Album: Tangle Eye

Alan Lomax's Southern Journey Remixed, Zoe/Rounder
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The Independent Culture

Tangle Eye is the New Orleans-based production and remix duo of Scott Billington and Steve Reynolds, who, having remixed zydeco tracks for the Houston dance market, contacted the Alan Lomax Archive for permission to apply their skills to some of the old blues field-recordings that Lomax made of farm workers, fishermen, prison gangs and gospel groups in the middle of the last century. This may sound like a similar strategy to Moby's Play but is, in fact, closer to Little Axe's house-blues crossover style, thanks to arrangements that use more appropriate instrumentation - a gorgeous dobro solo from Rob Ickes on vocals sampled from Mrs Sidney Carter's "Pharoah", Dirk Powell's bluegrass fiddle behind Bessie Jones's "O Death", Delfeayo Marsalis's trombone exploring the melodic affinities of "Parchman Blues" with "Summertime". The effect is almost opposite to Moby's: instead of leaving the samples as fragments abandoned amid soulless electronic tones, this is more a case of enabling the original a cappella recordings to blossom. It's a liberation, rather than an exploitation, of the source material, with the settings always taking their cue from the vocals. The result is the most sheerly enjoyable album of the year so far.