Race Records

By Hua Hsu Sep 21, 2004

Ollabelle (Sony)

Shortly after 9/11, this crew of concerned New Yorkers wandered from their respective sounds (punk, jazz, pop) and found a common purpose in American Roots music. The sextet’s debut is a delightful, heartening blend of blues, gospel, bluegrass and country that rereads early Americana as a beautiful and inclusive, if faraway, place.

Los Lobos
The Ride (Hollywood)

Twenty years after their classic How Will the Wolf Survive? East Los Angeles’ finest are still mixing it up. Their brilliant 11th album is a characteristically bluesy, pensive affair that’s energized by a staggering array of guests that ranges from soul crooner Bobby Womack and avant-rockers Café Tacuba to Elvis Costello and Mavis Staples.

Carl Hancock Rux
Apothecary RX (Giant Step)

Heralded Harlem poet/rapper Carl Hancock Rux finally drops the follow-up to his 1998 debut, Rux Revue, and it was worth the wait. Like a great one-man show, Rux channels the multi-hued flavors of the diaspora, filtering his fiercely proud and thoughtful verses through African juju, avant-jazz and hip-hop.

Caetano Veloso
A Foreign Sound (Nonesuch)
As a founder of the 1960s Tropicalia movement, a longstanding political critic and a pioneer of world-music, Veloso is a national hero in his native Brazil. This is his first album recorded entirely in English and it’s a seductive, somewhat subversive, set that pays reserved homage to the canon of American music. Armed with his rich, playful voice and quirky arrangements, Veloso manages to both respect and re-imagine the best that America has had to offer, covering folks like Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Cole Porter.

Donny Hathaway
These Songs for You, Live! (Rhino)
Sadly, it was the torture in the heart of 1970s soul keyboardist Donny Hathaway that probably made him such a memorable and lasting figure. This previously out-of-print live set captures the underrated Hathaway at his funky and joyous best as he runs through personal classics (“The Ghetto”) and covers (a smoking “What’s Goin ’ On”) that will leave you breathless.

To submit CDs for review, send to: Hua Hsu, 955 Mass. Ave. #325, Cambridge, MA 02139

Hua Hsu is a doctoral student at Harvard University, a DJ and a writer for Slate, the Village Voice and the Wire, among other publications.