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World Music CD Reviews North American

Various Artists

By Marty Lipp
Published June 24, 2008

The Southern Root

Once a month in Tempe, Arizona, a group of night owls gathers at the Afro:Baile club to dance to a modern world mix with roots that stretch down into many different traditions. After a successful year of playing live and recorded music for the locals, the club has inaugurated a new label with The Southern Root. Although the title might bring to mind the blues, gospel and early banjo music of the American South, the collection actually overflows with contemporary takes on various styles from Latin America and the Caribbean. This is clear from the get-go with Think Horses’ voiceand- drum version of The Beatles’ “Because”—an interesting take, but they’re up against some tough competition from the originators. Further on, Cascabel uncorks some Santana-like Latin-flavored rock, while other bands from around the U.S. that have some connection to the Afro:Baile club delve into reggae, cumbia, Brazilian batucada drumming—even a klezmer hybrid. Nothing here stuns or amazes, but it is an affable party session, suggesting that the Tempe night can get pretty hot and steamy at least once a month.