Jhelisa: A Primitive Guide to Being There (Border)

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Jhelisa: Freedom's Land
Jhelisa: A Primitive Guide to Being There (Border)

The great thing about Music From Elsewhere for me is that I get surprised by what turns up: like this album from a woman who has pulled together threads of soul, gospel, jazz and r'n'b to create an album which is a tapestry of emotions, funkiness and finger-popping grooves.

To give an idea of the breadth of her abilities and musical interests here is a partial list of who she has sung with: Bjork, Massive Attack, Chaka Khan, Bryan Ferry, Paul Weller, Courtney Pine . . .

And she has toured with James Brown and the Roots.

Her cousin is Carleen Anderson and her aunt is Vicki Anderson. She was born in Jackson, Mississippi but grew up in Louisville, Kentucky then spent time in London where she was in the drum'n'bass scene, and then moved on to Germany. She was more than a decade out of the States and in the DVD film -- entitled One Week With Jhelisa: Rediscovering America -- which accompanies this very impressive album she says she came back "to witness the nervous breakdown of America".

As one who has seen her country from the outside she was appalled by its current politics and she brings her articulate intelligence to the album which is grounded in gospel freedom songs and deep soul, but also funks it up because she recorded it in New Orleans.

She also kicks in some breezy pop balladry, and includes Jamaican nyabingi drums patterns on one of her yearning songs based on an old song heard during Martin Luther King Jr freedom marches.

Jhelisa was not a name I knew. Now she's one I won't forget.

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