Artist: Yo-Yo Ma & the Silk Road Ensemble
Album: Sing Me Home
Release Date: 04/22/2016
There are times when you hear about a new CD being released, and you have great expectations… but when you finally get to listen to it, you might say that the quality doesn’t quite match your anticipation. Over the years, however, I have learned to give things a chance; I’ve learned to listen for a while, and often I have found that music can grow on you. Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble latest release, Sing Me Home, was one I was really looking forward to. So maybe it wasn’t quite what I expected, but it turned out to be very enjoyable. I am familiar with and a fan of Yo-Yo Ma’s music– soft and smooth, and yet at times strong and driving– music that you can sit back and relax to while listening.
The idea of the Silk Road Ensemble– bringing mostly immigrant musicians from different countries, using their homeland music to bridge whatever cultural gaps exist– also intrigued me quite a lot. When I also heard about the documentary about this group, I wanted to hear more before I watched the film. The album also features guest artists Rhiannon Giddens, Bill Frisell, Sarah Jarosz, Abigail Washburn and Gregory Porter, as well as the groups Roomful of Teeth and Black Sea Hotel.
“Green (Vincent’s Tune)” starts off with a flute that reminds me of Native American music, but it quickly turns into something else entirely, reflecting something traditionally Chinese– you just have to listen to it. The next song, “O’Neill’s Cavalry,” is a iconic traditional Irish tune. Now, this was when I started to really enjoy this album. Yes, it’s traditional Irish, but when mixed with other very global instruments on the record, it becomes truly interesting. The next tune, “Little Birdie,” featured Sarah Jarosz and again sounded Americana, but had something extra with the ensemble behind her vocals. This kind of style mixing is what happens throughout the album. Wow, absolutely started to enjoy the mix of the ensemble’s home and the homes of the guests I am more familiar with. I have to mention one more track, which featured one of my favorite artists singing one of my favorite songs; Rhiannon Giddens singing “St. James Infirmary Blues” is a great mix, and a great way for me to state emphatically that I am so glad I gave Sing Me Home more time to sink in and win my heart.
I highly recommend you give this album a good… well, maybe many good… listens. If not an immediate hit, I think it will grow on you.
– Mark J. Smith