Discovering acts from dirt-poor Africa has delivered notable recent albums from, among others, Staff Benda Bilili and Congotronics. The Malawi Mouse Boys, named for the kebabed rodents they sell as snacks, are a rural vocal troupe singing homemade gospel with minimal accompaniment on homemade instruments and recycled guitars. Captured in situ by producer Ian Brennan, the dozen or so short songs here ooze gentle charm, their swaying rhythm and call-and-response style led by acrobatic vocals from Zondiwe Kachingwe, likened by Brennan to a young Sam Cooke.
Refreshingly unencumbered material, and better for its rough edges. David Katz 2012 Before you balk at the name, check the back story. These eight friends have worked together since boyhood, crafting songs when business was slow. Their day jobs: selling mouse kebabs to passing traffic on Malawi’s roads, since food shortages have made field mice a delicacy.
Calexico Calexico, the proudly Southwestern band from Arizona led by the guitarist and singer Joey Burns and the drummer John Convertino, left home to record “Algiers” (Anti-), an album named after the neighborhood where it was recorded: a neighborhood of New Orleans across the Mississippi from downtown. The band largely steered clear of obvious borrowed local color, like second-line rhythms. Most of the music still looks toward Mexico and the western end of country-and-western, with horns that are more mariachi than brass band, while the lyrics of its new songs often take up thoughts of immigration and border crossings.