Here’s a look at what’s new, and recommended, on CD:
Townes Van Zandt
Texas singer and songwriter Townes Van Zandt never got the respect he deserved during his life. Several better-known artists had massive hits with his tunes, most notably Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s chart-topping rendition of Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty.”
Perhaps the singer’s dry wit and downbeat subject matter put people off, but for those who appreciate bleak poetry, Van Zandt’s songs will be a revelation.
The Fat Possum label has the rights to Van Zandt’s catalog and will be reissuing his early albums.
“Townes Van Zandt” includes three classic songs from Van Zandt’s debut “For the Sake of the Song” — the title track, “Waiting Around to Die” and “I’ll Be Here in the Morning.” The understated production keeps attention on Van Zandt’s weary vocals and minimal picking. The album also includes seven more classics including “(Quicksilver Dreams of) Maria” and “None But the Rain.”
“Flyin’ Shoes” is another strong collection. “No Place to Fall” sports one of his best melodies, and the title track is one of the sweetest odes to suicide ever recorded.
Local folk duo Willow Willow — Miranda Zeiger and Jessica Vohs — have built a buzz over the last few years showing off their close harmony singing and strong songwriting.
Their eponymous debut, on the local Mod Lang label, is faintly British, gently moody and lushly romantic. The two have been harmonizing since they met in grammar school; their effortless harmonies have an aching, crystalline purity.
The tunes include the touching pop heartbreak of “Stuck in Time,” the breathless celebration of “I Feel Love” and “Lovely Hours,” a piece that brings to mind a British folk dance with its interplay of bright acoustic guitars and delirious harpsichord.
Willow Willow play the Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk St., San Francisco, at 8 p.m. July 6.
Nigeria’s Femi Kuti follows in the Afro-beat footsteps of his father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, with his band, The Positive Force.
Femi blends traditional Nigerian drum patterns, the smooth groove of highlife and a horn section that re-Africanizes James Brown’s stuttering funk with the American soul and R&B Nigerians love.
He also drops hip-hop and Arabic music into the mix to realize his global vision. His CDs aren’t widely available in the United States, but representative tracks of his first three albums are highlighted on “The Definitive Collection” on the British Wrasse label.
Femi and The Positive Force will play The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, at 9 p.m. July 21.
What new music are you enjoying this summer?
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