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Corey Harris
DAILY BREAD
(Rounder)
Stars graphics

Harris may have seemed like a kind of blues Marcus Garvey in Martin Scorsese’s PBS-TV series about the genre and on his subsequent album Mississippi to Mali, a collection of field recordings with African and African-American roots players. But his return to the studio is also a return to his usual form: daring and innovative. At his core Harris is a fusionist, a torchbearer of virtually every style of great black music, from country blues to jug bands to reggae to jazz to hi-life to Caribbean island folk to rock and roll, and he makes them all serve his songs. It’s ground he shares with Olu Dara, the jazz trumpeter turned urban griot, so no surprise that Dara turns up here on two tracks. He’s most effective as the voice of "Mami Wata," speaking about the universality of water — or is it the commonality of man? — over Harris’s urgent juju guitar licks and a pattering drum kit. "Lamb’s Bread" is stone reggae, though Dara’s horn lines and Harris’s brief outbursts of clean-toned, jazzy guitar take it elsewhere. Harris even makes like What’s Goin’ On–era Marvin Gaye on the protest "Just in Time," right down to the flute, which is made of bamboo. And the closing ska-powered "The Bush Is Burning" raps George W. Bush’s underhanded war in Iraq and questions the president’s regressive domestic policies, spinning the lines "Play cards with the devil/Beware the hidden hand/You know the devil don’t sleep/He got a master plan" and tossing off a guitar solo to match.

BY TED DROZDOWSKI


Issue Date: June 10 - 16, 2005
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