Run Away Dorothy Worth the Wait

The Wait
Self Produced
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Runaway Dorothy’s music has been endorsed by Ryan Adams and Roseanne Cash. It has been compared to that of Jakob Dylan, Mumford and Sons, Wilco, and Counting Crows. The alt-country/alt-rock/Americana sounds of Counting Crows is indeed a good comparison–if you toss in the atmospheric arrangements of Snow Patrol and hints of Credence Clearwater for good measure. The Brooklyn-based quartet of Dave Parnell (vocals, harmonica, guitar), brother Brett (electric guitar), Warren Robbing (bass), and Evan Mitchell (drums) tend to walk on the sunnier side of life and the instrumentation could use more diversity, but they have just enough edge to skirt being twee.

The band’s usual fare can be heard on tracks such as “Sing with Me” and “Let the Right One In.” The arrangements line up behind Dave Parnell’s lead vocals. His voice is dry but not gritty, and emotive but devoid of affected stress. Toss in tight harmonies, some jangly guitar, and let it shimmer. In “Let the Right One In,” for instance, drums and lead vocal are in the foreground, whilst everything else pulses behind it–highlights rather than deep color. There are lots of relationship songs, the edgy nervousness of “Hurry” being a highlight, and even a breakup song such as “Background” hints of redemption. Those looking for anything darker will have to content themselves with “Blue Kentucky Rain,” which is a modern-day Dust Bowl song with a sweet chorus; until they get to the final track, “Ballad of a Dead Man,” a vigilante revenge tale.  

In candor, Runaway Dorothy will need to temper its formula if it hopes to break out of a crowded alt-country market. Their song arrangements, though not identical, have a sameness of spirit that leaves a listener feeling as if The Wait is eleven movements of the same song. The album is a thoroughly enjoyable album that will please immensely, though it seldom challenges. I can’t knock that, but I also hear a band in need of a signature rather than more comparisons. Rob Weir

Here's a YouTube of the opening track.


Belly Dance Music (Really!)

Jalilah’s Raks Sharki Stage Cuts
Piranha 2856
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Who can explain passion? The performer known as Jalilah was born Lorraine Zamora Chamas and raised in California. Thirty years ago she fell in love with the raks sharki dance style–that’s belly dancing to those of us whose midsections jiggle more than jig–and began a journey that’s taken her to Egypt, Germany, Lebanon, and Canada. She’s made six albums of belly dance music, usually with highly regarded Middle Eastern orchestra leaders such as we find on this culling from her previous recordings: Mokhtar Al-Said, Hossam Shaker, and Ihsan Al-Mounzer. If the music reminds you of music you’ve encountered in old black and white movies, it’s because Jalilah prefers the vibe and rhythms of 1930s/40s style dances. Her major nod to modernity is the realization that today’s audiences have shorter attention spans. These are indeed stage “cuts,” in that she’s taken music/dance performances that would have originally run up to twenty minutes and knocked then down to five or fewer.

Belly dance music, you say? Isn’t that a bit (as the British say) naff? It can be. Raks Sharki thrives in the seam between don’t-touch eroticism and melodrama. The music is look-at-me diva style that wiggles its way to the line separating dynamism and histrionics and sometimes transgresses it. You can close you eyes and conjure the jingling bells, slapped tambourines, swishing veils, gyrating bodies, and colored backlighting. How long can you hold the fantasy? How many dramatic pauses, sudden restarts, and swelling interludes are your limit? Some may find that sixteen tracks of this are too much, even in truncated form; others may wish for more. I wouldn’t want to listen to this every day, but it’s surprisingly good road music and it certainly serves to demolish any rut in which you may find yourself stuck. My bottom line is that I overcame my abiding dislike for performers with just one name and listened to the whole thing. It’s a small standard, I realize, but how else is one to judge something this far from one’s own journey?  Rob Weir

Here’s a clip of Jalilah doing her thing. And if you mail a check for $20 to my private bank account I promise not to post a YouTube of me attempting the same thing!