12 YEARS A SLAVE (Soundtrack)
Various Artists (Columbia)
Ohio native John Legend has come on strong with projects steeped in roots, protest, and inspiration since his critically acclaimed 2010 CD, Wake Up!
This soundtrack, based on one man’s fight for freedom, dignity and survival during the slavery era, fits nicely into Legend’s impressive body of work. Featured are powerful songs performed by Alicia Keys, Gary Clark, Jr., and others, with Legend and famed Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer leading the project. Legend’s soulful contribution, a gorgeous solo on “Roll Jordan Roll,” is in itself breathtaking.
— TOM HENRY
John McCutcheon (Appalsongs)
John McCutcheon, a folk singer-songwriter and guitarist who beckons thoughts of years past with a road weary style that is both plain spoken and incisive, framed the concept for this album around a tragedy on May 27, 1992, when 22 people were killed by a mortar attack while standing in line at Sarajevo’s last operating bakery.
McCutcheon befriended a musician, Vedran Smailovic, known as the “Cellist of Sarajevo,” who came back and performed at the site of the attack for 22 consecutive days in honor of those who were slain. In his own tribute, McCutcheon recently set aside 22 days to write this, his 36th recording spanning a career of more than four decades.
It’s a powerful collection of songs about working-class life and love, with a few biting moments - such as a strong folk song that was inspired by the story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl targeted by the Taliban for urging an education for girls in her troubled country.