Various Artists, Street and Gangland Rhythms, Beats and Improvisations by Six Boys in Trouble

Amelia Raitt

By Amelia Raitt

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Folkways comes through again with a mysterious and inspiring street recording. Captured in late-'50s New York City, this set features raw performances from six troubled teens (most were in gangs, all had been to juvenile court); musically, there's not much here beside crude percussion and vocals.

E. Richard Sorenson, who "collected and edited" this album, breaks the recording down into four basic sections: Percussion Ensembles (instrumental, bongo-heavy), Rhythms With Voices (percussion with nonsense vocals), Rhythms With Verses (rhythmic pieces with original chants) and Songs (Traditional or jukebox faves, often tweaked at the boys 'whims). In the original liner notes, much is made of the lineage of the six boys, their various West African or Puerto Rican roots — even stepping back, though, from an ethnomusicologist view, the recordings exude an invigorating vitality on their own.