New and noteworthy
MUSIC | Four new albums reviewed
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The gently pulsing electronics give David Dunn’s fragile pop melodies and his even more fragile pop singing a futuristic patina, or maybe just the sense that they’re emerging from a large, glowing Bluetooth speaker hovering just above the ground. This effect combined with the down-to-earth subject matter creates a dramatic tension ideal for riveting the attention of the too easily distracted. And as one of Dunn’s points is that we’re all too easily distracted (from savoring life while we have it, from trusting in the “unending kindness of God”), the tension resolves quite nicely.
Pilgrimage: Phil Keaggy & Friends Sing the Poetry of Kevin Belmonte
Phil Keaggy & Friends
Who is Kevin Belmonte? A biographer (Chesterton, Wilberforce, Moody), a film-script consultant (The Better Hour, Amazing Grace), and, now we know, a crafter of the sort of verse (devout, observational, sometimes both) well suited to the lovely melodies that Phil Keaggy generates in his acoustic folk-pop mode. Who are Keaggy’s “friends”? Four guest vocalists who contribute to nine of the 12 songs and, at the beginning of the song dedicated to him (“If You Were Here”), the late Keith Green on piano. And Keaggy, of course, is Keaggy, his voice somehow as fresh at 72 as it was on his Glass Harp debut at 18. The musicianship? First rate, as always.
Alogte Oho & His Sounds of Joy
As produced by the Berlin-based drummer Max Weissenfeldt, these Ghanaian gospel singers make a most joyful noise indeed. No single component stands out—not the percussion, not the bass, not the horns, not the synthesizers, not the indigenous stringed instruments, not even the almost-always-in-unison three-part vocals. Instead, each serves the whole, an uncommonly integrated sound enlivened by a percolating melting pot of global rhythms. The language is Frafra, a tongue apparently unknown to online translation sites. The last word of “A Lemine Me,” however, is “Hallelujah.”
The Country Truth
Not all of this refreshingly old-school country album will age well. Two or three election cycles from now, will anyone remember what “The Big Guy’s on the beach in Delaware” means? But unless the cultural tide turns fast and sharply, a lot of these songs will be helping clear-thinking people get by for years to come—or at least as long as approximately 50 percent of the populace refuses to shut up about politics, to stop being offended, and to stop wanting somethin’ for nothin’.
Live in 1973 is the third and latest bootleg Love Song with Phil Keaggy in ’73 to appear on Keaggy’s Bandcamp page. It’s also, if only by a smidgen, the clearest sounding. The downside is that it’s also the briefest: 10 songs totaling 39 minutes plus two solo-acoustic Keaggy sound checks totaling six more. And, unlike Live From Dallas, TX (the next-best sounding) and Live in Michigan (underwater audio), it omits Tommy Coomes’ “Let Us Be One,” the best song that Love Song ever came up with and on which Keaggy could solo up a storm.
The upside is that it opens with Chuck Girard’s “Little Pilgrim” (a contender for Love Song’s second best). Also, it contains Keaggy performing “The Answer,” the melody of which could’ve come from the Renaissance and the studio version of which would not appear until the 1977 Phil Keaggy with Glass Harp compilation Song in the Air. As for the sound checks, hearing Keaggy throw himself into “What a Day” never gets old. —A.O.
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