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Putumayo Presents Blues Around the World

Released on Putumayo World Music, 7/25/06

Dan Storper and the folks at Putumayo World Music must be proud of the earnest legacy they have built over the last thirteen years. With more than seventy mostly "upbeat and melodic compilations" to its name, Putumayo has carved out a yuppified world music niche and has been instrumental in bringing the much needed sound of the kanun (a traditional Turkish instrument) to dorm rooms everywhere. Putumayo compilations sell because Putumayo the brand has earned respect for consistently delivering quality music in attractive packaging for a specific demographic.

Putumayo’s latest release, Blues Around the World, takes America’s most unique art form (sorry, Jazz) and follows its progress as it travels from Brazil to Spain and to Ireland with a final touchdown in the good ole U.S.A. The diverse collection of artists on display here include The Unsean Guest, a group led by an Irish and Indian musician, Long-Ge from Thailand, American blues great Otis Spann, and the Greenwich Village folk icons Maria Muldaur, Rory Block and Eric Bibb.

The point of the compilation is to show how musicians in other cultures have been inspired by, and consequently interpreted "The Blues" and the results are impressive. Between the standard 12-barre song progressions we get a snippet of mandolin here, a lyric in Spanish there and the quaint attempts of less troubled voices taking a walk in Robert Johnson’s shoes. Of the eleven tracks there isn’t a dud in the bunch, although the listening process of jumping from "the Cuban one" to "the Tuareg one" can be slightly off-putting compared to the uniformity of most blues releases. Blues Around the World probably makes for great background music at Putumayo shops around the world, however.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars