Picks of the Week

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The Soundcheck staff picks three outstanding new releases:

Phil Kline, John the Revelator (Cantaloupe Music) Amazon

New York-based composer Phil Kline is having a big month. With two premieres in major concert halls and a surround sound work issued on DVD, Kline is now releasing a CD called John the Revelator. Commissioned by WNYC, the work is for the early music vocal sextet Lionheart and the string quartet known as Ethel. John the Revelator is subtitled “A Mass in 6 voices,” and Kline does use traditional mass texts, but some unconventional ones, and in a couple of places, no texts at all. The piece “Dark Was The Night” draws its title from old American blues (as does 'John the Revelator'). Everything else is about being unmoored in time. --John Schaefer
DOWNLOAD: 'The Man Who Knows Misery' (mp3)

Béla Fleck, Throw Down Your Heart (Rounder) Amazon

American guitarists have explored African music for a while -- Paul Simon did it in the 80s, then Ry Cooder in the 90s... Now it’s the banjo’s turn. Banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck’s new album, Throw Down Your Heart, was recorded in Africa with some lesser known artists from there, like this guitarist, D’Gary, from Madagascar. But it also features the big stars like Malian singer Oumou Sangare. It’s beautiful music that leaves that “I wish I was there” feeling. --Gisele Regatao

Phosphorescent, To Willie (Dead Oceans) Amazon

Phosphorescent is the stage name of the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Matthew Houck. He’s pretty fond of Willie Nelson. Fond enough to record an entire album of songs by the country legend. It's called “To Willie,” and it favors the darker side of the red-headed stranger’s catalogue. It’s a fine tribute to Nelson -- and to those three classic themes in country music: drinkin’, apologizin’, and drinkin.’ --Joel Meyer