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Various Artists

Live at the Cedar

Visionaries

(The Cedar; US: 29 Aug 2006; UK: 29 Aug 2006)

Minneapolis’ Cedar Cultural Center says that it has been “presenting some of the best artists from around the world” several times a week ever since the old theatre re-opened as a live folk ‘n’ world venue in 1990. Looking at the line-up of names on this album, I’m going to guess that when they say “the best” it’s not entirely an idle bit of advertising puff. Visionaries is the first in what they promise will be a series of compilations, and they’ve brought out the big guns. We start with some fine Baaba Maal (Is he ever not fine? Does this man even have off days?), and continue on through Gillian Welch, Cesaria Evora, Ani di Franco, and others before tying things up with Bill Frisell and a down and dirty Ali Farka Touré, as heard back in 1993 before he decided to give up touring and stay on his farm in Mali. All of the tracks were recorded at Cedar concerts and none of them sound as if they’ve been thrown in just to get a famous name on the cover, although I do have one reservation about the Evora song—she’s being overshadowed by her noisy accompaniment. But that’s a small thing in an otherwise very good live collection.

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