Whole Life Magazine

June / July 2016

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Page 31 of 43

MUSIC Kaia Kater art & soul F or anyone who longs for the 1990s, when thoughtful, ra- dio-friendly bands like Dave Matthews Band, Blues Travel- er and Rusted Root proliferated, lend your ears to Nahko and Medicine for the People. Their latest album—Hoka, out June 10—is a refreshing throwback not mired in the past; pic- ture Mumford & Sons releasing a world music album. Led by a mystical fi gure named Nahko Bear, the band balances both spir- ituality and polish in Hoka, with catchy songs focusing on God, the environment and the quest for happiness. Hoka features a staggering 19 tracks—though a handful are just spoken-word in- terludes—with very little fi ller. Songs like "Love Letters to God," "We Shall Overcome" and "Backbone" are toe-tappingly catchy from fi rst chord, while the similarly upbeat "San Quentin" tells the story of Nahko Bear meeting the man who killed his father. Even if listeners don't consider themselves rap fans, Nahko Bear's vocal fl air (not to mention, unique voice) is hard to resist, especially when he's spitting lyrics about poetry and prayer. The ballads hold similar power; "Tus Pies" and "Runner" are simply lovely. While some think of world music as esoteric, you'd be hard-pressed to fi nd anyone who'd turn down Hoka's volume. (SideOneDummy Records) —NB Nahko and Medicine for the People Hoka A frican-Canadian roots musician Kaia Kater is young, but her voice emanates a long life of hurt and rumination. Raised in diverse Toronto, Kater spent some formative years among the rich musical traditions of West Virginia. That infl uence is front and center in her recently released sopho- more album, Nine Pin. The collection of Americana music was recorded in one day, with Kater and lauded musician Chris Bar- tos co-producing. Kater and Bartos' handiwork feels far from a rushed affair, though—15 songs of simple instrumentation pro- duce feelings that both stir and calm. Kater is most effective when she really slows things down, allowing her trusty banjo and low tenor voice enough room to breathe and paint a picture. Songs like "Paradise Fell" and "Rising Down," with their opaque references to the Black Lives Matter movement, are beautiful in their lamentation, sounding like modern dirges. Some of Nine Pin's lyrics were inspired by the works of author Toni Morrison, and like Beloved or Song of Solomon, Nine Pin transports its audience to a very specifi c time and place. Turn it on and you can practically see the bluegrass and Appalachian hills. (Hearth Music) —Neal Broverman Nine Pin MUSIC 32 wholelifetimes.com

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