Funks Grove’s Albuminium Blue

cover, Albuminium BlueChuck Lipsig wrote this review.

In checking back to see what I thought about Funks Grove when I reviewed their EP last May, I find that I wrote: “And here’s one more damn fine folk- based band out of the Twin Cities area.” I’ll stand by that. I also wrote: “Funks Grove is a little bit of everything — a bit of folk, blues, funk, new age, techno-dance, and probably some other genre of music I’ve missed,” which, except for the bit about “techno-dance,” also still works for me.

I figure it’s fair enough for me to borrow a few lines from the earlier review, as three of the tracks on Albuminium Blue were taken unchanged (or so unchanged as to make little difference) from The EP. This is no problem, as all three are fine tracks. This is especially true of “Full Moon a.m.” (nee “Full Moon Morning”), which is kind an anti-lullaby — a gentle song with a touch of fairy-tale imagery that encourages moving from sleep to wakeful activity.

Another refugee from the The EP is “Where There’s Smoke.” However, while on The EP the “Soda Style Mix” had gratingly overdone electronics, this version is one of the finest tracks of music I’ve heard this year. Lojo Russo sings with the smoldering style the title demands and is remarkably backed with excellent backup singing — especially by Dayna Jean Wolter — as well as hot guitar and bass playing. Whoever put together this arrangement also deserves his or her share of praise.

The rest of the CD is a little more hit-and-miss. “Players” forms the heart of the CD, as the lead track with a reprise in the next-to-last track and another reprise as a hidden bonus in the last track. It’s definitely a good enough folk-jazz piece to stand up to repeated playing. “Jasmine Wind” is a song on the musings one does in a coffee-house or out in the countryside, a piece that feels just right. It strikes me that “Jasmine Wind” would be a better name for a teahouse than a coffee-house, but why carp? The final track, a straightforward a cappella version of Stan Rogers’ “Northwest Passage” doesn’t measure up to the original, but I doubt anyone could. However, this is a solid enough entry for second-best.

I hesitate to put “Corde Vox (Heart’s Voice)” in the miss category. I’ve a feeling that this song, written for The American Cancer Society, will mean a lot to the sisterhood of cancer survivors. However, it just didn’t do anything for me. “Here & Now” crosses over into the hackneyed with its “I don’t mind if it’s raining,” lyrics and just doesn’t have the music to make it something special.

Taken as a whole, however, Albuminium Blue is a fine CD. Lojo Russo’s smoky singing sets the tone and the band, especially, Eric Penrotty’s penny whistle playing, more than hold up their end. Borrowing one more time from my review of The EP — since it’s just as correct for Albuminium Blue — “for solid, smoky folk-blues, this is one great group.”

(l’j’rdemain music company, 2000)

Gary Whitehouse

A fifth-generation Oregonian, Gary is a retired journalist and government communicator. Since the 1990s he has been covering music, books, food & drink and occasionally films, blogs and podcasts for Green Man Review. His main literary interests for GMR are science fiction, music lore, and food & cooking. A lifelong lover of music, his interests are wide ranging and include folk, folk rock, jazz, Americana, classic country, and roots based music from all over the world. He also enjoys dogs, birding, cooking, craft beer, and coffee.

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