By Reed Fischer
By Anna Gulbrandsen
By Jeff Gage
By Stacy Schwartz
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By Erik Thompson
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By Loren Green
Thanks to this month's release of his long-awaited La Radiolina, Manu Chao is currently the world-music synthesist everyone's talking about. But Virginia-based bluesman Corey Harris deserves notice, too: On his new Zion Crossroads, Harris tries his hand at reggae with production support from Michael Goldwasser, the mastermind behind the Dub Side of the Moon and Radiodread albums. The resulting grooves are deep enough to satisfy reggae diehards, yet Harris (whose excellent 2003 LP, Mississippi to Mali, transported the blues back to West Africa) isn't content simply to show he's as comfy in Jamaica as in Jackson. These tunes—replete with Sunday-morning church organ, R&B backing vocals, and killer African lute riffs—are as proudly polyglot as Chao's stuff.
Like Chao, a social conscience no matter the genre he's working in, Harris tends toward the inelegant in his lyrics here: "Working in a sweatshop, it's not fair," he observes in "Sweatshop," while in "Plantation Town" he wonders, "How many poor people have to die for every fat belly that's full of food?" But you get the sense that Harris believes prettying up such unpretty matters might constitute a case of social dishonesty—a creative crime far worse than missed notes or draggy beats.
Corey Harris performs Saturday, September 8, at Whiskey Bones Roadhouse in Rochester; 507.287.8017COREY HARRIS performs SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, at Whiskey Bones Roadhouse
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