Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Umalali: The Garifuna Women's Project [Cumbancha, 2008]
This collection belongs first of all to the Garifuna women Cumbancha's Jacob Edgar calls "the true caretakers of Garifuna songs"--Sofia Blanco, whose piercing sweetness leads two of the dozen tracks and whose daughter Silvia takes two others; powerhouse Chela Torres; Julia Nuņez succeeding her ailing mother with a brief threnody for her murdered son. But it also belongs to Ivan Duran, who spent years collecting material in the field and then brought singers into his studio 50 miles or much more inland from the Caribbean coastal areas that are home to Afro-Carib Garifuna communities all the way down to Nicaragua. Adding guitar parts and finding vocal arrangements, eliciting a solo from a local Hendrix, hooking up with Fatboy Slim only not so's you can tell, Duran never cheapens the material. Instead he achieves the misbegotten world-music dream of rendering the folkloric "accessible." Alan Lomax should have been so canny. A-