Ry Cooder has plucked another member of the Buena Vista Social Club for a round of Cuban exotica. This time, it's a saucy guitar summit between Cooder and the country's twang king Manuel Galban. The two imagined themselves as leaders of an electric guitar band that would reinterpret a golden age of Cuban music in the 1950s, when influences like jazz and the forward-thinking compositions of Perez Prado tempered folk music's traditionalism. They rounded out the basic personnel with two trap drummers, congas and bass, and launched into a project that manages to be at once quaint, timeless and otherworldly. Start with the rhythms: While basically Afro-Cuban in nature, they saunter, creep and undulate -- antithetical, in many respects, to the hyperkinetic grooves of modern salsa. As for the guitars, Mambo Sinuendo is not a chops showcase. The ensemble work, as well as the solos, are built around a lovely twang, with thick, shimmering tones and lots of echo. With its swooning melodies, this is music with an easy sense of flow and the coy flavor of old-style romance. (Eric Snider)
Get Rich Or Die Tryin'
50 Cent, the latest artist to be afforded popular, even saturation-level stardom despite the fact most people haven't ever heard him rap a single line, has a lot of "splainin to do on his big-label debut. Variously, he must prove that his street credentials are no joke (as you've no doubt heard by now, 50's been shot before, which, by itself, means bupkis about the music, but it's good copy), that his rhyme skills are tight (test passed), and that his penis and gun and rap sheet are the longest in the rap game (a pissing match way too close to call). As a complete effort, it's lacking. On too many cuts, 50's rap style sometimes sounds less like laid-back and more like disinterested, and that emotion (or lack thereof) is too often passed on to the listener. Of course, as part of the package, you get a handful of cuts produced by none other than the rap Orson Welles -- Dr. Dre -- and a few red-ass cameos by Eminem, who signed "Fi-ty" in the first place. Also included in the packaging is his original street-single "Wanksta," a couple of other bonus cuts, and a full DVD package. All that said, he's still much more interesting than most of the major label gangsta-action-figure "artists" currently getting four and five mics in The Source. (Timothy C. Davis)
Bob Log III
His noggin crammed into a crash helmet, singing into its built-in telephone headset, feet working a bastard drum rig, hands furiously attacking a slide guitar, Bob Log III is a one-man band of a different stripe. At first blush, Log looks to be coppin' JSBX, but on further review it quickly becomes apparent that this Tucson wacko has some real blues in his blood. In fact, he's far closer to the droney, Mississippi sounds of labelmates like R.L. Burnside and T-Model Ford than some faux New York gutbucket. Log Bomb sounds like it was recorded on mini-cassette in a bus station bathroom -- well, not that bad. But lo-fi, definitely lo-fi. Log yelps a bunch of nonsensical shit ("boob Scotch on the rocks") and a lot of times you just wish he'd shut his yapper. But he can sure produce one hellaciously grimy racket scraping his slide across the strings, all fuzz and distortion and overtones, boogie-in' to stay one step ahead of Beelzebub. After a while, the whole deal gets too buzzy and manic and stupid, but it's pretty breathtaking for as long as you can take it. Incidentally, Log will be performing Wednesday, March 19, at Fat City. (Eric Snider)
Busted Wings And Rusted Halos
Canadian quartet Somehow Hollow served as something of a farm team for well-known, idiosyncratic metalcore outfit Grade; as Grade slowly fell apart, every member of Somehow Hollow was eventually brought in to fill the holes. But after that outfit's last gasp this past summer, SH refocused on their own brand of melodic hardcore, culminating in a deal with Victory for their second release. Busted Wings shares a certain inventive, metallic type of riffage with Grade's best work (largely due to SH guitarist Brad Casarin), but overall, the band offers little to distinguish itself from any number of acts treading emo's jagged, heavier edge. On the plus side, there's definitely an energy there, and the guitars are nice and gnashing; the vocals and songwriting, however, come off as little better than cookie-cutter. (Scott Harrell)