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CD Review: JIN JIN
Jin Jin - Takashi Hirayasu and Bob Brozman
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Slow Burn

By ADAM MCGOVERN

Takashi Hirayasu & Bob Brozman
Jin Jin/Firefly
(Riverboat/World Music Network)



The Pacific setting and rural lifestyle of Okinawa, south of Japan, have made its music attractive territory for American slide guitarists seeking to transplant the precise languor of their sound into a hospitable stylistic climate. At the same time, Okinawa's history as a cultural crossroads -- voluntary and otherwise -- has primed its contemporary musicians to gravitate to rich, sonic cross-fertilizations.

Travelers on the musical migration route have included jack-of-all-genres Ry Cooder, who collaborated with Okinawa's Shoukichi Kina on the latter's Bloodline album; and East-West culture-crosser Bob Brozman, who pairs with former Kina cohort Takashi Hirayasu here. A pioneer of cosmopolitan/roots fusions with Kina, Hirayasu's Okinawan sanshin (three-string snakeskin banjo) is more than a match for the Hawaiian, American-mainland, and Andean string instruments Brozman brings along.

Mostly based on traditional children's songs of Hirayasu's homeland, the resultant tracks convey all the charm of that time of life, while imparting a good humor and calm that are truly timeless. The Okinawan melodies are gently serpentine even as Hirayasu's vocals are robust. The syncopation is sparing and smart. The playing from both men is relaxed but alert, their arrangements comfortable yet intense. And the overall rootsy feeling is seasoned with surprising garage-jam interludes and odd references such as the title track's 1950s teen-delinquent movie sound.

Recorded in a traditional Okinawan house for an effect both anchored in history and intimately immediate, this album is a lesson in making unplugged music with a charge all its own.



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