Thursday, July 19, 2018

Appalatin: “Vida” (2018) CD Review

As the country continues to sink farther into the mire and people become desperate for this ugliness to end, a lot of us look to music to bring us together, to give us a sense of community and lift our spirits. And that is exactly what Appalatin does on the group’s new release, Vida. In fact, the band seems designed to do just that, as it mixes Latin sounds and Appalachian folk sounds, and in such a way to get folks on their feet. The album contains mostly original material, sung in both Spanish and English, as well as a couple of covers. The band is based in Louisville, and is made up of Yani Vozos on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Marlon Obando Solano on guitar and vocals; Fernando Moya on flute and charango; Luis De León on harmonica and percussion; José Oreta on bass; and Steve Sizemore on percussion. Joining them on this release are Carla Gover on vocals and banjo, Gregory Acker on flute, Thiago Wojtowicz on saxophone, Arebo Bey on trumpet, Michael Cleveland on fiddle, and Aaron Bibelhauser on banjo.

Appalatin kicks things off with “Primavera,” a song with a cheerful, upbeat vibe. You can feel it right away, as there are even hand claps at the beginning of the track. This is a song of celebration, of rebirth, something we can certainly use now. “La gente dice que ha llegado la primavera.” There is some nice percussion, as well as pretty work on flute. The good vibes continue with “Reina De Mi Corazón,” featuring some wonderful work on flute and horns. That moment when the horn rises to take the lead is fantastic. This track also features an excellent vocal performance, and is my personal favorite on this album. Also, the lyrics make me think of my girlfriend. “Voy soñando, voy soñando con las estrellas/Entre ellas, eres la mas bella/Ven bailamos, ven bailamos con toda inspiración/Ven cantemos, ven cantemos con toda el corazón.”

They then mellow things out a bit with the pretty “Vida,” the album’s title track, which feels like light dancing across a field. And the lyrics seem to accept the bad with the good from life, even to love it all. “Vida, vida/Vida, vida/Me abrazas, me hieres, me curas las heridas/Y me arrastras por allí, me haces bien, me haces sufrir.”  This song then develops a nice rhythm, and invites us to join in this great dance. That’s followed by “Pituco,” a wonderful instrumental number, a traditional tune. This music is making me happy, lifting an oppressive weight from around me, even if only for a moment. I love that work on flute, flying over that delicious percussion. The album’s other instrumental track, “Echo,” is a fun, cheerful tune with lots of great work on guitar, charango and harmonica. This is another of my favorites.

“Flow Like A River” is the first of the CD’s tracks to be sung in English. This one is catchy in its own way, though the lyrics might be a bit too direct, the song’s message seeming to drive the song. But still, it is a positive message, and we can’t seem to get enough of that these days. Also, it features more good work on flute. “Sweet Song Of My Soul” is also sung in English and has a sweet vibe, which I appreciate. This feels like a late afternoon song, as you take your loved one’s hand in yours and her eyes sparkle as she turns to you, and there is the promise of another day in those eyes and in the warmth of her touch. It has a beautiful, comforting groove. “Sweet, sweet love of my heart/Dance with me and play your part.” The album concludes with a wonderful bluegrass rendition of “Guantanamera.” I first heard this song during my teens; the Sandpipers’ version was included on a compilation cassette of 1960s folk recordings. This version by Appalatin moves at a good clip, and features some great work on fiddle and banjo, a perfect ending to an excellent album.

CD Track List
  1. Primavera
  2. Reina De Mi Corazón
  3. Vida
  4. Pituco
  5. Flow Like A River
  6. Vos Me Das
  7. Sweet Song Of My Soul
  8. Echo
  9. Moliendo Café
  10. Guantanamera
Vida is scheduled to be released on July 20, 2018.

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