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Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited (Sony Masterworks, $13.98) – In 1962, Johnny Cash heard Peter La Farge sing his songs about the plight of the Indian Nation at the Gaslight coffeehouse. In 1964, Cash recorded five of La Farge’s songs, and wrote a couple more, for a concept album called Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian.
Fifty years later, producer Joe Henry assembled folk performers—some from a new generation, and some contemporaries and friends of Johnny Cash—to pay tribute to this neglected protest album. Contributors include Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Emmylou Harris, the Milk Carton Kids (Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan), Steve Earle, Rhiannon Giddens (from the Carolina Chocolate Drops), and Nancy and Norman Blake (who played guitar on the original Johnny Cash sessions). La Farge’s most famous song, “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” is sung here by Kris Kristofferson, and the album closes with the title song, sung by Mohican musician Bill Miller.
Doctor John, Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch (Blue Note, $14.98) – Dr. John pays tribute to Louis Armstrong, bringing together star trumpeters, and vocalists from many musical backgrounds, among them Bonnie Raitt, Ledisi, and Shemikia Copeland. As with any guest-laden album, some contributors convey the spirit of Armstrong better than others; among the standouts are the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Blind Boys of Alabama (on a beautiful “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams”), and the master of ceremonies himself, Dr. John.
A full funky horn section—with arrangements by trombonist Sarah Morrow—and first-call New Orleans musicians are on hand, and the splendid trumpeters are Terence Blanchard, Nicholas Payton, Arturo Sandoval, James Andrews, and Wendell Brunious (on flugelhorn).
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Bebel Gilberto, Tudo (Sony Masterworks, $13.98) – Bebel Gilberto grew up with the music of Bossa Nova—she is the daughter of two singers, João Gilberto and Miúcha, and singer and composer Chico Buarque is her uncle. Bebel has produced some fine albums over the years, and her 2000 album, Tanto Tempo, made her reputation worldwide. Tudo is her first album in five years, and has a light, summery feel. It features a Jobim number (“Vivo Sonhando”), a duet with Seu Jorge, six originals, and three songs in English.
Fred Hersch Trio, Floating (Palmetto, $16.98) – Floating is the studio follow-up to the pianist’s 2012 live recording with his trio, Alive at the Vanguard. Hersch’s trio, with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson, has played together for over five years, and has attracted rave reviews. The trio focuses on Hersch’s new compositions, but there is always room for some standards and some Thelonious Monk. On Floating, Hersch plays “You and the Night and the Music,” “If Ever I Would Leave You,” and “Let’s Cool One.”