The Paul Zollo Blog: On Rickie Lee Jones, The Budos Band, Jascha Hoffman, Gary Calamar, Terre Roche, and Sandy Ross

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The Budos Band
Burnt Offering

Budos offers up horn-powered funk and wonder, like soundtracks to unseen movies of mystery and majesty. The first cut, “Into The Fog” is mesmeric and incendiary, like something grand and powerful rising up out of a very distant lake, the fog so thick you can’t see why the sky is suddenly the color of crimson. Far off in the distance it seems old wars are being fought on horseback, but nobody can tell behind all that smoke and commotion. Then here comes a taste of Miles and Sketches of Spain with a little Spaghetti Western and beyond, and there is action in every direction. This turns into “The Sticks,” and we are off for a funk excursion –  the organ crying out and matching the horns in intensity, the bass expertly weaving together all the funk and soul, the drum keeping the groove infectious. Produced by Thomas Brenneck with the Budos Band, all the songs are written by the group. The title song is down and dirty, like a secret told on a stolen sax, elaborated on by a manic organ player who has been up all night again. The sun is shining and these guys all have dark glasses on, with good reason. This is Budos at their best: urgent, soulful funk journeys of deep, rich musicianship, played by the real cats. These guys know how to mix in the old acoustic horns with the electric bass, guitars and tapestry rock grooves. The sound is designed to make the non-believers believe again, and the believers simply blissful. This is raw and real. This is pure and urgent. This is brave and brilliant. This is now.

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Jascha Hoffman
The Afterneath

A remarkable album, and great achievement. Jascha Hoffman, who is both a gifted songwriter and a journalist, has a beautiful gift for the telling detail, the small use of language that lets us see humans at their most human. This is a song cycle built on the obituaries of recently passed Americans: some famous, some infamous, some obscure. All are poignant testaments to the human spirit, to the life narrative we all write each day but is incomplete till the end, and then collected, often in haste, into these capsulized newspaper pieces which memorialize and preserve our life stories. It’s perfect song content, especially if you are a lover, as are most of us, of the dark song. These are by nature dark songs, and some darker than others, whereas some are triumphant and even heroic in the completion of a life, as in “The Mercy Machine,” about Jack Kevorkian. The music is plaintive and pianistic. Or there’s “The Atom Bomb,” about Joan Hinton, “By day on the mesa/by night at the lab…” working on the construction of the Atom Bomb, which circles around the line, “You’re still burning and I’m still breathing….” “The River” has a country swing lilt that is welcome and touching, about Will Boag, with long lyrical lines beautifully crystallized in the line, “I can almost hear the river in the rhythm of your heart,” which is at the center of this album, that in the various rhythms of all these diverse hearts we can find a pathway to the source, to the place all rivers flow. And that in the diversity of these stories there is the one story, the story of being human, that connects all songs with serious joy.

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