Can you point to Uzbekistan on a world map? Me neither. Ever heard of an Uzbek jam band called Jadoo? Me neither. Ever heard truly transcendant music that successfully blends modern and ancient traditions from vastly separated regions? Well I guess I have, but not many. (I might name Deep Forest and Afro-Celt Sound System, but then I’d be revealing my secret lust for world music.)
You can now add the Cedar Hill Refugees to that short list. Their new record Pale Imperfect Diamond, which is scheduled for release on May 19 on Effigy Records, is a brilliant mind-meld of traditional Appalachian and original songs performed by an all-star band of American roots musicians and a group of Uzbek musicians who call themselves Jadoo. It was produced by Jack Clift and John Carter Cash, son of Johnny and June, and a direct descendant of the First Family of country music, the Carter Family. The material here runs the gamut from old-time favorites like Wildwood Flower and Pretty Polly to new compositions that connect to the tradition with strings of golden twine.
LISTEN: The Wife of Usher’s Well (MP3)
I’ll admit, it was with some trepidation that I approached this project. I’m a traditionalist at heart, and I’ve seen too many musical train wrecks in my time. But this music was drawn from a deep well of the purest water, and it quenches that nagging thirst that we all feel as a result of hearing too much bland, formulaic pop music. This record rewards repeated listening, and like a draught of mountain moonshine, the rewards are worth the commitment.
The liner notes read like a who’s-who of American folk roots players: Dr. Ralph Stanley, Marty Stuart, Randy Scruggs (son of Earl), Ron McCoury, John Cowan, and the angelic Peasall Sisters, who sang on O Brother Where Art Thou?, to name a few. From bleak, windswept cinematic landscapes to warm, harmonious choirs of angels, Pale Imperfect Diamond proves that it is not only possible, but desirable, to reach across cultures and find the commonalities we share with our fellow man.
LISTEN: Keys to the Kingdom (MP3)
To quote Marty Stuart, “As I’ve listened to what you’ve captured in Uzbekistan and seen how it merges with our own musical traditions, it just shows me there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between good country folks, no matter what the country.”