Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
Music From the Motion Picture
DMZ / Columbia / Sony Music Soundtrax
T Bone Burnett is on a roll. At this writing, his O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack is still nestled comfortably in Billboard’s Top 20 in spite of the fact that it’s been well over a year since its release. Due to its success, Ralph Stanley can now drive a Jaguar and Columbia/Sony has given Burnett his own label to play with. If Burnett comes anywhere close to replicating O Brother‘s success with just one of every four or five recordings he releases, he’ll have more than earned his keep.
This collection is not unlike the O Brother soundtrack. It gives a taste of a regional culture, but it’s not totally pure. Given the Louisiana setting of the movie, one would expect a bit more color and sweat. This recording delivers both.
This is a mix of old and new, blues and jazz, gospel and Cajun — and some cuts that slightly defy categorization.
The omnipresent Taj Mahal provides one of his best offerings in years here and finds him in a zone somewhere between Louis Armstrong and Louis Jordan with the Fats Waller tune “Keepin Out of Mischief Now.” One of the weaker cuts comes from an original offered up by a very phleghmy-sounding Bob Dylan. Alison Krauss also inexplicably shows up with what is actually a fine song, but it’s one that seems a bit out of place here. Maybe if I’d seen the movie, it’d make mores sense.
The rest of these cuts are mostly classics. There’s blues from Jimmy Reed and Slim Harpo, gospel from Mahalia Jackson, and some heavy Cajun flavoring that comes in tolerable doses from Ann Savoy and Blind Uncle Gaspard. Ray Charles is well-represented with his classic asthmatic cover of Doc Pomus’ “Lonely Avenue.” There’s even offerings from Richard and Linda Thompson and Tony Bennett — as well as a new one each from Macy Gray and Lauryn Hill.
I like most all of this collection of songs. What I couldn’t say is that I’d like to hear or would buy a full release by some of these artists. Herein lies the beauty of collections such as this. You get a sampling — enough of the regional flavor to make it satisfying — without getting oversaturated or bored.
I love what Burnett is doing for roots music. I can’t say why so many people are buying some of this stuff and I won’t try to figure it out. It must be the time we are in, because it’s really nothing new, concept-wise. Rick Clarke and Oxford American Magazine has been doing a “Southern Music Sampler” for years that is as every bit as good — and often better than — either this or O Brother. Buy them all. They are all worth every cent and hopefully you’ll to see some very deserving artists get at least some small portion of what they are due.
Columbia Records: http://www.columbiarecords.com/yayasisterhood