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Various Artists: The Real Bahamas, Volumes I and II

On The Real Bahamas, Volumes I and II (Nonesuch Explorer Series 79300; 74:02), we get a taste of island music far from the domain of swizzle sticks and tourist kitsch. Which is not to say that the long cultural arm of the United States mainland hasn’t left its mark: the soulful purr of spirituals sounds like gospel music as we know it, but turned sideways, and the quirky country blues sound of Joseph Spence evokes musical roots with odd limbs attached. The CD is actually two old Explorer Series titles, recorded in Nassau in 1965 and 1978, in one package. Altogether, the spirituals, vocals of Frederick McQueen and Bruce Green, the Pinder family, and guitarist Spence add up to a slightly quirky island treat, off to the side of Americana.

Recorded in 1994, Chief Bey and Ile Omo Olofi, Children of the House of God (Mapleshade 05132; 49:08) presents the influential Yoruban priest-drummer in a casual session in which vocalists-including singer Amba Hawthorne Bey-intone songs and chants from African and American spiritual traditions over spare, pulsing beds of percussion, sans chordal instruments. Bey, the influential percussionist who was in Olatunji and worked with jazz greats like Max Roach and Randy Weston, invokes the spirit of Africa in the heart of Americana.

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