La Paquera de Jerez
Cantora/flamenco diva La Paquera de Jerez (Francisca Mendez Garrido) was born in Jerez de la Frontera, Cadiz, in 1934, with Spain on the brink of civil war. Her career started when she was a young girl, singing at parties for the aristocratic set along with legendary cantaoras La Nina de Los Peines and Manolo Caracol. Her accolades include the Premio Nina de los Peines, in the Concurso Nacional de Arte Flamenco in Cordoba (1971), and the Copa de Jerez of the Faculty of Flamencology. La Paquera passed away in 2004, leaving us with a collection of immortal recordings. Her voice is completely powerful and overwhelming on the title "Vamonos, Vamonos," from her 1995 re-release Fandangos y Caracoleros, which is sung with profuse conviction.
Genre: Baladas y Boleros
Artist: La Paquera de Jerez
Song: Vamonos, Vamonos
Album: Fandangos y Caracoleros
Yoshida Brothers are Tsugaru-shamisen (three-string instrument) marvels Ryoichiro and Kenichi Yoshida. Natives of Japan whose artful roots are based in the historic genre of the northern Aomori region. Their sound is 50km above the earth's surface; it's shamisen without boundaries. The Yoshidas play by their own rules, infusing a five-century-old style with Americana, jazz, and indie rock, whilst costumed in ceremonial kimono attire. Their 2005 collection Yoshida Brothers III, produced by Tony Berg, is completely easy to love and adore. Start with the title "Overland Blues" but definitely get the whole album.
Artist: Yoshida Brothers
Song: Overland Blues
Album: Yoshida Brothers III
Eli Young Band
The Eli Young Band is a country quartette founded at the University of North Texas in the late '90s. Members include singer/guitarist Mike Eli, lead guitarist James Young, bassist Jon Jones, and Chris Thompson on drums. Making their bones lugging gear and playing the club scene as much as possible, they eventually caught the attention of doyen/producer Frank Liddell. Their popularity is spreading with wild fervor. The title "When It Rains," from their 2008 release Jet Black & Jealous, is butter and sugar with feel-good harmonies. Currently touring.
Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir
Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir (a.k.a. Bulgarian State Female Vocal Choir) is a transcendent troupe of some of the most beautiful voices on earth, seemingly (if not certainly) from heaven. The sound of them is nothing less than mystical. Founded in the age of Stalin, its mission was to elevate the legacy of Bulgarian folk music and its rich Ottoman/Byzantine imperial heritages. Their first album, the brainchild of producer Marcel Cellier, was released in 1975, at the height of the Cold War. Then in 1989, as communism fell, they won a Grammy for best folk album. They have even collaborated with English nightingale Kate Bush. The title "Kalimankou Denkou" (The Evening Gathering), from the 1989 album Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares, just lives in the upper stratosphere of brilliant.
Artist: Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Vocal Choir
Song: Kalimankou Denkou (The Evening Gathering)
Album: Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares
Jazz saxophonist Sonny Fortune was born Cornelius Fortune in Philadelphia in 1939. The young Fortune started with the soprano sax, later moving on to alto, tenor, and baritone. By the age of 18, he moved to New York City to begin his career. Fortune explains on his website: "In order to find out if you really have what it takes, you have to go to the center, and that's New York ... You can only do so much in your hometown." Collaborations include Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Elvin Jones, Oliver Nelson, George Benson, Nat Adderly, Frank Foster, and Buddy Rich. Fortune also performed as part of the Coltrane Legacy Band in the late '80s. The title "Africa," from the 2000 release In the Spirit of John Coltrane, is potent and dramatic.
Artist: Sonny Fortune
Album: In the Spirit of John Coltrane
Singer/songwriter (former frontman and co-founder of grunge icon band Tripping Daisy) Tim DeLaughter was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1965. DeLaughter is currently the leader of the very artful/progressive rock band Polyphonic Spree founded in 2000. DeLaughter and Polyphonic Spree together composed and performed the original score for the 2005 film Thumbsucker (with additional songs by Elliott Smith). The title "Acceptance," from the Thumbsucker soundtrack, is a formidable 30-minute think piece.
Artist: Tim DeLaughter
Album: Thumbsucker Soundtrack