W.Va.'s Billy Cox, Africa's Lijadu Sisters offer great sounds
"Old School Blue Blues"
Wheeling native Billy Cox was "one of two people to stand to the left of Jimi Hendrix onstage." In other words, he was Hendrix's longest-running bassist, playing with the legend before and after The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Those who saw Cox's induction into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame last October got a preview of his new CD's first track, "Rockin' And Rollin' On." It's a Hendrix-inspired rocker in which Cox reminds us "age is a number and a state of mind."
While there's no shortage of easy-going "old school" blues, there's also the minor-keyed "Woke Up With That," the easy funk of "Train Stops Here" and the Barry White-meets-Isaac Hayes sounds of "The Magic of Dance." "The Last Gypsy Standing" is a wah-wah-powered rocker that tells Cox's musical story.
Who knew Cox had such a nice voice? His smooth, easy croon, in the vein of bluesmen like Little Milton, effectively ties the whole disc together.
The Lijadu Sisters
The story of Taiwo and Kehinde Lijadu is unfortunate as well as joyous. The twins, cousins of Nigerian superstar Fela Kuti, released four beautiful and groundbreaking LPs in their native country from 1976-1979. Introduced to Cream drummer Ginger Baker, they toured the United States and Europe in 1972 as part of his group, Salt, and again in the late '80s with King Sunny Ade.
After moving to the United States with their career in full swing, Kehinde suffered a severe back injury, which effectively ended the sisters' run. Meanwhile, their records had been long forgotten until they came to the attention of Knitting Factory Records.
"Mother Africa," the second of the four reissues is a beautiful snapshot of African melody and harmony, backed with traditional percussion and acoustic and electric instruments (courtesy of producer Biddy Wright). Gorgeous simplicity is the key, and the songs stay focused on the twins' vocals. "Osupa 1" is driven by a talking drum and voices with a strummed acoustic guitar. Wright's spoken word explains that the song is an ode to the moon -- "a thief with a big eye" -- to shine its "midnight lamp" on their nightly parties.
The six-minute-plus "Bayi L'ense" is a hypnotic track with a percussive groove, repetitive bass line and some fuzzed-out psychedelia guitar. "Orin Aro" is another magical piece with the sisters singing in tight harmonies over percussion and a tremoloed guitar.