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“Ska” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. Founded in Jamaica, the reggae forebear with sharp rhythmic accents on the upbeat is, in its traditional form, awash in Caribbean atmosphere. Over the years, ska has been shaped and molded into a wide range of things, melding with punk and metal in America at varying times over the past three decades. Mojo Daddyo calls ska one of their influences, though it’s hard to make too concrete a connection on much of the band’s most recent EP release.

The “roots music” label seems a more fitting descriptive, especially on the opening track of From Out of the Big Blue. “That’s What Love’s All About” is so roots rock, its crunchy riffs eventually lead to an outro lifted straight from “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. When “Never Saw Her Coming” does the same thing (minus the renowned “woo-woo” vocals), it’s clear this is where Mojo Daddyo’s comfort zone most probably lies.

“That’s the Breaks” is, at its core, more ska-influenced, though the instrumental track soon spills over into jam-band noodling. It’s like the Isle of Wight’s Band of Bees, and that’s actually pretty good territory to be in.

Whether it would have covered more ground as a full-length album is unclear, but it’s best to appreciate From Out of the Big Blue for what it is: an amiable, accomplished collection of classic rock, the sort of thing that might sound perfect winding through the Catskill Mountains on the first true day of spring. It also sounds like music meant to be heard live. —Crispin Kott


Sometimes a band’s name makes no sense, a seemingly random assemblage of words perhaps designed to add an air of mystery. Fortunately, you know exactly what you’re getting with the Acoustic Medicine Show, a traditional, old-timey group with guitars, mandolins, violins and harmonies as good as you’re likely to hear this year or any other.

A group in the true sense, the Acoustic Medicine Show is at its strongest when the entire band plays and sings together. But don’t let that statement imply there aren’t moments of singular beauty, such as Bob Cage’s splendid violin solo on “Noth’n on Me.” Joe Tobin, who sings lead and plays guitar, is a standout by virtue of his songwriting, heard throughout the album’s ten tracks.

According to their own slightly awkward description, the Acoustic Medicine Show is a “progressive mountainfolkgrass” group, which, at least in the case of the second part, makes perfect sense. As for the first, there’s really nothing progressive happening here. The Acoustic Medicine Show is one scratchy and distant production number from being as genuine a representation of music from a bygone era as it’s possible to get, without building a time machine and putting up with polio and smallpox and no iPods. This is, of course, a very good thing, as the Acoustic Medicine Show continually demonstrates.

“Set Me Free” is a haunting, gently plucked and solemn number, while “Travelin’ Medicine Show” is one of the modern era’s finest first-person musical biographies this side of a Kanye West album.

The Acoustic Medicine Show is worth seeking out for anyone who enjoys any part of the mountainfolkgrass equation. —Crispin Kott


Bob Gluck is an accomplished jazz pianist, and even if I hadn’t read that in the New York Times, I’d have figured it out all on my own. Within the first minute of the first track on his new album Gluck’s fingers are doing the sort of walking the Yellow Pages can only dream about. Gluck himself could probably tell you just how accomplished he is, especially as he teaches jazz studies and directs the electronic music studio at SUNY Albany. But better still; hear it for yourself on his new album.

Something Quiet is as advertised, a collection of thoughtful, generally quiet jazz numbers. Performed with Joe Giardullo on soprano saxophone and Christopher Dean Sullivan on drums, Gluck’s latest recalls a time when contemplative jazz was still new, when Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane were making waves.

With the exception of a transcendent cover of Herbie Hancock’s “Dolphin Dance,” Something Quiet contains all-original compositions by Gluck. But while the songs themselves are terrific, it’s through the understated and tasteful group interplay where they really come to life. Witness “October Song,” which opens with all three performers entwined before Gluck’s aggressive piano leads them away from their mutual reverie. Heady stuff, indeed.

Something Quiet isn’t always quiet, of course. But it is always wonderful, an honest-to-goodness acoustic jazz album that can stand alongside your favorites from any era. —Crispin Kott

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