Stevie Wonder "The Original Musiquarium 1" (Motown Record Co.)
This isn't terribly obscure, I know. But maybe you've forgotten how truly wonderful Stevie Wonder is. Maybe you can't get "I Just Called to Say I Love You" out of your head. Let it go. This is a top dog for my outdoor gatherings. Two discs of some of his best funk ("Superstition," "Higher Ground," "You Haven't Done Nothin'") and love songs ("Do I Do," "Ribbon in the Sky," "That Girl") will keep the crowd bouncing. Thirty seconds of "Master Blaster" will set the tone. "You may just not believe what you are feeling, because you feel your body jamming."
The Tarbox Ramblers "Tarbox Ramblers" (Rounder Select)
This juke band from Boston may be the best-kept secret in the "roots music" world. It's worth the time and money to order this album if you can't find it in stock. Michael Tarbox and his sidekicks have honed a tight, toe-tapping groove around his raspy rail of a voice and surly slide guitar. Jon Cohan's drums come crashing through the door on "Shakem On Down." Then why not sit down and boomchickaboom through "Jack of Diamonds" and "Jug Band Music?" The Ramblers are a badass bar band with a fresh and fiery approach to country blues.
Van Morrison "Bang Masters"
This is my favorite Van-carnation. This isn't the mystic-hippie tip of the '70s or the roving holy man persona of late. This is early, street-punk Van recording in America for the first time in 1967, full of cockiness and vulnerability. There are 18 tracks here with the best, like "T.B. Sheets," "The Back Room," "Who Drove the Red Sports Car" and "Madame George," exhibiting that wonderfully loose, stream-of-consciousness improvisation Van is so good at. Backed by a tight studio band, Van cuts loose and gets his "free thing goin'."
Thanks to Vince Newton from "the burbs of Henrico" for suggesting some other grilling goodies. I'll have to check out Carbon Leaf's "Echo Echo" and Joni Michell's "The Hissing of Summer Lawns" (what a great title). And I concur on his recommendation of "Neighborhoods" by Olu Dara. I saw this guy at Jazz Fest a couple of years ago. He's a masterful guitar player with a smooth, bluesy style. Thanks for the input. Keep it comin'.
Next Time: The first installment of Road Worthy, a recurring review of driving music. Send your slow-ride serenades and radar-detector favorites to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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