Corey Harris

Greens from the Garden

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AllMusic Review by

Greens from the Garden is nothing short of a tour de force for Corey Harris. Progressing from the solo acoustic blues of Between Midnight and Day and the stripped Dixie influence of Fish Ain't Bitin', Harris' third album is a mixture of 20th century Americana that hits home runs in every genre in which it comes to bat. The diversity of styles in Greens from the Garden is reminiscent of Ry Cooder's Paradise and Lunch, in which the musician's personality is the glue holding all the styles together. Harris commits himself to the spirit of the songs here; despite his versatility, he never comes off as a dilettante, but rather a devoted auteur. Harris' New Orleans roots are deepened and widened, with affecting forays into French-sung Cajun waltz, "Pas Parlez" and several funk excursions worthy of the Neville Brothers and the Meters (in "Wild West" and "Honeysuckle"). Most startling is how well Harris' modern lyrical outlook fuses with 20th century traditional styles; by trusting in the integrity of the music, he's able to steer the listener toward the spiritual sides of topical arguments in "Basehead" and "Lynch Blues" without once resorting to preaching or heavy-handedness. Greens from the Garden's covers are just as satisfying, with a Delta reworking of "Diddy Wah Diddy" (a song that's also on Cooder's Paradise and Lunch) and a reggae restructuring of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee." Billy Bragg guests on "Teabag Blues," a Woody Guthrie lyric for which Harris wrote the music -- a byproduct of Bragg's and Wilco's Mermaid Avenue sessions on which Harris guested. A tremendous journey that redefines the rules of revivalism.

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