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Reviews of CDs by The Ululating Mummies, Two Dollar Pistols with Tift Merritt and Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings

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The Ululating Mummies, "We Are Not Dead" (Planetary) — The Mummies second full-length CD is a rich helping of mesmerizing minor keys and joyous danceable musical derring-do. As live shows have attested for more than a decade, this six-member band combines the modal and the melodious in unexpected and refreshing ways to create a rhythmical riot. Recorded at Richmond's Urban Geek studios, "Dead" intimately captures the Mummies' mysteriously mighty sound. To say the 12 songs on the CD are "original compositions" almost gives short shrift to the project. Mixing the moods of accordion, sax, clarinet, guitars, bass and keyboards with humor and love, the band produces a sound that bobs and weaves its way into the soul. Each tune somehow strikes a familiar chord deep inside, but the overall effect leaves a listener in wonder at both the newness and origin of these creations. Tight and carefully arranged, yet retaining a refreshing spontaneity, The Ululating Mummies make tribal music for the universe unlike any you've heard before.

Ames Arnold

"Two Dollar Pistols with Tift Merritt," (Yep Roc) — This seven-song EP featuring the finely entwined country vocals of North Carolina-based John Howie Jr. and Tift Merritt easily transcends the efforts of many twangsters and alternative country bands around today.

Backed solidly and unobtrusively by Howie's Two Dollar Pistols, this twosome conveys its originals and covers with real soul and an honest appreciation of country music and its duet tradition. Whether covering Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton's "Just Someone I Used to Know" or singing their own worthy composition "If Only You Were Mine," this duo shines. Merritt's fragile yet powerful soprano harmonies wrap effortlessly around Howie's deep baritone to fashion an end product that's timeless. "…With Tift Merritt" is highly recommended to fans of country duet singing, whether your favorites are George Jones and Tammy Wynette or Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. May this release signal the beginning of a long and prosperous musical adventure.

Ames Arnold

"Chicago Rhythm and Blues Kings" (Blind Pig) — This six-piece band played a tight and funky show at Jumpin' this past summer, and its recently released self-titled CD accurately captures the group's horn-driven party groove. Led by Terry Ogolini on sax and Don Tenuto on trumpet, the Kings swing behind the huge vocals of Ernie Peniston. If there's not too much to ponder lyrically here there's plenty to consider in the music and arrangements. Produced and co-written by Gene "Daddy G" Barge — former Chess Records arranger and a sax legend in his own right with playing credits on recordings by Gary (U.S.) Bonds and Koko Taylor — this 11-cut set rocks throughout with classy horn riffs and a deeply locked-down rhythm section. The core of the band has been together for nearly two decades formerly backing up the late vocalist Big Twist, and this recording aptly showcases these years of playing experience.

Ames Arnold

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