Now Hear This 

Various Artists "Cult Cargo: Belize City Boil Up" (The Numero Group) ****

Goes well with stewed meat and "The Godfather."

The national dish of Belize is what the locals call a boil-up. It consists of an assorted collection of meats and vegetables simmered together much like the music contained on this tasty bouillabaisse of sound. Recorded in the city from 1960 to 1980, "Belize City Boil Up" is a winning mixture of soul, calypso, disco, funk and reggae filtered through the indigenous musicians' flair for the groove. Several tracks are stellar interpretations of popular tracks of the day such as the Professionals' furtive take on Nino Rota's "Theme from the Godfather" and their reggae-flavored homage of the O'Jays' classic "Back Stabbers." The assimilation of the world's music seems neither contrived nor forced as each track breathes with distinctive flair. Beautifully packaged and researched, the Numero Group has served up yet another satisfying dish of world music that is truly worth hearing. — Chris Bopst

Brian Jones Quartet "Grain" (Slang Sanctuary) ***

Jones + Killalea "Sea" (Slang Sanctuary) ****

The two most recent releases from Richmond-based drummer Brian Jones are proof that, in the right hands, rhythm can be every bit as engaging as melody. Jones' recordings are notable for both their number and quality, prolifically documenting his musical ideas in collaboration with a cross section of the most interesting players in town.

"Grain" features a two-horn, bass and drum quartet. The atypical lineup, with mirrored and harmonizing lines, provides the harmonic depth usually supplied by a keyboard. "Sea," a series of duets with saxophonist Colin Killalea, covers a lot of territory, from the gamelan Asian modes of "Vietnamese" to the moss-laden shadows of "Southern Lullaby."

Both CDs have a high degree of conceptual coherence — themes are echoed and restated across songs. There are some deep ideas, but the playing sweeps admirably along on the surface as well. This is music that rewards attention but doesn't demand it. — Peter McElhinney

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins "Rabbit Fur Coat" (Team Love 8) ***

Goes well with "white soul," angels, and rides to church.

Rilo Kiley front woman Jenny Lewis departs from her band's indie-pop sound with a debut disc of self-proclaimed "white soul." Set in a sort of retro atmosphere, busted relationships, sore hearts and questions of faith sidestep with solitary strums, even-keeled tempos and a smidgen of bluegrass. Like the sweet girl you might see singing down at the county fair, Lewis effortlessly pours out angelic vocals that are delicate and down-home, likening her to early Dolly Parton or Brenda Lee. Cradled by the haunting harmonies of the Watson twins, Lewis opens the record with acoustic melodies in time with solitary snaps on "Happy" and eases into the spiritual "Run Devil Run." The rest of the disc follows suit and could easily be the soundtrack of a late night at the local diner or a Sunday morning ride to church. — H.L.


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