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Word is all the insiders already knew about Mosser, knew she did all these as demos to hawk Van Zandt's tunes to more-established artists, knew there was a bootleg floating around, and knew that she writes plenty of her own material. Of course you wouldn't know any of that from the very scant press coverage she's received. What you will know if you pick up this CD is that its release was partly the brainchild of (executive producer) Jeanene Van Zandt, whose liner notes -- addressed to Townes -- drip with the pathos of a plea to a loved one who's teetering too far out on the ledge: "Always remember, Love, that your words are a comfort....You will matter forever."

While Townes and Jeanene seek professional help, somebody ought to sign Jonell Mosser to a major label. Hear that rattling sound? That's Lowell George boogying in his grave.

-- Tom Finkel

Johnny Copeland
Jungle Swing
(Verve)

Johnny "Clyde" Copeland is a healer. Afflicted with a serious heart condition known as cardiomyopathy, this estimable New York City-based bluesman sings and plays guitar for fellow patients during his regular visits to the artificial heart-pumping unit at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, Copeland's music has a salutary effect on patients and serves as a catalyst for his ongoing research work into the connection between music and healing. "Instead of being jailed up in the hospital," Oz says, "the patients felt they had their lives back again." The contents of Copeland's latest album -- recorded in early 1995, well before the first of his three open-heart surgeries -- have the power to lift everyone's spirit.

Copeland links the emotions of the blues and African music in his distinctive original songs, offsetting the plaintive ache of his singing with a redeeming musical joy. On "Blues Ain't Nothin'," Copeland's tortured vocals come up against the radiant sensitivity of his electric guitar and the steady, reassuring, yet unobtrusive groove of his ace rhythm section and Afro-percussionist Kimati Kinizulu. "Kasavubu" is an urgent invitation to clap your hands that has singer-guitarist Copeland riding the tumultuous wave of Kinizulu's array of struck and rattled instruments. "Same Thing" encourages dancing in the streets, be it those of Copeland's old Houston stomping grounds or Zaire. And the acoustic blues "I Got a Love" features the band leader's gripping display of naked expression over soothing, gospel-drenched harmonies supplied by a trio of African singers.

There is an uncommon heartfelt quality to Copeland's storytelling that enriches the entire disc; the John Synder-produced set may well be Copeland's most assured and splendent ever. (In the past, he has sometimes been bushwhacked by indifferent sound engineering.) One hopes that Copeland receives a new heart soon -- he's on a waiting list with several dozen other New Yorkers -- and continues to create his special life-affirming music for years to come.

-- Frank-John Hadley

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