"Rare Genius -- The Undiscovered Masters"
Ray Charles (Concord).
Concord Music Group
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- These 10 tracks continue the rich legacy left by Ray Charles, an American original who was a visionary in exploring the connection between soul, country and rock. Charles truly understood that music crosses all boundaries.
The set opens with the horn-soul-country of "Love's Gonna Bite You Back" which dates back to 1980. This points out, as the years roll on, the classic timelessness of Charles' music.
His voice is in particular good form on the easy big band swing of "Wheel of Fortune" and "There'll Be Some Changes Made" as well as on the simmering funk of "I'm Gonna Keep Singin.'" "Isn't It Wonderful" has a Stevie Wonder feel, and he transforms the borderline corn of "A Little Bitty Tear" (a hit for Burl Ives) into a gospel plea. The closer is a singular version of Kris Kristofferson's "Why Me, Lord?" featuring Charles' soulful piano and Johnny Cash's inimitable half-spoken vocals.
"Live from the Left Coast"
West Coast acoustic blues phenom David Jacobs-Strain has been wowing folks with his dead-on playing well before he could legally buy a beer. Since then, he's become a fixture on the blues and festival circuit, and for good reason. His playing is fleet and adventurous and perhaps, best of all, he goes well beyond the considerable boundaries of "blues."
On this live disc, he's accompanied by Philadelphia harmonica whiz Bob Beach, an equally talented and versatile player who never fails to take the instrument afield of its usual restrictions. From the slide work at the opening of the starter, "Rainbow Junkies," Strain lets you know that he's in the big leagues, bringing to mind Lindley, Kottke, et al.
The next track, "Pescadero Beach," reminds you that his singing, reminiscent of Sonny Landreth, is on a par with his playing. The tunes are largely "blues-based," from his evocative cover of Stephen Stills' "Treetop Flyer" to the standout originals "Hurricane Railroad" (in which he milks a full range of sound from his guitar) and the rolling "Lookin' For a Home," but he steps into traditional blues on cuts like "Come on in my Kitchen" and "Big Legged Mama."
It's great stuff.