Good news coming from the Nonesuch Records, the record company founded In 1964 by Jac Holzman, then head of Elektra Records, and more committed than others to expand the horizon of musical productions in the United States and beyond. The good news relating to the publication of at least three album not to be missed: the new by Robert Plant, which will be released on September 9th and will be titled “Lullaby and Ceaseless … The Roar”, in which the lead singer of Led Zeppelin debuted at Nonesuch; the new album of the duo formed by bassist Edgar Meyer and mandolin player Chris Thile, and “Lily-O,” the latest work of the singer and multi-instrumentalist Sam Amidon, produced by Valgeir Sigurðsson and the jazz guitarist and composer Bill Frisell.
As we have written in these pages, the Nonesuch has developed a production project which has secured the international spread of many “alternative” artists. But the most important reflection of this work has been the clearance of many genres marginal to the mainstream music market – and, of course, many artists today play an important role in the international music scene – which, though with the usual reticence, begins to open up small spaces of interaction with a more complex and perhaps even more radical view of the music. A more radical view that refers to, in the best cases, a swarm of expressions rooted in geographic, cultural and social factors that are reflected in musical tradition.
Two of the disks in question – that of Amidon and that of Thile and Meyer – are, in fact, very related to American popular music. Both, in fact, although through stylistically different interpretations, leave out the common folk-country and folk-blues background. The duo Thile and Meyer (whose first self-titled album was released in 2008, receiving rave reviews) addresses this relationship in a more direct way (though the disc is made up of original songs), through a musical narrative full of charm and virtuosity, which develops the essential dialogue between mandolin and bass. The record by Sam Amidon – who plays fiddler, banjo and guitar, and is accompanied by bassist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Chris Vatalaro – offers a personal interpretation of traditional songs. It is characterized by an imprint of jazz and improvisation.
As for “Lullaby and Ceaseless … The Roar”, what we wish to emphasize is that – beyond the unmistakable style of Led Zeppelin frontman and his extraordinary voice – contains the ethnic “passions” in which Robert Plant has accustomed us for some years now. Though, in fact, nine of the eleven songs that comprise the album were composed together with the new band The Sensational Space Shifters (Justin Adams: bendirs, djembe, guitars, tehardant, voice, John Baggott: keyboards, loops, moog bass, piano, Tabal, voice; Juldeh Camara: kologo, standing; Billy Fuller: bass, drum programming, Omnichord, upright bass; Dave Smith: drums; Liam “Skin” Tyson: banjo, guitar, vocals), the entire lineup is crossed by “african” suggestions. “It’s an album”, as you can read in the presentation notes, “that deftly aligns the chakras of Plant’s storied career while also being a bold act of reinvention … His uniqueness has never been more apparent”.
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