When American guitarist Bob Brozman is said to be a musical explorer, that's equally true both literally and figuratively.
Brozman has traveled to Hawaii and Okinawa to immerse himself in different musical cultures the result each time being a series of recordings that seamlessly meld Brozman's blues and folk roots with the styles of whichever musicians he happens to be hanging with at the time.
His latest excursion took him to the Indian Ocean and the French island of La Rénion. The home of singer/accordionist René Lacaille, to be exact.
Only inhabited the past 300 years, the French found and settled it but were soon joined by Africans, Arabs and Chinese.
In this new collaboration between Lacaille and Brozman, all those different cultures have their own strands woven through the music. Yes, there is Parisian salon music, but also African and Middle Eastern rhythms, Far Eastern harmonic structures, and of course Brozman's blues. Brozman's more recent forays into Hawaiian and Okinawan also re-appear at times, making the music here perhaps the truest form of "world beat" yet devised.
And where many "world beat" efforts come off sounding about as organic as Wonder Bread, Brozman has always managed to avoid sounding hokey. On his recordings, these cross-pollinations never come off as staged or pre-planned but rather the natural result of having gifted musicians from different traditions sitting around jamming with each other.
"Digdig" is no different and in fact is one of Brozman's strongest recordings yet. Lacaille's facility as singer and bandleader is undoubtedly a huge part of the reason for the quality of this disc, as are the side musicians Lacaille pulled together from Reunion Island.
The songs are all bright and accessible, with the kind of radio-friendly melodies that get stuck in your head. Add in the great musicianship, and you have one of those albums that somehow never makes it back out of your CD player.
© Copyright Jim Trageser
All rights reserved