Jo-EL Sonnier – The Legacy

Jo-EL Sonnier – The Legacy
Takau Records
To say that music is universal is not cliche. If you have any doubts about that statement, give a listen to “The Legacy” by Jo-EL Sonnier. All the lyrics on this Grammy winning CD are in French, but you do not need to be fluent or parlay any Francois to understand where the legendary “King of Cajun music” is coming from. Sonnier’s talents are immense, as anyone who knows Cajun music can attest to, as will the numerous country and pop performers whose songs have included his mastery of the accordion. You can feel the emotions he puts into each song, whether you speak the language or not.  “Les Blues D’Ennui” translated to “Boredom Blues” will alleviate that affliction if you are experiencing it with its snappy rhythm. “Si J’ai Pas Toi”, (“If I Don’t Have You”) has a subtle pop rock groove with pained vocal works that harken the lamenting of a lost love. “Mama’s Two Step” – the only English titled,  song feels fun and fresh. Sometimes Cajun music can get repetitive and sound to similar to other artists, but Sonnier has a knack for tossing in varied and tasty songwriting morsels in just the right spots and striving to do things just a bit differently while keeping the ethnic vibe intact. So, yes, his music is universal – his language is roots, talent, and passion. If you can’t speak that particular language yourself, you can certainly enjoy this particular interpretation. – MW
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Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst – Sometimes Jesse James

Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst – Sometimes Jesse James
Silent City Records
When I heard the first notes of “Down”, the lead track on the latest from  So-Cal’s Steven Casper, my first reaction was “Tom Petty lives!” High praise from me, but not hyperbolic and while I do feel the ghost of Mr. Petty wafting around Steven’s music, his own personality shines through and he is by no means a clone. It feels mostly like heartland or Americana, but the tendrils of blues, country, and other styles writhe around the songs subtly, giving them both depth, but also a comforting familiarity. His sharp wit and intelligence shine through in the lyrics – check out the words fueling the twisted folk of “Wrecking Ball” if you need proof. Unafraid to try everything, Steven ends the CD with the Spanish flavored instrumental “Mi Sueno, Mi Dolor” – translation, “My Dream, My Pain.” His pain and dream is the listener’s music delight. The Petty comparison goes a bit beyond his similar sounding voice, for Steven Casper is a pure songwriter. And even though there are only six songs on this CD, you will savor them over and over again. – MW
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Bonsai Universe – Moonstreams

Bonsai Universe – Moonstreams
I cannot quite put my finger on what to make of this musical project by journeyman vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Woody Aplanalp…and perhaps that is why his music is so intriguing. I am not going to come up with one of those “cross so and so with so and so” references, although I do hear a subtle Bowie influence. I would include it in the progressive realm, and, no, that does not mean it sounds like Yes or Dream Theater; it is because it is so intoxicatingly different. There are lush, ethereal keyboard landscapes in abundance, but there are also folksy acoustic guitar passages and avant garde, but hooky pop passages. Woody has an undeniably catchy voice and a quirky sense for lyric writing, putting an extra dose of intrigue into even the most generic subject matter. This probably will not be for everyone, but I don’t think he created it for everyone either. Rather, if you respect solid songwriting talents that have zero qualms about creating different but captivating, then strap yourself in for this ride. – MW
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