Friday, March 30, 2007

TERRELL'S TUNEUP: ROUND MOUNTAIN, ANGEL, ROMANOVSKY

A version of this was published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
March 30, 2007


Here are some recent CDs by folks from around these parts:
* Truth and Darkness by Round Mountain. The brothers Rothschild show that Round Mountain’s strange and wonderful self-titled first album was no fluke.

The first notable musical project by Char and Robby Rothschild was the band Lizard House, a local favorite back in the early ’90s. In 2004 the brothers regrouped as Round Mountain, playing a whole museum exhibit’s worth of musical instruments from around the world — stringed instruments, horns, percussion.

On the new album the brothers, joined by veteran Santa Fe bassist Jon Gagan, continue mixing all sorts of sounds. You’ll hear traces of reggae, bluegrass, Balkan, and African music and other subtle influences you probably won’t consciously recognize.

Sometimes you don’t even realize that a song is taking off into different realms. “I Won’t Lose Sight of You,” for instance, starts out as a banjo tune, but before you know it, a saz (a Turkish lute) joins in. And there’s some Middle Eastern drumming by Robby. And some kind of flute.

The title song starts off with a sweet bagpipe-like drone (Celtic? Balkan? I dunno) before going into a melody that reminds me of something hippie/hobo Michael Hurley might have written.

As with the first album, songs are mostly somber and meditative, a mood that Round Mountain does well. Sometimes I wish the band would cut loose with a good, crazy stomper. (They come close with the reggae-fried “Candle in the Willow Tree.”)

The CD-release parties for Truth and Darkness are 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 30, and 4:30 p.m. Saturday, March 31, at the Armory for the Arts, 1950 Old Pecos Trail. Tickets are $10. For more information, call 984-1370.

* Amor, Dolor y Pasión by Angel Espinoza. This is how I like Angel best — nice and traditional. The music brings back memories of listening to Spanish-language radio as a kid, not understanding most of the words (my Spanish is still pretty bad) but being completely taken in by the seductive rhythms and the exotic, yet familiar, sounds.

This album — recorded in Mexico and San Antonio — has a real old-fashioned feel. Angel is backed here by instruments that include a prominent accordion (Rudy Cortez and Alex De Leon share the honors here), bajo sexto (a 12-string guitar), and horns and strings on some songs like “Pues a Poco No” and “Si Quieres.”

Angel’s voice is the centerpiece, as well it should be. (She won female vocalist of the year at the New Mexico Hispano Music Awards in January.)

Checking out Angel’s Web site, I see she has recorded a song for Gov. Bill Richardson. It’s more country western than norteño (there’s a steel guitar, and it’s in English). While not quite as cool as the one she did for Río Arriba political boss Emilio Naranjo a few years ago, it’s worth hearing. Find it

* It’s a Boy! A Circus Opera composed by Ron Romanovsky & Betty Katz Sperlich and Pittsburgh to Paris by Ron Romanovsky.

OK, I’ve always been a sucker for circus operas. True, that tag sounds a little crazy, but it’s a pretty apt description of the performance piece It’s a Boy! It was recorded live at Santa Fe Playhouse in 2005.

It’s operatic in that there are dramatic roles sung by various local musicians (Busy McCarroll, Peter Williams, Greg Harris, Nacha Mendez, and Charles Tichenor). And the music — provided by Romanovsky on accordion and guitar, Elena Sopoci on violin and viola, and Williams on electric guitar and string bass — sounds like a stripped-down circus band.

The subject matter is bound to make male listeners squirm. It’s basically a propaganda piece against circumcision. It’s handled with humor, however, with songs like “Cleaner Wiener” and “Locker Room Blues.”

And the music is a real treat. Romanovsky and Sopoci bring elements of French sidewalk café and Gypsy music into their circus sound, while Williams sounds like a monster when he comes in with his electric guitar.

Romanovsky is one of this town’s most interesting musicians. He’s got a Russian name, but he plays French music in New Mexico.

My favorite songs on the solo record are the French/Gypsy-flavored ones. (The instrumental “Birth Theme” from It’s a Boy! is on this CD, too.) Though there’s nothing wrong with Romanovsky’s voice, the best songs here are instrumentals — “Fellini’s Caravan” (which also is on his Je m’appelle Dadou album) and “Gypsy Hop.”

But I do appreciate Romanovsky’s humor. “Burro Alley Tango” is about finding a little piece of Paris in downtown Santa Fe, namely Café Paris, where Romanovsky entertained regularly for six years (“You will not find one single burro/ But you’ll find music and romance”).

In “The Gay in Paree” Romanovsky sings about feeling “butch” every time he goes to France even though he was taunted as a “sissy” as a lad (“I’m confused/I don’t know what to cruise”). He even pays tribute to KBAC-FM 98.1 radio personality Honey Harris with “Honey in the Morning.”

You can find these albums on CD Baby at HERE and HERE.

Ron Romanovsky is having a CD release party 8 pm Saturday at The Silver Starlight Lounge, Rainbow Vision at 500 Rodeo Road. Tickets are $10 at the door. For more information call 428-7781

Flash Flood: This is shaping up to be a great weekend for local bands. In addition to the Round Mountain and Romanovsky shows, Hundred Year Flood — a band we have to share with Austin, Texas — is returning to Santa Fe Friday, March 30, for a gig at Santa Fe Brewing Company. Goshen opens the show, which starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.HUNDRED YEAR FLOOD 7-1-06

If you can’t make that, Hundred Year Flood also is appearing at the Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 31.

According to John Treadwell of Frogville Records, the Flood is going back to Texas until June after these gigs. Treadwell said he’s thinking of holding the annual Frogfest in June this year instead of August. Last year’s fest at the Brewing Company was a fantastic exposition of (mainly) local musicians, though it was criminally underattended. A lot of people whine that there’s no local music scene. If half of them had showed up, the joint would have been packed.

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