Gift & The Moonbeams – Gift’s Sounds | Album Review

Gift & The Moonbeams – Gift’s Sounds

Rhythm Bomb Records

12 tracks/39:13

Recorded in Munich, Germany,featuring nine originals and three covers, this disc spotlights the artistry of singer Gift Musarurwa. He mixes musical elements of his African heritage with blues music in an all-acoustic format. His band, the Moonbeams, consists of Michal Karbowski on guitar & backing vocals, Ivona Karbowska on percussion & backing vocals, and Ju Ghan on the up-right bass.

The group’s sound is sparse with basic rhythms and measured instrumental fills. Gift plays guitar and harp, adding some depth to the proceedings. His weathered voice spins a tale of lost love on “Mary Anne” while “Poor Boy” recalls the hectic pace of his younger years juggling various jobs to support his family while attending school. Karbowski, a classically trained guitarist, picks some delicate lines before engaging in a brief exchange with Ghan. “Kindly Treat Me” is built on a standard blues progression as Gift ponders a woman’s lack of attention with Karbowska adding melodic moans in the background.

Several songs are sung in African dialects. “Mapuleni Chikashana (Hello Young Lady)” is a jaunty ode focused on a young man’s inability to share his feelings with the object of his affections. Written with David Matondo, “Butsu Yangu Yapera Hiri” moves along at a sprightly pace as Gift describes a man’s failure to attract a girl’s attention. The evils of beer (Pombe) are covered in the traditional Swahili folk song, “Shahuri Ya Pombe”. Karbowska does a duet with Gift on the brief “You’ve Changed Your Ways and Thinking,” which features lyrics by Matt Foreman plus several rudimentary harmonica interludes. “Moonbeams” negotiates familiar territory, with the protagonist issuing a promise to stay away from moonshine if his woman will give him one more chance.

“What’s The Matter With The Mill” is a blues standard dedicated to Memphis Minnie. Gift blows some simple harp fills over Karbowski’s fleet-fingered playing. Robert Johnson’s “Love In Vain” gets an appropriately solemn treatment as Ghan lays down a deep foundation. The final selection, “Maggie,” is credited to Gift but sounds like John Lee Hooker’s “Maudie” with a name change.

This is a low-key recording without a modernistic sheen. The basic approach means that, as a whole, the disc hangs together without any major issues. For the same reason, the group never generates any exceptional moments of music-making, partly attributable to Gift’s easygoing vocal style. Give it a listen if your tastes tend toward a softer approach to the blues.

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