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NYC Subway - Songs from the Underground Review
by Gary Schwind

Eleven artists appear on this CD that includes the best musicians from subways in the Big Apple. Rather than break down this CD by song, I'll break it down by artist.

Spokinn Movement has two songs on this compilation: "Flows" and "Apes." This band shows what rap can be without all the references to ho's, Escalades and Cristal. The vocalist throws down rhymes similar to Young MC that work nicely with the jazzy instrumentation. Their sound is probably closest to an unplugged version of Soul Coughing, but the vocalist raps more than M Doughty.

Krystle Warren also has two songs: "Sparkle and Fade" and "Central Park." Her voice is in the same range as Tracy Chapman, only maybe a little richer. Her songs are folky and simple. It's just her and an acoustic guitar, and both songs are quite good. For the most part, her voice is mellow to blend with the guitar, but you can tell she can belt it out if she chooses. I wouldn't mind if her songs were a little longer.

Sean McCaul performs "Strazz" and "Time Kills." "Strazz" features vibraphones, drums and bass and is a good mellow jazz tune. "Time Kills" features vibraphones only and sounds like the sort of music David Lynch might put in his films.

Andes Fusion plays "Poncho," a very traditional Andean song with guitar, flute and bass. This is a very rich, textured song. It's a shame to only get such a small taste of this band. I bet they would be really fun to see live and I know for sure that I wouldn't mind hearing this band while waiting for a subway.

Kaiku performs an all-vocal tune ("Puhurin Poika") in their native Finnish. I have no idea what they're singing but these women sure sound good and harmonize very well.

Theo Eastwind sings "High," a simple song with just his vocals and guitar. He seems to be the poet/storyteller of the singer-songwriters featured on this disc. He's another one whose song seemed to short to me.

Sean Sonderegger is the LA transplant on this album. "Ollin" is a song that features saxophone and goes heavy on the bass. This has a very John Coltrane feel to it. "Neanderthology" seems like a Charlie Parker song. It's safe to say that Sonderegger is steeped in jazz. And why not? He's good at it. These are two songs that could be played alongside any of the giants of jazz.

Jason Green plays "Little Blue Cart Blues" and let me tell you something. This Ohio boy shows off some guitar picking that is outstanding. Jason Green could easily play in the blues club near you. This song may be the best display of instrumentation on an album that is loaded with good musicians.

Manze Davila features vocals and percussion, nothing more. I don't know how many people play drums on this song, but it definitely falls into the polyrhythmic category. This is a solid tribal-sounding song.

Thomas Bailey performs a brief sort of bluegrass number called "Ain't Gonna Work" with guitar, banjo and fiddle. "I ain't gonna work tomorrow." Can I get a witness from the congregation? I think everyone can get behind those lyrics.

Kathleen Mock plays a stark song called "Waiting on a Train." She has a style and a voice similar to Roseanne Cash. This is definitely a no-frills song that delivers the goods.

This CD is a great concept, executed as well as anyone could hope. There are some wicked good musicians featured on this album and each one brings something different to the mix. I know subways aren't always the most pleasant places on earth, but if you get to listen to these musicians while you wait for your train, at least the time might seem to pass more quickly.

CD Info and Links

NYC Subway - Songs from the Underground

Label:Headset Productions

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