Various Artists

Putumayo Presents: Music From the Coffee Lands, Vol. 2

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This is one of Putumayo's several compilations that are loosely assembled around a marketing concept. Some are more successful than others, not because of any central thematic unity, but due to the overall quality of the selections and how well they relate to one another. The tracks here showcase 11 artists from coffee-producing nations and this time out, most demonstrate a certain stately, almost melancholy grace. From the lushly emotional, cello-laced opener from Brazil's Ceumar to Denis Tsibayi's (aka Bibi Dens) finale, a surprisingly dainty non-soukous Congolese pop ballad, the ambience is noticeably less upbeat than that of the previous volume. Emerging Ethiopian star Gigi makes an appearance, as does Haiti's Emeline Michel, who contributes a tribute to mothers everywhere set to a swingingly sophisticated post-colonial compa. "El Atabal de Mi Negra" by Titico y Los Caracoles del Amargue is a definite pick hit, even if its shuffling, Cuban-sounding lilt has little to do with the more typically frantic merengue rhythms usually favored in the Dominican Republic. Despite a few noticeably jarring segues and the fact that the roster hails from tropical ports-of-call, an incongruously non-caffeinated, autumnal feeling holds true throughout. The set is ideal for lingering by a window and watching the leaves change while counting one's mercies, very likely with fingers cupped around a hot, comforting mug of java. The lively and informative liner notes include scrumptious recipes for coffee as it is enjoyed in Mexico, Turkey, and Thailand.

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