.  The originally thin sounding and Indian-tinged “Wait for the Summer” was tight yet sonorous, catalyzing a swaying party and the crowd’s excitement before they completely lost it for the new single, “Ambling Alp”.  At times the Hall was awash in ooh-ing choruses, of which “Madder Red” and encore “2080” were downright anthemic.  While the group’s polyrhythms jumped from afrobeat to new wave to a pixilated dance floor thump bassist Ira Wolf Tuton filled in spaces with poignant fills on his fretless.  Throughout, panels and columns of morphing neon lights that changed with their sounds flanked them.  Also, Anand Wilder’s gold glitter guitar strap (with pick holster) is one the coolest I’ve seen around.

by Paul Hiebert

9 Feb 2010

Rodeo - New York City, 1954

Rodeo - New York City, 1954 / Photograph © Robert Frank, from The Americans

Robert Frank’s America is a tough America. Of all the people depicted in the 83 photographs comprising Frank’s The Americans, only a few smile. Most people have empty expressions while they gaze into a bleak future. They are neither dreaming nor pondering. The small number of those devoted to evading a dreary fate either grimace or scowl. They are defiant.

Despite the diversity of Frank’s subjects—old or young, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, rural or urban, gay or straight, black or white—all represent the stars and stripes. And what are Americans seeking? Freedom, presumably. Their austere posture is aimed at a life that promises more than it delivers. Frank travels across America trying to capture the moment when the naivety of each individual cracks and a flood of hard sadness comes gushing through.

Since the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit of Frank’s photography is arranged to unfold in a specific order, the initial photograph sets the tone. It is entitled Parade—Hoboken, New Jersey, but we see no parade, no joy, no celebration, no destination. All we see is a brick building with two people looking out of their respective windows. The woman in the left window is partly obscured by the shade of a lowered blind, while the face of the person in the right window is completely covered by an American flag attached to a pole and flapping in the wind. It’s eerie: There is something ominous about an American flag—a widely recognized symbol of freedom—erasing the existence of an individual.

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