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Reviewed this week: Mawwal, Black Francis, and Greg Guitarska

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Mawwal
High Hills in the Creaving Road
(Ancient)

On High Hills in the Creaving Road, Mawwal's music is a fusion of sound that is enchanting and transporting. This is an album you can enjoy as dance music or as atmosphere on a winter night. It is the heartfelt vocals that draw you in. "Mustt Musst" features Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan in an uplifting track that blends folk sounds with hypnotic poetry. The album is rich and dark, and, like chocolate, is best taken in small bits rather than all at once. The only major drawback may be the English lyrics, which can sometimes be a little heavy, though they lend a desirable gravity to tracks like "No Finer Men Than We." Drawing inspiration from all over the world, but especially the Near East, Mawwal blends sounds as diverse as trumpet and tabla and somehow makes it work. High Hills in the Creaving Road makes ancient sounds remarkably fresh. —Kathleen Broadhurst

*

Black Francis
Live in Nijmegen
(The Bureau)

My favorite concert in a long time was the last show held at the much-missed Pleasant Street Theater in Northampton this summer. Though it was a cinema, owner Bob Lawton elected to end things with a burst of reverb, with performances by Lawton, Jim Armenti and Kristen Hersh. The evening was headlined by new Valley resident Black Francis. With area musician Jeremy Dubs on drums, Francis managed to be somehow concurrently laidback and completely rocking, performing a wildly eclectic set and annotating it heavily with stories from his days as a UMass undergrad. While that show may not ever be released, this summer Francis issued "Live in Nijmegen," a recent concert with much of the same material. Like the show at home, the new album is an impressive demonstration of the heavy lifting he's capable of with his well-toned rock and roll muscle. —Mark Roessler

*

Greg Guitarska
Cold Cold Day
(independent)

Greg "Guitarska" Garstka offers a take-it-or-leave-it proposition from the first chaotic strains of Cold Cold Day. A massive, roaring mish-mash of unidentifiable sounds (guitar? Screaming?) blasts casual listeners dizzyingly away from the speakers. Then Gartska establishes his territory in short order with a blizzard of madly precise guitar playing of the sort only properly called "shredding." His is an old-school aesthetic, a tangle of mostly high-register, heavily distorted yelps and wails. The songs aren't the stuff of innovative construction—the second track, for instance, is a cover of The Doors' "Roadhouse Blues" that steers that classic into guitar strutting and belted vocals. Garstka is clearly a devotee of big guitar sounds and heavily saturated, over-the-top leads. Though triangulation is often tantamount to criminally short-sighted review, it's hard not to point out that fans of Joe Bonamassa and Carlos Santana will likely find much to love here. What's perhaps most impressive is the full-on nature of this recording. If guitar wailing is your bag, Garstka fills that bag to bursting. —James Heflin

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