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Cedar Hill Refugees - Pale Imperfect Diamond

Pale Imperfect Diamond

Cedar Hill Refugees

Not available online at the time of posting this review.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

This is a unique and ultra-cool CD: a blend of Uzbek jam from the band Jadoo coupled with the Cedar Hill Refugees' progressive country folk. It's one of those discs that must be heard to be appreciated; words won't quite do it justice. Pale Imperfect Diamond is kind of like putting a mellowed-up Mahavishnu Orchestra behind Michel Tomlinson—too odd for the brain to wrap around but, my gawd, what a result!

The roster is long, 35 musicians in one capacity or another (including Randy Scruggs), and the sound is wide, clear, and complex, a bluegrass / roots basing fusing into a Carnatic metier, a mid-East matrix common to a number of cultures in and around the old Ottoman empire, reaching up into Russia and elsewhere, including Uzbekistan. John Carter Cash, son of Johnny Cash and June Carter, is a main exponent here, one of the core three vocalists—a trey card contrasted at various times by the marvelous Peasall Sisters trio—but the real star is the very experiment itself.

You'd expect a menagerie of exotic instruments - tanpura, mrdingam, shenai, etc.—to show up but this isn't the case (except for a couple of karnays). Jadoo makes do just fine with typical Western instruments, coaxing alien refrains from the willing axes. It's not hard to envision a caravanserai and hot simoom winds during Oh, Bury Me Not, with minarets and arabesqued marketplaces shimmering in the distance in the title cut. Wildwood Flower, as well, carries a very healthy injection of the much more elastic Mediterranean and Eastern auras and melodic devices, ostinati, and improvisational embellishments.

Pale Imperfect Diamond is going to set a few ears to buzzing, a few minds to goggling, and a few tongues to wagging. As far as I know, this hasn't been done before, certainly not like this, and probably comes together best in the closer, Candle, an elagiac cut wrapping everything together and leaving ya feeling hungry for more.

Track List:

  • Whitehouse Blues
  • Keys to the Kingdom
  • The Wife of Usher's Well
  • Oh, Bury Me Not
  • Pale Imperfect Diamond
  • Colors of the Sky
  • Stormalong
  • Polly's Last Ride
  • Green Grows the Laurel
  • Wildwood Flower
  • Final Kiss
  • Sailaway Ladies
  • Candle

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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