So much of the early development of Americana and roots music sprung out of the mountains of Appalachia and the cotton fields of the Delta that we tend forget how popular a lot of it is across the globe. And like any musical style, once musicians learn it they start adding their own influences. Nothing I’ve ever heard underscores that as much as the new album from Che Apalache, Rearrange My Heart. The group was born out of bluegrass class that North Carolina-born Joe Troop was teaching as an ex pat in Buenos Aires. The band came to the U.S. to play a few dates and Bela Fleck was so impressed with them that he offered to produce the album.
There’s a clear link to the traditional bluegrass scene Troop grew up with and was teaching. Rock Of Ages (not the hymn) is an old-timey number with the high lonesome sound on Troop’s lead vocals and supplanted with a christian church choir-style backup supplied by fellow band members from Argentina and Mexico. The Dreamer is more folk than twang and features the beautiful harmonies you get throughout the record. Over In Glory/New Swing starts out traditional style bluegrass, but then shifts into a newgrass romp with a rebel holler of “this angel band’s about to rock ‘n’ roll, boys!”
As good as that is, the album really shifts into high gear when the band starts to feature more of their Latin roots and Troop’s experiences traveling the world. Maria is a very traditional sounding Spanish ballad, albeit with a bluegrass vamp in the middle. New Journey has a ton of flamenco and manouche jazz sounds and should maybe be the poster child for a style called worldgrass. Once Took Me In finishes the CD with a tune that’s direct from the barrios of Barcelona or Madrid, and seems to pay some homage to Troop’s adopted homeland of Argentina. And just for good measure, The Coming Of Spring is a Japanese string band song inspired by Troops time teaching English in Japan.
I’m sure I’ve never heard a record that so seamlessly melds influences from all over the world into something that’s still bluegrass, but so much more. Maybe all the stuff we normally listen to should be called North Americana and Che Apalache can be recognized as the beginning of La Sur Americana. Regardless, if you’re any kind of music fan, you need to give Rearrange My Heart a listen.
About the author: I've actually driven from Tehatchapee to Tonopah. And I've seen Dallas from a DC-9 at night.