General 4-19-2005

Music Reviews

Brazilian Girls are neither Brazilian nor girls and Nova Scotia's finest rapper, Buck 65, gets some mainstream exposure for his bluesy mash-ups

Buck 65

Brazilian Girls

Brazilian Girls

Verve Forecast

At first blush, “Brazilian Girls” would seem to be a thoroughly complete misnomer. The New York foursome contains but one female member (vocalist Sabina Sciubba), and features even fewer Brazilians. But after a few listens, it’s apparent that what the band’s name lacks in factual accuracy, it more than makes up for in spiritual appropriateness. They exude a kind of louche, international, laid-back ’60s cool (the kind that’s most succinctly summed up in Peggy Lee’s smoky “Boy from Ipanema,” the quintessential hipster-Brazilian song). The “girl” in Brazilian Girls is unquestionably the star of their self-titled debut record—Sciubba’s got the kind of breathy, vaguely exotic and effortlessly sexy voice that, in another era, would have been perfectly suited to reducing hard-boiled Philip Marlowe types to whiskey-tinged piles of mush. (And, over the course of twelve songs, the Roman-born, Nice- and Munich-raised singer employs no fewer than five different languages.)

And while Sciubba’s front and center, she’d run the risk of being just another gorgeous, honey-voiced multilingual chanteuse if it weren’t for the solid, often surprising, music going on behind her. The instrumental portion of the band is spearheaded by Argentinian keyboard/electronics whiz Didi Gutman, a past Latin Grammy winner and collaborator with actual Brazilian girl Bebel Gilberto. Gutman, along with bassist Jesse Murphy and drummer Aaron Johnston, makes the band’s improvisational roots clear, creating tight, focused, danceworthy arrangements out of a mishmash of every genre under the sun. House and breakbeat influences are most obvious, but it’s all there, from tango to chanson to funk: “Pussy” sounds like it’s backed by a band of New Orleans second-liners transplanted to Rio, and “Me Gustas Cuando Callas” plops a dub bassline under a rock en español drumbeat under a Neruda poem and calls it good.

That pretty much sums up Brazilian Girls and, when you think about it, almost everything else that’s just plain cool: it’s a blender-full of equal parts tried-and-true, daring and bizarre, mixed furiously, emerging just as smooth and refreshing and fantastic as a daiquiri served up by a supermodel. —Matt Konrad

This Right Here is Buck 65

Buck 65


Since every review of Buck 65’s work is required to contain two seemingly contradictory facts, let’s get those out of the way first: yes, the man is a rapper, and, yes, he is from a small town in Maritime Canada, possibly the least likely place in the Northern Hemisphere to produce such an artist.

And now that that’s on the table, we can get on to the really compelling things about the artist formerly known as plain old Rich Terfry of Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia—his incredible voice and the way it floats over an unlikely, but seamless, blend of hip-hop, blues, folk and country influences.

The latter may sound, on paper, like an unholy mess. And it could come out that way (ask anyone who’s heard that execrable collaboration between pop-rapper Nelly and pop-cowboy Tim McGraw). But Buck’s got some things going for him: foremost is a bucketload of charisma, and then there’s that voice, an uncompromising, distinctive baritone full of enough gravel to pave every driveway in Lower Sackville. He manages to sound like Tom Waits, John Lee Hooker and Jay-Z all at once.

Running deeply throughout is his awareness of all those genres’ shared roots. After all, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” was nothing if not a mash-up of folk and proto-rap; bluesmen like Junior Kimbrough and Mississippi John Hurt made careers of talking over guitar-and-drum beats. Hell, storytelling is perhaps the oldest folk tradition of all, and it relies on nothing more than Buck’s very own strengths—a sonorous voice and a good narrative.

These narratives, though, aren’t ancient sagas; nor are they prototypical thug-life, Cristal-and-ice hip-hop tales. Instead, Buck writes what he knows, weaving intricately detailed stories about backcountry misfits: from the aimless road-tripper in the album’s best up-tempo head-nodder, “Wicked and Weird,” to the young heroine of the heartbreaking “Cries the Girl,” a beauty from the wrong side of the tracks whose life is derailed by cruel youthful rumors.

Throughout the record, even the grittiest of tales are buoyed by mordant wit and snappy wordplay—”The Centaur” is a great one-off joke (“I’m a man/but I’m built like a horse from the waist down”) stretched surreally and successfully into a wistful acoustic song.

That, like the rest of This Right Here, is a re-recorded version of an earlier release, so be warned—if you’ve tracked down Buck’s hard-to-find output before now, you won’t hear much new material here. His new label (V2) is mostly putting these tracks into wider release as an appetizer for forthcoming work. But if you’re just discovering Buck 65, I envy you. This is a hell of an introduction to a unique, compelling artist who never fails to surprise. —MK

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