Various Artists

Putumayo Presents: Blues Lounge

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Since the '90s, world music has been the primary focus of Putumayo, an adventurous label whose compilations have offered everything from Greek music to reggae to salsa. But the company takes a break from world music on Blues Lounge, which examines the blues/electronica fusion that has been taking place in the late '90s and 2000s. It's an unlikely trend, certainly -- some will ask, "How could the gritty earthiness of the blues possibly be combined with the high-tech polish of electronica?" But then, one of the things hip-hop taught us back in the '80s was that technology and grit are not mutually exclusive. Hip-hop has been very high-tech, but that hasn't prevented rappers from being hard, raw, rugged or gutsy. And on Blues Lounge, one encounters a similar balance of technology and earthiness. Elements of blues and classic soul join forces with elements of hip-hop, trip-hop, downtempo and club music. On a few of the tracks, this fusion sounds a bit forced; Blues Lounge isn't quite as consistent as other Putumayo compilations. But if this CD is mildly uneven, Blues Lounge's most successful offerings -- which include Moby's "Run On," Little Axe's "Long Way to Go" and Tangle Eye's "Parchman Blues" -- make the disc worth the price of admission. It should be noted that although these tunes came out in the late '90s or early 2000s,, some of the samples go back to the days of 78s; for example, "Parchman Blues" (which was named after Mississippi's notoriously brutal Parchman Farm prison) samples a late-'40s performance by singer Henry Jimson Wallace. Blues Lounge doesn't cater to blues purists by any means, but for those who are eclectic enough to listen to Blind Lemon Jefferson one minute and Jay-Z or P'taah the next, Blues Lounge is an enjoyably intriguing, if imperfect, listen.

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