CD Reviews: Luc and the Lovingtons and Blue Scholars

Luc and the LovingtonsFeel the Warmth (self-released)When Winthrop, Wash., resident Luc Reynaud went to the storm-battered Gulf Coast in 2005, he expected to volunteer, not start an album. But four years later, the effects of that trip are draped all over his band's latest LP, Feel the Warmth. There's a definite "Kumbaya" appeal mixed into the disc's 13 songs (even the album's name comes across like a giant hug), although that's not a bad thing. Beneath all that, Reynaud and crew are delicately telling stories of those lands far away. On "Diembereng," recorded in Senegal in 2007, the kora, djembe, and talking drum take the forefront. Senegalese/Seattleite Thione Diop is also featured on the song, as Reynaud sings about the joys of life in Africa—a sharp contrast to what many of us hear on the news. Perhaps the disc's best tune, "Freedom Song," was recorded two years earlier at a refuge for Hurricane Katrina victims in Baton Rouge, La. As Reynaud's playful guitar strumming is matched with the harmonizing of children from the shelter, the healing power of music practically jumps through the speakers. The rest of the album was recorded in Seattle. Other songs, like album opener "I'm Awake," featuring children from a Madrona preschool, and "I Had a Dream," are more sing-along, and similarly warming to the soul. Ultimately, if what John Mayer would sound like in the world-music arena rather than in the pop realm sounds good to you, Feel the Warmth should do you some good. JONATHAN CUNNINGHAMBlue ScholarsOOF! (Massline)There hasn't been enough true summertime music hitting the streets this year. A couple of songs have emerged, but nothing that really captures the essence of beach barbecues or heat waves. But Blue Scholars' latest EP, OOF!, seems poised to change that—although somewhat indirectly. Seattle's most noted hip-hop group is clearly going in a more eclectic direction than their power-to-the-people music of the past. The beats have more snap to them, and it's Sabzi, the group's producer, who shines the most. The EP's catchiest tune, "New People," has a subtle yet bouncy electronic approach, and should be enjoyed whenever sand is in close proximity. Since much of the project is influenced by Hawai'i (where rapper Geo spent his elementary years), and most of the 808 limited-edition physical copies will be sold on Oahu, it's understandable that OOF! has an island feel to it. (The 808 area code—Hawai'i's—gets numerous shout-outs throughout the EP.) On "Cruz," Geo is at his best, sounding at home riding the luau-ready beat. There are a couple of missteps, however. The beginning of "Coo" sounds overly dated with its brief ode to Biggie and 'Pac, but since Geo is speaking of his childhood glory days, it eventually works. Beatwise, "Hello" could be a local classic, but the vocals are mellower than they need to be. Overall, the duo has a solid EP to travel with over the next few months, and folks in Hawai'i should dig it. Whether Seattle will is another story. JONATHAN CUNNINGHAM

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