What's New: Roots Department

Here we cover new-releases from the rich traditions of Soul Music, Country Music, Blues & Jazz, along with the traditional folk-musics the world over. We'll tip you off to quality reissues while also checking in with today's torch carriers.

Deeply obscure afro funk on African Scream Contest v. 2:


The expertly programmed Analog Africa compilations are hip to some of the most exciting Afro-funk records of all time. Like the first volume detailed in The Guardian's review, African Scream Contest Vol.2 is again sourced almost exclusively from the concentration of excellent sounds emerging from the small West African country of Benin in the 1970s. This is essential listening for fans of unstoppable grooves and fuzz guitar.




Lost live recordings from uk master guitarist John Renbourn:

An original player in the UK folk boom of the 60s (he helped form Pentangle with the legendary Bert Jansch), John Renbourn had a long and fruitful career as an innovator on the acoustic guitar. Live in Kyoto 1978 catches him all alone in performance. The playing is gorgeous, rich, & complex, and we get to hear John's oh so English voice a little more than we usually do on his other records. A very enjoyable archival release from Drag City.






Technicolor Paradise, an anthology of unheard 1950s exotica:

The Numero Group label has done it again and put together a sprawling collection (three LPs) of expertly selected vintage lounge music and exotica from an assortment of artists unrecognizable to all but the deepest collectors. This is a true gift to those of you that have worn out your Martin Denny records at your home tiki-bar. It's full of kitsch, retro tones and rhythms. Great to pour a cocktail or three to. 


An early chapter in the development of Gene Clark:

The reliably excellent Omnivore label has just released a new set of previously unavailable recordings by the always brilliant Gene Clark, titled Sings For You. Here we find the ex-Byrd work-shopping his songwriting on a set of loose and spare demos. It's 1967 but you can hear the direction he'll take for his later classics, somewhere between that plain-spoken folk of those records and his recent past as a pop-star. Of course his one-of-a-kind voice is front & center. 

AMERICAN AQUARIUM make tough-luck alt-country:

Working a no-frills straight ahead vein of alternative country, American Aquarium are a North Carolina band cranking out odes to those down on their luck. With a gravel throated singer you would guess has spun his fair share of punk-rock records too, the songs on Things Change are full of working-class scenes and stories of hard times. CD and LP available from the Bloodshot Label.

mystic AND SOMBER new folk from Sarah Louise:

Deeper Woods is the new LP by singer/guitarist Sarah Louise out now from the Thrill Jockey label. This is a record full of intricate compositions and intimate recordings, well to the psychedelic end of the folk spectrum. Both eerie and lush, Sarah seems to revel in teasing modern sounds out of the darker gothic underbelly of the Appalachian musical traditions.