CD reviews

NY Times News Service

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 - Page 12

Pionner

The Band Perry

Universal Republic

Thoughts of death have been good to The Band Perry, the three Perry siblings: Kimberly (vocals), Reid (on bass) and Neil (on mandolin). In Better Dig Two, the banjo-centered single that opens its second album, Pioneer, and has already sold 1 million copies, Kimberly Perry sings that she’s “gonna love you ‘til I’s dead,” and that either her husband’s “divorce or death” would kill her: “If you go before I do/ I’m gonna tell the gravedigger that he better dig two.”

That song follows through on the band’s first No. 1 country hit, If I Die Young from 2010, about a girl’s life cut short; that single sold 4 million copies. Not that mortality is the band’s only fixation; it also has a gift for sad and angry kiss-offs, which fill half of Pioneer.

That awareness of irreparable change separates The Band Perry from more treacly Nashville rivals like Lady Antebellum; so do Kimberly Perry’s smoke-edged voice and her determinedly spunky persona. The song Pioneer builds from a folksy tribute to US settlers to a first-person vow: “Send the dark but it won’t break me/ You can try but you can’t change me.” And in one of the album’s kiss-offs, the emphatically capitalized DONE, Perry taunts: “You play with dynamite, don’t be surprised/ When I blow up in your face.”

Pioneer, produced by Dann Huff (Rascal Flatts’ producer since 2006), enlarges The Band Perry’s sound. Its self-titled 2010 debut album was country-rock with a string-band core; Pioneer is well aware of both 1970s West Coast rock and the arena-folk foot-stompers of Mumford & Sons. The band has learned from Fleetwood Mac, the Eagles and Heart how to segue acoustic picking and strumming into electric guitars and tiered vocal harmonies. In Forever Mine Nevermind, written by the Perrys with Brad Paisley, they push even further; once they’ve worked up to a vigorous chorus of Na na na na, the tempo suddenly halves, guitar parts and voices stack up and The Band Perry briefly turns into Queen as Kimberly Perry snarls, “You piece of dirt/ I trusted you.”

She’s not always so combative. Pioneer also includes a loving parental tribute, “Mother Like Mine,” and happier love songs. But Perry is in her element with goodbyes, whether she’s taking a Chainsaw to a tree where she and a sweetheart once carved their names or contemplating separation in Back to Me Without You and End of Time. A sense of loss keeps these polished songs from getting too sweet.

— Jon Pareles, NY Times News Service

Nomad

Bombino

Nonesuch

In 2007, the Tuareg guitarist Bombino, real name Omara Moctar, was recorded live at a wedding by the documentarian Hisham Mayet for the startling album Guitars of Agadez Vol. 2. Now 33, Bombino still lives in that Saharan city but is ready for global consumption: a soloist and singer, a star, set up with US studio musicians and handsomely produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.

Bombino’s playing is full of fast, stuttery, rhythmic hammering, coiling lines inside lines. But it also comes out in soft strums and battering single-note attacks, and its tone and phrasing have a flexible identity. In his playing, besides the sound of the pioneering Tuareg band Tinariwen, you might be reminded of Ali Farka Toure, Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler, Jerry Garcia electric, Jerry Garcia acoustic. Bombino is never just one thing.

Your feelings toward Nomad will not necessarily be determined by how you feel about the Black Keys; where Auerbach the musician still has a crush on stylistic purity, Auerbach the producer has ideas that are more inclusive and more beautiful. He’s helped Bombino make a spacious, centered record, one that stretches to appeal to Western listeners like the nomads, known for their circular dancing, who temporarily inhabit the fields of Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee, every June – without strain or clutter or hipness overload.

With its bright, saturated guitar sound, the album replicates a little bit of the intensity of Guitars of Agadez recordings (there was one album in between, Agadez, recorded in Niger and Massachusetts and released by Cumbancha), and, in a slightly hokey way, a little bit of their atmospherics. There are crowd or street sounds in Azamane Tiliade, and some songs stop in a collective slump, with the sound of clapping, as if this were a party or a casual outdoor jam rather than a heavily considered shot at a worldwide audience.

But these songs sound less driving, more streamlined and structured and consolidated. Their rhythm has a slight New Orleans drag added to the desert beat. (The Tuareg drummer from Bombino’s band, Ibrahim Emoud, plays in these sessions, but so does Max Weissenfeldt of the German rare-groove band Poets of Rhythm.) There’s an American folk feeling in some of the acoustic-guitar tracks, like Imidiwan. And it takes chances by introducing instruments to the record that have no natural place in this music, particularly the organ, vibraphone and lap-steel guitar.

Still, that lap-steel works pretty nicely, flooding the mix in Aman, echoed and ghostly in Tamiditine. In his precise, nasal voice, Bombino sings some strong lyrics; translated in the liner notes, they aim to celebrate and protect Tuareg culture and identity. But I’ll be surprised if many listeners, under seduction of the music, bother to read them.

— Ben Ratliff, NY Times News Service