Soulful singer and guitarist Tab Benoit has never made secret his devout allegiance to the Louisiana music tradition. With The Sea Saint Sessions, Benoit, ably assisted by several Crescent City stalwarts, takes his music back to the source, setting up shop at the famed hit factory to cook up a sonic gumbo that successfully recaptures the spontaneity of the classic Sea Saint sound. Benoit's guests conjure up some of the studio's old musical magic as "Big Chief" Monk Boudreaux infuses Mardi Gras Indian spirit into "Monk's Blues," Meter man George Porter Jr. funkifies "Making the Bend," and Cyrille Neville sings on his own "Plareen Man". But it is Benoit's distinctive guitar lines–somehow both supple and hard-edged–and the impeccable elasticity of his regular rhythm section that makes the music work. Most of the material is Benoit's own, although he pays tribute to Louisiana legend Guitar Slim with a take on the classic "Sufferin' Mind" and dips into the Howlin' Wolf songbook for a rendition of "Howlin' for My Darling".
The final recording of the mighty Queen of Salsa's career, Regalo del Alma was certainly in keeping with the exuberant, joyful tone that her enormous fan base has come to expect from her. With stylistic influences and production value a bit more modern than one might expect from a legend whose recording career has spanned 45 years, this album will hook yet another generation on Celia Cruz's regal, earthy presence. Cruz is joined by a cast of consummate professionals including producer Sergio George, percussionists Marc Quiñones and Luis Quintero, and many of the usual suspects that one might expect to find on a record of this caliber. These contemporary masters bring a freshness to the project that is invigorating.
Since The Big Chill, too often directors and film producers have taken the easy way out in creating soundtracks for their big-budget Hollywood movies by licensing a couple handfuls of hits either from the catalog of yesteryear's pop giants or from hungry up-and-comers. It's a formula almost. Thankfully there are still film scores, though they all seem to be written by the same five men. Both of these poles sees to lie in stark contrast to Robert Rodriguez's approach to creating an audio environment both to accompany and stand apart from his films. On Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Rodriquez took matters into his own hands and procured a series of rather obscure existing tracks that viscerally underscore defined themes in his movie – such as Juno Reactor's "Pistolero," Brian Setzer's ass-kicking "Malagueña," and Manu Chao's "Me Gustas Tu." He also commissioned several tracks to actors and wrote others for his players. Thus Tito Larriva's haunting "Flor de Mal," or Johnny Depp and friends under the moniker Tonto's Giant Nuts offer "Sands Theme," while Rubén Blades and Antonio Banderas helped to flesh out their own character's themes musically as well as dramatically.