The idea of a bunch of upper-middle-class kids from New York City playing grooves rooted in African popular music styles like Congolese soukous and kwassa kwassa might sound anywhere from suspicious to abhorrent, but Vampire Weekend’s earnest indierock take on those genres absolutely works. Down low, Chris Baio plays it cool for much of the band’s sophomore record, but where he does eschew minimalism for chops—like on “Holiday,” a rollercoaster ride of a tune—it’s sublime. “Cousins” is another workout, with bewildering 16thnote flurries that will leave you wondering how the heck he does it. It’s definitely a disc worth checking out.
Johnny Gimble, Celebrating With Friends [CMH]
Texas swing has never swung harder than it does on Celebrating With Friends, where celebrated fiddler Johnny Gimble pairs up with pals Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and others. Johnny’s band is seriously smokin’, fanned into a fury by Johnny’s son Dick Gimble on bass. Dick’s doghouse solo on “Sweet Georgia Brown” is sweet as a peach, Johnny’s fiddle and mandolin work is delish, and the album’s electric and steel guitar playing is stellar. The album’s deep swing just goes to show that headbanging isn’t just for the edgy set—crank up the Gimble and you’ll be wobbling your noggin like a dashboard bobblehead on a country road.