Hit sounds for a new millennium
Reviewed May 2005
By Charming Hostess
Tzadik Records: 2004
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
These sounds bubble with life, thumbing a nose, sonically, at tragic events. Here's a fictional scenario that will give you an idea of what to expect: a girl group follows Phil Spector into the recording studio but gets fed up with the Svengali crap real quick. So they fire him and make the record they want to make, blending social consciousness with modern-sounding, infectiously upbeat rhythms.
Charming Hostess is Jewlia Eisenberg (voice, harmonium); Marika Hughs (voice, cello); and Cynthia Taylor (voice). "Sarajevo blues" is based on the writings of Bosnian poet Semezdin Mehmedinovic, spinning a tale of love and resistance and good and evil in a war-torn land. The group's self-description "nerdy-sexy-commie-girly" seems apt, as they mix doo-wop with '60s girl group harmonies, handclaps, sex breath and Zulu jive-like exuberance and anti-war sentiments.
Energetic and ebullient, glowing with life-affirming vibes in harmonies backed by cello, beatbox, oud and bassoon, Charming Hostess isn't your everyday listening experience and where's the adventurous radio programmer when you need her? "Death is a Job," a song about crossing an intersection to avoid a sniper's bullets and running into a war photographer (the monkey with the Nikon), with its dance-beat energy and beautifully assertive vocals, sounds like a hit record for the new millennium to these ears.
And if that, on the computer screen, sounds like it might be a heavy listening experience, bouncing out of the stereo, "Sarajevo Blues" vibrates with a positive energy and forward momentum that affirms us all.
Review by Dan McClenaghan. Dan is a writer living in Oceanside, Calif. Read his biography on his AllAboutJazz.com page.