ARTIST: Black Masala
TITLE: Trains And Moonlight Destinies
Here’s the third studio album from Washington DC’s Black Masala, hands down one of the most exciting live bands anywhere. Their unique sound combines elements that seem on the surface not to fit together: Balkan brass, punk rock, Indian bhangra, DC go-go, New Orleans funk and second-line music, reggae and who knows what else. The four-person brass section, anchored by trombonist Kirsten Warfield, is the band’s unifying feature. What keeps the runaway train on the tracks is the drumming of bandleader Mike Ounallah, who seemingly can lock into and cook on any rhythm at all. They’ve developed an ear for a catchy pop melody which comes through on the chorus of the title track (1) and on 4, accurately described by lead singer Kristen Long as “downtempo but really driving with a groove.” The band is at its best on the Balkan-style material that originally inspired them: 1 is another Black Masala original that could be in Gogol Bordello’s playbook, and while 8 can’t match Esma Redzepova’s original, what could? And 3 is this set’s curveball – a slice of “band and show” jazzy funk. Another winner from Black Masala.
TOP TRACKS: 1 3 4 8
ALSO RECOMMENDED: 2 5 6 7 9
Bill Lupoletti is world music director at WRIR 97.3 FM and wrir.org in Richmond, Virginia, where he hosts the Global A Go-Go radio program on Wednesdays at 3 PM and writes the globalagogo.com world music blog.