Familiar yet exotic
Reviewed September 2009
By the Guy Mendilow Band
Earthen Groove: 2008
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
The Guy Mendilow Band plays world music using traditional and exotic instruments, both instrumental and vocal (primarily in the Judaeo-Spanish Ladino dialect). The jaw harp is prominent in the arrangements, as is the one-string berimbau and electric mbira, a small African harp-like instrument. Mendilow plays berimbau and does overtone singing on several instrumental cuts, acheiving a droning, almost electronic flavor that is very interesting, and the other tracks incorporate more familiar instrumentation very effectively, including classical guitar, violin, sax, and many others. The vocals by Mendilow and Shannon Lambert-Ryan are just right.
For "Experiment," it is the overtone singing, with jaw harp, that blend with berimbau to hum up and down an a scale of notes from somewhere unfamiliar; it is unusual and captures the listener. Back to a more traditional form is "Rain, Rain, Rain, Beautiful Rain," which features the two singers in their only English song singing in lilting harmonies. After "Sala'am," a lively Hebrew song about peace dominated by Cajun accordion comes "Durme, Durme," a slow, sad ballad in Ladino with Lambert-Ryan on lead vocal and a poignant clarinet solo. A similar approach on the mid-tempo "Depois Que O Ile Passar" clicks as well. "Ishmael" is sung in a Turkish dialect by Mendilow, with the buzz of the berimbau blending with violin and alto sax scales for a Mid-East feel.
"Whistler’s Brother" is an instrumental that mixes overtone singing, jaw harp, berimbau, mbira and bamboo flute a sort of world music jam that sounds tribal and fresh. Spanish guitar flourishes decorate "La Serena," with Mendilow doing a credible job singing a gypsy melody, while "Blues for Dino" is a world music take on swing jazz, as the violin takes a trip down Stephane Grappelli Boulevard.
"Skyland" is a the kind of music that is outside the mainstream, but very vibrant and entertaining. Mendilow is a multi-faceted talent and the band is uniformly excellent.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.