Go to Homepage   Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood: An Old/New Dynamic

  Crescent Blues Movie Views

Sony (CD-ROM), ASIN B0000658AS
Never mind the movie. Just dig, at first, a soundtrack line up including Bob Dylan, Richard and Linda Thompson, Mahalia Jackson and Taj Mahal. Eclectic to the max, but not too far removed from producer T Bone Burnett's more insular choices for the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.

CD: Divine Secrets of Ya Ya SisterhoodOld/new dynamics highlight song choices. Blind Uncle Gaspard kicks things off with "Assi Dans Le Fenetre de Ma Chambre," a fine Creole/French folk song that would have fit nicely with Uncle Dave Macon and Eck Dunford on The Anthology of American Folk Music. "Drug State" by Vincent and Mr. Green seems to be at first a modern, Beck-like excursion at odds with the seemingly "purer" and older song, with its simple beats and hand-held instrumentation. "Drug State," a great and scary song, scares because it communicates its subject matter so well through its music. "Assi Dans," a great song in its own right, stands also as strange, beautiful and at odds simply because only rarely does anyone hear such lonely and plaintive laments so simply sung.

"The soundtrack loses the old/new dynamic temporarily in the early-middle stretch featuring Ann Savoy. Savoy possesses a lovely and weary voice, but her set, coming one right after the other sounds repetitive and interrupts the established flow. Macy Gray comes in afterwards to put things right with a note-perfect version of the Billie Holiday gem "I Want To Be Your Mother's Son In Law." Gray still projects Holiday's early dusky richness in the low end of her voice, and the fast-flowing smoothness of this superb jazz standard finds its contemporary complement with Taj Mahal's big-band vocal rendition of "Keepin' Out Of Mischief Now."

Jimmy Reed fares better than Ann Savoy as the disc's second centerpiece artist, mainly because his three songs are broken up. They come off as hardy threads in an overall tapestry rather than some separate quilt. He sounds a whole lot like Bob Dylan The Early on "Found Love," a little like Blind Lemon Jefferson on "Little Rain" and a whole lot like nobody else on "Ain't That Lovin' You Baby."

The most striking decade-to-decade dynamic split also spans continents. I never would have selected with "Dimming of the Day" to follow Jimmy Reed and Taj Mahal. The choice transcends considerations of genre in part because it qualifies as the most beautiful love song of the past thirty years, with orchestral/pop hook sense to rival even arranger/composer extraordinaire Randy Newman.

In its desire to establish immediate inter-genre connections, Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood doesn't quite harness the force of personality and wholeness that Burnett alchemized with O Brother Where Art Thou, but then the earlier soundtrack's success came out of both the critical and commercial blue. Nobody anticipated a bluegrass revival based on a film that only did middling box office biz. That's alchemy, though. You don't see it coming; one only knows it afterwards. Divine Secrets may not put a star in your crown, but it shines bright for right now, and you'll want to come back to it.

Michael Pacholski

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