Jackson C. Frank
Blues Run the Game

The horrible-but-true story of Jackson C. Frank is a nearly unendurable tale of bad luck, heartbreak and illness. The only balm is wallowing in Frank's tunes of incandescent melancholia. The survivor of a Buffalo schoolhouse fire that killed most of his classmates, Frank took up guitar during his long hospitalization. A decade later he would head to London and become, for a tragically short stretch, the golden boy of the Soho folk set.
Listen to: Blues Run the Game
Geoffrey O'Brien
Sonata for Jukebox: Pop Music, Memory, and the Imagined Life

For some of us, music isn't life or death, it's much more important than that. If this describes you, Geoffrey O'Brien has written the essential guide to having ears. The sounds of our lives and our lives of sound are the subjects of this collection of transcendent essays—equal parts mythology, topography and biography. A run-down of the music mentioned in the book reads like a freeform playlist—Dock Boggs, Billy Stewart, Beach Boys, Orchestra Baobob—but these references are merely blips on the radar of O'Brien's time-machine, journeying to the center of a musical life.
Read more about this book: here
Mike Osborne
Border Crossing / Marcel's Muse

Whether squeezing out a slow-burning solo or unleashing a passage of dizzying complexity, British saxophonist Mike Osborne expresses every single note with searing clarity. The intensity of Osborne's delivery is his hallmark, and embracing it is among the most rewarding experiences in music. Yes, it is that good. Before mental illness ended his playing days in 1980, Ossie was amongst the brightest lights of the glittering UK jazz scene of the sixties and seventies. The two records on this disc, reissued for the first time since their original releases, capture Osborne's legendary live trio performance ("Border Crossing") from 1974 and an enormously satisfying—and rare—quintet session ("Marcel's Muse") from 1977.
Listen to: I Wished I Knew
David Darling & The Wulu Bunun
Mudanin Kata
(World Music Network)

Welcome to Wulu, Taiwan, population 300. Here in the remote Southeastern corner of the island's Central Mountain Range, reside the Bunun, creators of a unique songform of eight-part harmony. First brought to international attention via a 1952 recording made during a UN expedition, the sound of the Bunun has gone largely unheard ever since. Fifty years hence, this recording—accompanied by light-as-air pizzicato playing from American cellist David Darling—once again presents the Bunun's ethereal soundscapes of extraordinary beauty.
Listen to: Pis Lai
Pérez Prado

If you're a child of the sixties like me, your parents' seriously unhip record collection contained copies of the "Fiddler on the Roof" cast album, Mahalia Jackson's greatest hits, and a set of exotica-lite by some Latin lightwieght named Pérez Prado. If this has been your only experience of Prado's music, you're in for quite a shock. Not long before coming to New York for an extended engagement at the snooty Waldorf-Astoria, Prado was in Mexico City perpetrating some of the rawest, nastiest mambo ever to ooze out of a horn section and a pair of bongos. This music on this compilation is so full of base animalistic ferocity, maybe the instrumentals should carry a parental advisory.
Listen to: Babarabatiri
Joanna Newsom
The Milk-Eyed Mender
(Drag City)

An astonishing debut from a young singer/songwriter who sounds more unlike anyone else than anyone else has in recent memory. With a voice that wraps up a naïf, nasal delivery in a wise woman's weathered confidence, Joanna Newsom is, within the first few moments of your first listen, utterly disarming. But the sweet confusion doesn't end there. Newsom coaxes from her axe of choice—a big-ass concert-worthy pedal harp—meandering cascades of loveliness that seem to pay hommage to Celtic sea chanties, a West African griot's kora, and any number of other distinctive troubadour traditions, known and unknown.
Listen to: The Book of Right-On
(World Village)

For three decades, the Malian band Tinariwen has been at the forefront of a cultural insurgency. (Some biographies refer to the band as "Tuareg," but this is an inauthentic and derogatory label meaning "forsaken by God." It is also the name of an SUV from Volkswagen.) Inventing "Tishoumaren" (music of the unemployed) Tinariwen replaced the oud with an electric guitar, and the gritty and compelling desert jams they produce—banned in more than a few places—have given voice to a generation of disenfranchised Sub-Saharan Africans.
Listen to: Chet Boghassa
The Vandermark Five
Elements of Style, Exercises in Surprise

It's the end of the month, so hyperprolific Chicago reed monster Ken Vandermark must have a new album out. Or, at the very least, he's premiering a new trio, quintet or some other small/big conflagration. Geez, I hope the guy has someone reminding him to eat and sleep. Attempt to assemble a Top Ten list of Vandermark's releases—no easy task, considering the high quality of his various projects—and this outlandish disc will surely top it. The passionate outbursts of free blowing interupted by lush and lovely ensemble passages invite comparison to that other adventurous Midwestern quintet, the Art Ensemble of Chicago.
Listen to: Outside Ticket
Ghana Soundz: Afro-Beat, Funk and Fusion in '70s Ghana, Vol. 2
(Sound Way)

In 1971, the ground-breaking "Soul to Soul" festival brought an array of American soul giants to perform in Accra, Ghana. In 2002, the favor was repaid with Volume 1 of "Ghana Soundz," a compilation of deeply groovy seventies rump-rockers by top Ghanaian stars. Two years later we have Volume 2, no less than the best dance record of 2004. Every track is a funk 'n' soul epic of James Brownian grunts, funky-drummer beat-mongering and ridiculously syncopated horn riffs.
Listen to: Atwer Abroba by Ebo Taylor
Iris DeMent

In this age of evolution bashing, red-state prayer posses, and Mel Gibson's crucial fiction, it's hard to feel any great affection for the avowedly God-fearing. But then, what to do with gospel music? I mean, Secular Humanists still need a nip of the glory juice every now and again. In her fourth release, the first in eight long years, Iris DeMent has woven an old-time tale of charm and grace in the form of a late-19th-Century gospel songbook. There has always been a sweet hint of Dolly Parton in DeMent's voice, and she haunts this sublime document, which harkens to the old-as-the-hills roots of the singers' shared Ozarks heritage.
Listen to: I Don't Want to Get Adjusted (to This World)
Anything released by Sublime Frequencies
Sublime Frequencies

If these recordings don't get you, you are ungettable. From the label's Website: "Sublime Frequencies is a collective of explorers dedicated to acquiring and exposing obscure sights and sounds from modern and traditional urban and rural frontiers via film and video, field recordings, radio and short wave transmissions, international folk and pop music, sound anomalies, and other forms of human and natural expression...."
Listen to: Unidentified from Cambodian Cassette Archives, Vol. 1"
Listen to: Autorail from "Bush Taxi Mali"
Listen to: Tune of the Second Entertainment from "Princess Nicotine"
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