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Record review roundup

Folk Blues Night Vol. 2 and Leaf | Erikson’s vinyl debut

by and


Various Artists

Pay No Attention to That Brand New Rug LP

(Lo + Behold)

Pay No Attention is the second volume of documentary recordings made during Folk Blues Night, which has been taking place every second Saturday of the month for a few years at Lo & Behold Records and Books in Hamtramck. As described by Erik Mitchell in the newsprint zine that comes with the LP, the first night was "just Dave Morrison and Danny Kroha passing a bottle of whiskey back and forth between each other while playing their favorite songs." It has since grown into an intimate community gathering, where Mitchell says "nobody [leaves] without their spirits lifted." He sums it up thusly: "Folk Blues Night means friends, music, intimacy, and connections with everyone around us. It's a place and time to celebrate, to reflect, and to get out all the rage and sorrow that the world throws upon us." The live performances are often followed by a 78 listening party.

Lo & Behold proprietor and jack-of-all-trades Richie Wohlfeil took it upon himself to record the Folk Blues Night sessions, always recording direct to two-track stereo with vintage ribbon microphones. He's been compiling his favorite material and releasing them on cassettes and posting them online; this is the second volume to be released on vinyl, made possible with funding assistance from the Knight Foundation. The feeling, sounds, and design of the records are all in the style of classic Smithsonian Folkways LPs, only in a scrappier, handmade Detroit style. All the cuts on this volume were recorded in 2012 and 2013. It seems like an exhaustive project to go through all the recordings of Folk Blues Nights, but Wohlfeil seems to enjoy it, and recognizes its importance.

Yes, these recordings are recent, but the spirit and the music are timeless. It's hard to think of a word other than magical to describe the ways these recordings exemplify the power of music to transmit universal emotions. And the community vibe is evident on this volume: Wohlfeil says he wants to show the "more raw, fucked-up side of Folk Blues Night." Indeed, there is a lot of crowd noise, whooping and hollering, and it includes a "fucked-up version" of a very drunk Morrison singing "Dangerous Blues" for nine minutes.

Crude, yes, but still worthy of a listen. It kicks off with Kroha's rousing version of "Jump Lil' Children," from an obscure 1948 78 by Leroy Dallas, followed by Behind the Times' version of "Rubber Dolly"— a traditional children's song. Wohlfeil says at first he objected to the appearance of an "electrified" instrument, but Sweet Jay Janusch's "Hawaiiana Improvisational" played on some kind of homemade slide guitar, is one of the best moments on this volume. Folk Blues Nights may be a close-knit crew, but Wohlfeil did an excellent job of translating the lifting of spirits for listeners of the LP. —Shelley Salant

Leaf Erikson

Hidden Gems EP

(Fifty Records)

Erikson is far from a newbie, and the Detroit native has delivered one of them most well put-together records of the year. If you're a fan of A Tribe Called Quest's first two albums, Guru's Jazzmatazz series, or maybe you just like good old-fashioned beats and rhymes, then Erikson's Hidden Gems EP is for you.

The EP opens with the melodic horns in "Last Laugh," as Erikson comes out swinging. "My vocals extend past your average perimeter jump shooter/I'm long range and long winded," he raps. Erikson goes off on the materialism and phoniness that surrounds today's hip-hop scene in "Spaceships," while Intricate Dialect adds his "A game" over the jazzy bounce of "Cypress."

A saxophone and a groovy bassline make "Mass Transit" the best head nodder here, while "Vultures" and "Grain of Salt" deliver in more of a traditional boom bap sense. Erikson and Dirtee Curt talk about casing paper without losing yourself in "Money," while Erikson closes out the album with another hardcore beat and potent bars in "Logistics." "Now I ain't rich but I refuse to live in prison/because I'd rather die broke than die without wisdom. Exceedingly rejoice now the burdens are lifted have a feast in the market with the fish, chips and the dip," he raps.

Erikson has the flow and sound of a new age Posdnuos (Kelvin Mercer of De La Soul) with the beats to complement it all. The album also features appearances from SelfSays, B.L.A.K.E., and production work from Eddie Logix, Doc Illingsworth, Milklord, the Davey Crockett, FakeHunters, Jewbei, Shady EV, and Illajide. Hidden Gems should stay in your current rotation for many months to come. —Kahn Santori Davison

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