The tag “world music” has never appealed to me. Actually, I despise it. World music, as the name of a thing, reeks of quasi-New Age silliness, a desperate stab at sounding worldly without having the slightest clue what other cultures do, say, think, or feel.
Furthermore, it’s a music-journalism cop-out phrase used when the writer can’t think of the name of that instrument from that place he or she can’t possibly pinpoint on a map. And it’s an insult to bands like Santa Fe duo Round Mountain.
Well-traveled and instrumentally gifted, brothers Robby and Char Rothschild take their stylistic cues from traditions found around the globe, and their rich harmonies lull and caress the ears like a sweet Simon & Garfunkel ballad. Blending elements of Eastern European, French Gypsy, African, Turkish, Appalachian, and Celtic music, Round Mountain rides the fence between contemporary Americana and international folk.
The Rothschilds, who many locals also remember as members of ’90s-era Santa Fe rock band Lizard House, are about to release their fourth full-length CD as Round Mountain, and they’re throwing a little party to help celebrate. At 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19, Heath Concerts present the band on the Railyard Plaza by the water tower near the Santa Fe Farmers Market Pavilion (1607 Paseo de Peralta) with guests Andy Irvine, Moira Smiley, San Francisco’s 10-piece Balkan brass orchestra Brass Menažeri, and Anias Mitchell.
The new album The Goat — a title inspired by the Rothschilds’ many encounters with animals, including their parents’ Nigerian Dwarf milk goats — was recorded almost entirely at Frogville Studios in Santa Fe. Multiple engineers and mixers didn’t get in the way or damage the continuity of these stellar 13 tracks, which shimmer with finely crafted instrumentation — accordion, bouzouki, kora, djembe, cajón, tupan, low whistle, calabash, hosho, mandola, and the instruments of Brass Menažeri, to name a few.
Each song on the album is accompanied in the liner notes by a story about the song’s genesis or its thematic inspiration. The oddly vaudevillian-sounding “Coffee,” for instance, celebrates the uplifting elixir and the wonderful manner in which it removes many heads from many — well, you get the idea. Making a special appearance among the instruments in this tune is the espresso-machine steam wand from Santa Fe café/coffee roaster Ohori’s.
There’s something of a stripped-down Peter Gabriel New Blood vibe to The Goat, both vocally and in the arrangements, although the Rothschilds wisely leave the multitextured percussion in the songs untouched. In press materials for the CD-release party, Robby Rothschild explains, “I feel we’ve become more relaxed about letting what’s imperfect shine out. … We found a balance between our dreams and the actual grit of pursuing them.” And on The Goat, that grit shows.
I’m also off to pursue some more dreams. This is the last “Sound Waves” column I’ll write. It’s been a pleasure and a privilege covering Santa Fe’s music scene for more than eight years for Pasatiempo. Thanks for reading, and thanks for listening.