Local Licks 

This week, we review Shaya, Amber Lee & the Anomalies, John Schott's Dream Kitchen, and Bag of Toys.

Shaya, Fallen Awake. After a decade spent performing with Living Legends and Hieroglyphics and hawking handmade tapes and CDs on Bay Area sidewalks, Shaya (Arabic for "worthy," cribbed from a Blackalicious lyric) arrives with a de facto solo record. His raps are of the life-affirming variety (to wit: "Impeccable Concepts," "Thinking Cap"), and production is freshly unpretentious. (Interdependent Media)

Amber Lee & the Anomalies, Estuaries. Amber Lee provides a memorable character sketch in "Whaler's Wife": I squeeze the pus from my open sores/And bleed some more like a tired whore. It's the goriest part of the story (the entire album, for that matter), but shows how Lee values every word. Banjo and accordion fit nicely into the folksy chamber-pop study of life's mysteries. (Baker Belle Records)

John Schott's Dream Kitchen, Drunken Songs for Sober Times. John Schott and friends do it all in this collection of traditional songs and standards. Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," Jelly Roll Morton's "The Crave," and Duke Ellington's "Jubilee Stomp" are among an hour's worth of delightfully rendered old-timey jazz, blues, and folk. (Smash the State!)

Bag of Toys, Afternooner. The palm tree, beer bottle cap, and sun rays on the cover don't misspeak: this is a feel-good summertime album. Unfortunately, repetitive music and lyrics ram the point home so hard that one begins to yearn for winter. While there are some worthwhile tracks, for all but the most diehard G. Love and Jack Johnson fans, they're best taken in small doses. (Bag of Toys Records)


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