SHOUTING ABOUT SPECIALIST MUSIC
Heads up! Hedonism heading your way…
E E FR ne o pick day up to
ISSUE 18 NOV/DEC 2010
Also in this issue:
Paul Heaton Ralph McTell Heidi Talbot Joan Armatrading Joanne Shaw Taylor Jay Phelps Creole Choir Of Cuba Soweto Kinch Esperanza Spalding Arvo Pärt Shelby Lynne Huey Lewis & The News Cowboy Junkies Dar Williams Eilen Jewell Hot Club Of Cowtown Reviews, reviews, reviews.
Enter our competition to win all of the CDs featured in this issue. Properganda 18
Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings The ‘A Folk Song A Day’ Tour 2011
London, Kings Place
Cheltenham Folk Festival
Bridgwater, Arts Centre
Shrewsbury, The Hive
Oxford, O’Reilly Theatre, Keble College
Reading, South St Arts Centre
Pontardawe, Arts Centre
Cockermouth, Kirkgate Arts
Hereford, The Courtyard
Nottingham, Glee Club
CONTENTS Page 4 Heidi Talbot 5 All Along The Wall The Bad Shepherd’s 6 Ralph McTell 7-10 Bellowhead 11 Competition 12 Hot Club Of Cowtown Dar Williams
elcome to the last Properganda of 2010 and as I write this, our cover stars are top of my mind. A second appearance on Later With Jools (last time they picked up celeb admirers in the shape of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers) will hopefully propel the coming tour into the stratosphere. I personally can’t wait for the Shepherd’s Bush Empire gig and will take in at least one other show, but they’ve already played my favourite gigs of the year so far with New Year’s Eve into New Year’s Day and the album launch at The Water Rats. Two greater contrasts in terms of number of attendees and sets you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere, but both totally satisfying and both totally Bellowhead. Speaking of highlights, honourable gig mentions for this year have to go to Little Axe (both the full on electric show in Brixton and the stripped down duet at the Luminaire), Darden Smith and Fay Hield (separately of course) at the Green Note Café and Robyn Hitchcock and pals doing Hunky Dory as a special fund raiser in a tiny little London boozer, marvellous stuff. We’ve also selected a few albums in a kind of Top 20 of the year, although arguments will doubtless be had about the many things omitted. It’s hardly a comprehensive summary of what has been a very good year for our particular niche in the creative part of the music industry. There are several critics’ favourites in the list, a couple of intriguing wild cards, but there are other titles dotted through these pages that deserve your attention equally. Whatever your personal preferences we firmly believe there’s something in these pages for you. We hope you enjoy your festive season and Santa puts a few of these gems into your stockings. Meanwhile, “Away, santé, my dear Annie, Oooh you New York Girls can you dance the polka!” See you at Shepherd’s Bush! ★★STOP
PRESS★★ Bellowhead have just been confirmed as the Headline act for the 2011 Bristol Festival. See www.bristolfolkfestival.com for details. They will also play another New Year’s Eve Bash At The Royal Festival Hall. ★★STOP PRESS★★
13 Darrell Scott Eilen Jewell 14 The Cowboy Junkies Shelby Lynne 15 Paul Heaton 16-17 ECM Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemblé Arvo Pärt 18 Esperanza Spalding Soweto Kinch 19 Jazzland Recordings Jay Phelps 21 Joanne Shaw Taylor 22 The Creole Choir Of Cuba 23 Deolinda Hanggai 24 Joan Armatrading 25 Jones 25 Huey Lewis & The News 27-29 Folk Reviews 30 Country/Americana Reviews 31-32 Jazz Reviews 32 Blues Reviews 33 Pete Brown 33 World Reviews 34 Round Up Reviews 36-38 The Best Of The Year selection Contributors Andy Robson, Brian Showell, Chris Nickson, Cliff White, Colin Irwin, Colin Somerville, David Kidman, Graham Monk, Howard Male, Jon Lusk, Ken Smith, Peter Bacon, Simon Holland, Stuart Nicholson, Garth Cartwright, Sid Cowans, David Sinclair, Julian May, Tim Cummings, Jim Soars, Helen M Jerome, Kevin LeGendre. Editor Simon Holland
Proper Music Distribution
The New Powerhouse Gateway Business Park Kangley Bridge Road SE26 5AN England Tel Int +44 (0) 20 8676 5100 Fax +44 (0) 20 8676 5169 www.propergandaonline.com
Design and artwork Don Ward at Triple Eight Graphics Ltd. (contact email@example.com) Printed by The Martstan Press. Princes Street, Bexleyheath, Kent DA7 4BJ 020 8301 5900 Properganda 18
eidi Talbot hasn’t had time to catch her breath lately. She became a mum, went off on tour, married ace Hfiddle player/producer John McCusker, moved house to the Scottish borders near Peebles and released a rather lovely new album The Last Star…
“I even had a Tweet from (the author) Ian Rankin the other day saying he loved my album so it can’t get any better than that, can it?” she laughs. “And the wedding was great. It was like a posh Celtic Connections. We had a big ceili with loads of music and my mum got up and sang Bunch Of Thyme…it was brilliant.” It’s around a decade since she left her Irish home in Co. Kildare and almost from the moment she touched down in New York found herself singing Shania Twain songs in a wedding band before assimilating respect and experience in equal measures during five happy years fronting the celebrated all-female Irish American group Cherish The Ladies. Finally dragging herself back across the Atlantic, she settled in Scotland and, in 2008, launched her solo career with the album In Love & Light, particularly notable for a gorgeous version of the Tom Waits song Time. Yet with The Last Star – not unnaturally produced by her new husband – she finally appears to have landed as a fully rounded and eclectic solo act, equally adept on traditional and contemporary songs, blending the two styles together as she also finally emerges as a convincing songwriter in her own right. Collaborating with McCusker, she’s come up with several original songs and is justly proud of the results.
“I’m getting more confident,” she says. “I’ve always written bits of songs and never managed to finish them, I’d always assumed they were cheesy and rubbish and I wouldn’t show them to anyone, but I travelled with John when he was on tour with Mark Knopfler and finding myself on
my own in hotel rooms for much of the time, I started writing a lot more. John convinced me they weren’t complete rubbish and that gave me the confidence to develop them. We went on tour with Eddi Reader last year and started trying them out in the set. That made a big difference and by the time we came to record them we were ready.” The title track The Last Star is one of her own – a song of loss and longing so deeply emotional you fear for her state of mind alone in that hotel room in some far-flung corner of the world. “John gave me the melody and I built it up on the road. I don’t really know where I get the ideas, it’s just how I’m feeling at the time and where the mood takes me. I still don’t really think of myself as a songwriter. It takes me so long. Boo (Hewerdine) can write a song in five minutes and it’ll be brilliant, but it takes me ages and it’ll be rubbish.” What speeds the process is re-writing and updating old folk songs like Bleecker Street, a story she originally found in a book titled as Peter Street. She changed it around a bit, added a verse or two and relocated it to Greenwich Village to give it more relevance to her years living in New York. She pays further homage to one of her primary influences Sandy Denny with a heartfelt At The End Of The Day, gives the famous sea shanty Sally Brown a gloriously frisky makeover and delivers the old story of Willie Taylor with sultry guile as a celebrated supporting cast - including Mike McGoldrick on pipes, Phil Cunningham and Andy Cutting on accordion, Ian Carr, Kris Drever and Boo Hewerdine on guitar and Eddi Reader and Karine Polwart on backing vocals – pull out the stops to elevate her to the higher echelons of the modern UK folk scene. Then again, blessed with a voice of such natural beauty and vulnerability, you can imagine Heidi Talbot singing an Icelandic punk carol backwards and it would still sound wonderful. “Things are good,” she confirms. “Busy, but good. John and I haven’t had time for a honeymoon because we’ve been working. We celebrated getting married by gigging – we called it our gig-amoon…” Colin Irwin
Heidi Talbot The Last Star Navigator NAVIGATOR043 www.heiditalbot.com
though I went more for the intimate approach - a cross-border relationship between a man and woman - that resulted in my collaboration with Julie, Haltwhistle Women”. Julie Matthews admits she got sick of the Romans by day four, “so I was looking for something else to write about and my thoughts turned to more recent times. You can’t live in Cumbria and not be affected by the aftermath of foot and mouth on the community, so that prompted a song called Shepherd Who’s Lost His Sheep.”
ack in January, Brampton Live Festival sent five singer songwriters and two performance poets to work in a B remote farmhouse near Hadrian’s Wall for a week. The fruit of
their endeavours is a just-released CD, All Along The Wall, and a series of forthcoming concerts. We asked singer Nancy Kerr to find out more… It might seem an obvious question, but I wondered what particular themes suggested themselves when starting to write about the Wall? “Togas”, says Elvis McGonagall, with his tongue in his cheek and a mischievous glint in his eye, “and rain.” Clearly, it was hard to ignore either the Romans or the weather. “We had enough books on Hadrian’s Wall to build our own little wall with”, says Ruth Notman, who found that parking herself in a sub-zero conservatory with glorious views was a surprisingly good stimulus. For Kate Fox, the Wall was structural in more ways than one: “It was handy to have the structure of the geographical area of the wall, but with the freedom of writing about any time in its history.” Jez Lowe continues, “I think we all related this wall to walls that have been prominent in our own time”, dividing the peoples of Europe and of the Middle East. In the end
Seven people, all very different, holed up for six nights in a deep Northumbrian winter … what was that like? “Inspiring, humbling,” says Julie. “We were all so focused - with only five days to write and rehearse a 75 minute show we couldn’t afford to be anything else!” For Jez Lowe it was “idyllic, both in terms of comfort, and in terms of the company. Work time was quite intensive, but playtime was a hoot!” Even Elvis enjoyed himself, although he declined to comment further “until the court case for false imprisonment has been settled.” The fruits of this retreat, All Along The Wall is released by Fellside and features Jez Lowe, Rory McLeod, Julie Matthews, Boo Hewerdine, Ruth Notman, Kate Fox and Elvis McGonagall, plus Kate Bramley. Nancy Kerr
All Along The Wall Various Fellside FECD236
t’s temptingly easy to dismiss Bad Shepherds as a novelty plaything for Adrian Edmondson to indulge his musical Ifantasies after all those years as a comedy treasure. Indeed,
it was widely assumed that when they first exploded in with their ingenious folk settings of punk classics on debut album Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera, took the festival scene by storm and were nominated as Best Live Act at the BBC Folk Awards, that it would be a one-off - an elaborate, well-executed joke that couldn’t possibly be repeated and Ade would swiftly return to the more familiar public perception surrounding his comedy gold creations for The Young Ones, Bottom and The Comic Strip Presents… Tempting but hopelessly wrong. The arrival of the second Bad Shepherds album By Hook Or By Crook forces a dramatic reassessment of such assumptions. Troy Donockley’s opening uilleann pipes lament sets the evocative tone for an understated, melancholic treatment that casts a darker light entirely on Anarchy In The UK without a trace of the cartoonesque parody that’s always pursued the song. It sets the tone for an album that’s thoughtful as well as fun and means that the Bad Shepherds need to be taken seriously. Edmondson himself wouldn’t claim to be the world’s greatest singer or mandolin player, but he’s no slouch either, establishing the template for the superb Donockley and Andy Dinan (fiddle, banjo) to create their own magic on some lively, challenging and often inspirational arrangements. Donockley already has, after all,
Bad Shepherds By Hook Or By Crook Monsoon Music MONMUCD005 www.thebadshepherds.com
an immense CV that includes Maddy Prior, Iona, Kathryn Tickell and numerous others; while Andy Dinan, a former all-Ireland fiddle champion, is similarly regarded with much reverence. So, a mad idea born when Edmondson found he’d bought himself a mandolin after a boozy lunch and discovered his old punk favourites sounded pretty good on it, now really comes of age. There is a wondrous Ramones medley on the new album, but their horizons now stretch far beyond the ‘1-2-3-Let’sGo’ punk mentality of shouty soundbites to encompass a far broader spread of material. XTC’s Making Plans For Nigel, The Members’ Sound Of The Suburbs and the Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) are all given enriching revamps and they also deliver impassioned versions of The Smiths’ Panic and, most surprisingly, Motorhead’s Ace Of Spades. Iconic tracks all, but the Bad Shepherds enterprisingly give them a brand new skin that goes way beyond novelty. Colin Irwin Properganda 18
re we now entitled to refer to Ralph McTell as a legend? Superb guitarist, consummate songwriter with a proud A and influential back catalogue spanning right through acoustic music’s glory years…yep, legends have been built on far less. If any further corroboration is needed then it’s to be found in his outstanding new album Somewhere Down The Road – his first for a decade – comprehensively proving his highly individual gift for a compelling tune and a challenging, poetic lyric is as potent as ever.
It’s certainly been a long time coming – “I’ve never been a speedy writer but this may well be the longest I’ve ever taken to bring a collection of songs to the studio,” he says – but any fears he’d been abandoned by the muse are blown out of the water the moment opening track The London Apprentice kicks into action. A love song of sorts to London every bit as affecting as that other song about the capital, it ushers in a reassuringly confident collection that includes various nods to the musical heroes who’ve shaped him.
Reverend Thunder (Blind Faith) pays homage to the Rev. Gary Davis and The Ghost Of Robert Johnson is McTell’s very personal tribute to the iconic blues man. Another track, The Girl On The Jersey Ferry is inspired by a line from the movie, Citizen Kane; Lantern Slides is a touching homily about his mother’s own childhood memories; and the jaunty A Sunny Day even finds him singing in French, chanson style. Diverse influences all, yet drawn irresistibly together by the closing track Somewhere Down The Road, a free-spirited troubadour anthem straight out of the wandering Woody Guthrie school of philosophy which could well become his new signature tune. Given the long break it’s a remarkable work, given added richness by an outstanding supporting cast, who include Chris Parkinson (delightful accordion on Around The Wild Cape Horn and pan pipes on Cannabis Creek), Tim Renwick on electric guitar and Steve Turner playing slide on The Ghost Of Robert Johnson), while the Harlech Symphony Orchestra and the Kernow String Quartet join the fray, lending gravitas to the epic The Break Of The Union. Colin Irwin
Ralph McTell Somewhere Down The Road
A Kiss In The Rain is the romantic tale of two of his great contemporaries, Annie Briggs and Bert Jansch constructing their seminal arrangement of the old song Blackwaterside; while
Leola TPGCD31 www.ralphmctell.co.uk
13 songs of protest; 5 brand new ones, and re-workings of songs by Phil Ochs, Jim Ford, Bobby Womack, Alfred Bryan, Bobby Darin, Roosevelt Sykes, Langston Hughes, and Bob Dylan. ‘I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be A Soilder’ wields a potent eternal truth. King restates one of contemporary musics most neglected values as a formidable instrument. - Mojo A harrowing and viscerally powerful statement, it’s a magnificent achievement. - Americana-UK 8/10******** An engaging, pointed set of protest song. Kings songs hold up admirably next to covers of Ochs, Dylan, Darin, and more. - UnCut Protest music for a new generation but as heart felt as anything you will ever hear. - Maverick 4/5**** Protest by pathos as well as passion, an excellent record. - R2 4/5**** Coherent, passionate and compelling undoubtedly one of his best albums. - Lonesome HIghway One of the most eloquent voices of protest in recent times. - whisperinandhollerin.com 9/10********* ‘Hey Ma, I’m Coming Home’ is simply one of the best protest songs ever written. - pennyblackmusic.co.uk 9/10*********
michaelwestonking.com & myspace.com/michaelwestonking Distributed by
is defined as the conviction that pleasure is Hedonism the highest good. In post-war popular music, hedonistic
pleasure pursuits have gone hand in hand with three chords, open tunings, extreme volume and a mosh pit since Elvis changed the movement of the world at the hip in the 1950s. Hedonism in folk music is a different matter; in the British folk revival, such tendencies were generally subsumed beneath militant or arcadian ones. The Sixties counterculture plugged folk in to electricity and hallucinogens, just as an earlier generation had introduced guitars and protest to an unaccompanied repertoire, and the eighties saw The Pogues and Oysterband bring the tribal dynamics of rock to the folk tradition. And then Bellowhead come along in 2004, a party band dreamt up to close festivals with a bang, playfully but expertly fusing a strong brew of folk, funk, vaudeville and jazz with Burlesque dancers, pogo rather than pole dancing, and the reckless urge to stage-dive. Bellowhead’s inaugural performance was at the first Oxford folk festival in 2004, bringing wild and inventive arrangements to traditional English dance tunes and ballads. Their ‘English world music’ led from the festival stages to two acclaimed albums, Burlesque and Matachin, and a slew of deserved ‘best live
band’ awards, for Bellowhead are a band that likes to throw a party when they perform. With their third album, Bellowhead comes of age, delivering a truly hedonistic set of songs that propels their twisted, monstrous sound to new heights and shady depths. “The root of the new album was in the Bawdy Weekend Valentines gig,” lead singer Jon Boden says of Hedonism. “So yes, it’s mostly about shagging, which is not surprising really the majority of folk songs are about sex.” Opening with a tale of shore leave gone mad (New York Girls) and proceeding through ballads of folk magic and virginity preserved (Broomfield Hill), via once dainty 18th century dances turned loose on Happy Hour (Cross Eyed And Chinless) to the fleshpots of Yarmouth Town and Amsterdam, Hedonism is a ragged hymn to the road of excess and the morning after. Take saxophonist Brendan Kelly’s arrangement for Amsterdam – a Jacques Brel number beloved of Scott Walker, and his first for the band – composed for their Bawdy Valentines Gig at the South Bank. “The basic idea of it was to create a crescendo from start to finish,” he says. “It seemed like a good choice of track to take to a Bawdy Valentine, and it Properganda 18 16
grew. People liked it and we played it live a few times. And we managed to record it.” Though hardly part of the folk repertoire, Amsterdam ’s grubby dockside romanticism isn’t so far from the tradition that gives us the tale of seduction and riddling that is Captain Wedderburn or the necrophiliac excesses of Cold Blows The Wind. Hedonism is a world of extremes, where Brel sits beside supernatural Child Ballads as snugly as boots of Spanish leather. “It’s the only non-traditional number, one that’s outside the British and North American tradition,” says fiddle player Paul Sartin, “and it really works within our canon. It really sounds like a Bellowhead number. And it’s almost too obvious to say that Jon [Boden] has a really powerful vocal on the track. He binds the whole thing together” Awarded best singer at this year’s BBC Radio Two Folk Awards, Jon Boden – the group’s co-founder with Jon Spiers - traces his brand of mad-eyed theatricality and archness back to an enduring love for the work of Peter Bellamy. “I found that was a model worth following and hopefully take further,” he says of his technique – matched onstage by a wired personae reminiscent of vintage John Cleese. “When you try to learn to be a folk singer it can be frustrating because so many of them just did it – the Watersons for example. They’ve all got great voices and sing from within themselves and you can’t really imitate it. There aren’t technical tricks that you can pick up, which is why,” he adds, almost with a sigh, “they are so fantastic and unmatchable.” Hedonism comes with conceptual cover art by David Angel, picturing the 11-strong band in sensible knitwear scattered amongst a burlesque crowd of pleasured hedonists, lotuseaters, wantons and boys in sailor garb – images that evoke
the kind of commitment to abandon one might associate with gin-lit doxies in a Hogarth cartoon, or one of Kate Moss’s themed birthday parties. “Jon had the idea of us being out at a party but a bit bored,” recalls percussionist Pete Flood. “because we have this nightly as musicians where we have a party and then we have to pack up and put it all away when everyone else is off to get a drink. So after we decided that for the album cover, the title Hedonism was the obvious choice. And there’s the two sides to hedonism - the wild party and the morning after. There’s a lot in the folk tradition about that.” The album comes with its own Hedonism Ale, from the Potbelly Brewery in Kettering, Northamptonshire where members of the band partook in the ritual stirring in of the hops, punctuating the brewing activity with an impromptu set of English dance tunes and drinking songs. Percussionist Pete Flood knocked out a rhythm on two freshly-emptied bottles, and Jon Spiers’ concertina and Paul Sartin and Sam Sweeney’s fiddles conspired together on ebullient versions of John Barleycorn Must Die and the Copper family’s Good Ale. Hedonism in cask and bottle form has been a hit at the summer’s festivals where the band have played. “If we can judge the performance of the album on the beer, then we’ve got nothing to worry about,” says Pete Flood. “Though I suspect that beer will always be more popular than CDs.” It’s possible they have to recoup larger studio expenses this time around, as the album was recorded at Abbey Road ’s hallowed Studio Two, recording home of The Beatles, with acclaimed producer John Leckie at the helm. Leckie, a rock producer of high renown who’s also worked with the likes of Baaba Maal and Rodrigo y Gabriella, came on board after
the band’s manager got in touch, and sent him their live DVD from Shepherds Bush. “They asked for a live record, and I’d seen them live and I wanted to capture that and arranged to bring them into Abbey Road , where we could do it without pulling it to pieces and deconstructing it. And it was done almost effortlessly - three days one week, three more the following week. And we achieved what we set out to do – to make a record.” Hooking up with Leckie early on, the band took his advice to follow the three R’s – rehearse, rehearse, rehearse – and came in wellprepared for the job at hand, charts marked up as if for a long voyage. “Sometimes arrangements seem to work straight off,” says Boden of their method. “Broomfield Hill hardly changed from the initial arrangement I brought to the table. Others just don’t work, so the band throw it around and make suggestions and the original arrangement will go away as the suggestions come on board. It can be a long process. A Begging I Will Go – that went through 29 versions before it got onto CD.” The musician who brings the arrangement in has final say, but if they don’t take on board the band’s input, it’s unlikely to reach the live set or a recording session. “It’s very important that there’s input from everyone in the development process,” adds Pete Flood. “Most of the time it’s saying, ‘here’s the guide but if you want to change it, come up with something else,’ and they’ll think of some tweak here, or the horns will look at how they’ll phrase part of it. That’s how we work as a band. There’s a mutual trust in each other as musicians. It’s that thing of intensely playing stuff and really talking about it and going back to it time and again and developing it over several months – or years.”
“Once we had the material on the table he was tremendously helpful,” remembers Boden of Leckie’s input. “He ruled out four or five pieces, which saved us a lot of time, and he was directly involved in tweaks to four or five tracks. They were all very direct, simple but effective suggestions. It helped that someone can take an overview on the whole band.” In Studio Two, Leckie worked from the upstairs control room with its panoramic window onto the floor below, with Pete Flood set up on a dais at the back of the studio, strings and brass facing each other from semi-enclosed booths set either side, and Boden in front of John Lennon’s mic – protected by a spit guard - preparing for another take. “One of the most amazing things is that Jon Boden’s vocals are all live with the band,” says Leckie. “There are very few overdubs – the only ones are backing vocals. But all of Jon’s vocals were done in one take with everyone playing, the whole band, which is really impressive. And it was great to work with musicians who allowed me to do that. It’s so much easier to handle because we didn’t have to do this thing of recording the drums first, then the brass, and the guitars, vocals, and so on. It was all done in one go.” Paul Sartin says of the sessions: “There was that sort of atmosphere where we all piled up to the control room and drank tea and chatted, and it was part of the whole flavour of the album. It was very relaxed and focused. Having your mind on the job and having down time as well.” The hours were longer than the average working day. “We recorded from 11 in the morning to 11 every evening,” says Flood, “which needed big reserves of energy. Obviously, Sally
Racket was a first-thing-in-the-morning take.” The raucous Sally Racket is Hedonism’s shouty, Beefheartian twist on the folk tradition, a sore thumb of a tune crossed with an upyours finger salute. “A lot of our regular fans hate it and a lot of people from outside folk love it,” reveals Flood. “It feels like when we took out Flash Company on Burlesque, that people hated at first, and then it became a real event at our gigs.” Sally Racket was dragged in to the session – probably by its hair - by Jon Boden, who had picked it up from a bootleg
almost like being in his front room, he was so familiar with that studio and its capability, its acoustics.” Indeed, one of Leckie’s more personal acoustical touches was to put a carpet down, though I guess he drew the line at a comfy sofa and TV. He laughs. “When I worked there in the 70s the back half of the studio was always carpeted, and they’d put the drums there. Apparently now they have it all open. The people at the studio told me I was the only person to put a carpet down.” Rolling out the red carpet for Hedonism on the road, the album was launched at the beginning of October with a gig at the Water Rats, the venerable rock venue in Kings Cross, featuring an ebullient, super-charged run-through of the whole album. From November 10 through to 28, the band embark on their most intensive tour so far. “I’m slightly apprehensive,” admits Paul Sartin, “because it’s a really long haul. It’s the longest time we’ll have been on the road without a break. And you’ve got to give your best every night.” Brendan Kelly agrees. “There’ll be a lot of sleeping before and after but not much during it. And hopefully a bit of good diet and exercise to strengthen us up - so we have enough energy to survive the hedonism.” Tim Cummings
of an old Young Tradition gig from the late Sixties. “It’s not a song I’d heard anywhere else. They did it in a very punky way and our arrangement brings it out and exaggerates what’s already there. I have to start it by shouting,” he adds, “which is strange.” And which may explain the spit guard in front of Lennon’s old mic. Was entering Studio Two a big deal for the band? “It raises your game to go somewhere where so much great stuff has preceded what you’re about to do,” says Brendan Kelly of working there. “It feels as if a hell of lot has come out of there – which it has, obviously. And John Leckie has been there forever. He knew everybody. And everyone knew him. It was 10
Bellowhead Hedonism Navigator NAIGATOR042 www.bellowhead.co.uk
WI N EVERY CD FEATU RED I N TH IS MAGAZI N E! Sign up to our weekly newsletter for your chance to
Updated regularly, Free to enter, Win CDs, Festival tickets and much more...
www.propergandaonline.com Properganda 18
hat’s a statement, not a question, y’unnerstan? The Bob in question is, of course, Bob Wills, the infamous ‘king of western T swing’, and one of Hot Club Of Cowtown’s key influences. He died in 1975 but the legacy is alive and kicking, as this humorous, affectionate and exuberantly updated take on his style firmly underlines.
Hot jazz/western swing revivalists Hot Club Of Cowtown first came together in 1998 and despite a three year hiatus that ended in early 2008, this is their tenth album proper. Last year’s Wishful Thinking mixed standards by the likes of Hoagy Carmichael and the Gerswhins with excellent original material that showed touches of their Romany inspirations as well as paying homage to Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt’s Quintette du Hot Club de France. Even so, that record kicked off with Wills’ Can’t Go On This Way. Obviously, that isn’t true, since What Makes Bob Holler consists entirely of songs and tunes Wills wrote or co-wrote, plus a smattering of less well known pieces by contemporaries who either worked with his Texas Playboys or wrote for them or like them. The result is Hot Club Of Cowtown’s most cohesive work yet. Elana James (fiddle, vocals), Whit Smith (guitar, vocals) and Jake Erwin (double bass, backing vocals) are all prodigiously gifted players, and their solos dovetail into one another with impressive intuition and economy. Just check the way on Smith’s Reel, James’ blazing fiddle gives way to first Smith’s sputtering electric riffing, then Erwin’s crisply percussive solo and back again to James – all in under two minutes. It’s not all breakneck brilliance, though, and of three other instrumentals, the finest is the gorgeously relaxed Maiden’s Prayer.
orn in rural New York state and named after Darcy from Pride & Prejudice, Dar Williams has carved out a successful B career as a singer of folk flavoured original songs. She began
on the coffeehouse circuit and made her name through issuing cassettes that showed what a mature talent this young singer-songwriter was. Supporting Joan Baez gave Williams her big break as Baez took Dar under her wing, recording her songs, singing with her on stage and championing her in print. Williams’ material shares a similarity with Baez, its folk-pop tones strong in melody, a high keen vocal and a tendency towards that yearning, earnest quality often noted in US folk music. Williams is better known in her native USA than in the UK though this fine double CD set should help rectify things. Here, on Disc 1, Songs Revisited
Smith’s almost speak-singing vocal style suits the light-hearted songs like The Devil Ain’t Lazy and What’s The Matter With The Mill down to the ground. And James really comes into her own as a singer on Cindy Walker’s classic It’s All Your Fault, which is way too joyful to be as sad as the lyrics might suggest. Although What Makes Bob Holler is the culmination of twelve years of hard graft, it was recorded in just three days. The live-inthe-studio spontaneity is obvious in the odd comment or ‘holler’ from both singers. Even so, they tellingly resist the temptation to mimic Wills’ trademark mewlings, instead putting their own respectful stamp on the pages of his songbook. Jon Lusk
Hot Club Of Cowtown What Makes Bob Holler Proper Records PRPCD071 www.hotclubofcowtown.com
With Guitar And A Few Friends, she is joined by Gary Louris (most notably a member of The Jayhawks and Golden Smog), Mary Chapin Carpenter, Patty Larkin and Sara and Sean Watkins (of Nickel Creek fame.) The songs on this album are original compositions that Williams has not played for many years – 13 or 14 years in many cases – and to revisit them she has invited her friends to help breathe new life into said songs. Williams sings beautifully and the harmonies she shares with Carpenter and Larkin are exceptional while Louris brings a ragged, country rock flavour to the gathering. Disc 2 is a Dar Williams compilation which gathers 22 of her songs as a “best of” of sorts for fans and an introduction of other sorts for new listeners. The songs here – and they included such Williams’ standards as End Of The Summer, When I Was A Boy, The One Who Knews, The Mercy Of The Fallen and The Beauty Of The Rain – are taken from the Williams albums ranging from 93’s The Honesty Room, right through the seven album sequence of her releases to The Promised Land from 2008. The main selection criteria is that in the US these are the most requested Dar’s songs when she plays live. And true to that live setting, where she generally plays solo, these acoustic re-recording will delight Williams’ fans and new listeners alike with the chance to revel in her poetic songcraft. .
Dar Williams Many Great Companions Proper Records PASS006 www.darwilliams.com
t fifty years old, Darrell Scott is A only beginning to
get the recognition he deserves. The Kentucky-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter has long been celebrated by country music insiders for his fluid guitar playing and skilled songwriting – his songs have been covered by Faith Hill and many other big country stars – yet Scott has, so far, not had a hit single or album to his name. Will A Crooked Road change this? On this double CD filled with original compositions Scott not only wrote and sang all the songs, he played every instrument on the album (and took all the portrait photos that decorate the album’s inside sleeve.) As always, Scott demonstrates tremendous skill, both as a guitarist and songwriter. Perhaps slightly more of a revelation is that he is also a very fine singer, his gentle, persuasive voice carrying the lyric convincingly. Songs such as The Day Before Thanksgiving, When The Spirit Meets The Bone, Candles In The Rain (Childless Mothers) and Snow Queen And Drama Llama are all mighty fine compositions, but as the titles suggest, Scott is a cerebral songwriter, never relying on Nashville cliché. A Crooked Road is instead a very personal album, perhaps akin to a diary or a memoir where Scott sings about some major upheavals in his life – love, anger,
star of retro since her previous project The Sacred Rising Shakers, where Eilen and her
fellow band members paid tribute to old time country and blues by performing the songs of Hank Williams and The Stanley Brothers among others, Eilen returns with Butcher Holler, her tribute to the songs of Loretta Lynn. Last year’s release Sea Of Tears would see Eilen Jewell move away from acoustic folk and country to a more electric sound, where she forsook the fiddle and harmonica of her earlier releases and started to sing solo with a rockabilly styled trio of guitar, bass and drums. That same trio format, with ace player Jerry Miller on guitar and pedal steel, is employed for this tribute to the queen of country, Loretta Lynn. The band rocks through the twelve covers, mixing Jewell’s jazz-tinged vocals with twang laden guitars and tempos that turn the ballads into sorrowful two-steppers and the remainder into perfectly restrained rockers. You can hear Lynn in every track, but each also has Eilen’s unmistakable stamp. Jewell’s delivery doesn’t have the harshness of the originals sung by Lynn and this keeps tracks such as Fist City and You Ain’t Woman Enough (To
loss, the mess we make of relationships. Alongside the songs are several instrumental interludes that are spaced throughout the album – this is a wise idea as they demonstrate not only Scott’s remarkable fluency on guitar but provide space between those often intense songs. Scott’s music is perhaps too thoughtful, reflective and wise for a mass audience, yet for listeners who enjoy (mostly) acoustic music with a country tinge, performed with consummate skill and soulfulness then A Crooked Road will definitely appeal. One such listener and fan is Robert Plant. The former Led Zeppelin singer so appreciates Scott that he has hired him to play guitar in his new outfit, The Band Of Joy. Hopefully, touring the world with Plant will win Scott the audiences his fine music deserves. A Crooked Road is definitely the best album of his career and deserves to be heard by all who value intelligence above the fame factor. Garth Cartwright
Darrell Scott A Crooked Road Full Light Records 7068147 www.darrellscott.com
Take My Man) slightly more laid back that the originals. A supreme songwriter, Loretta Lynn wrote these songs at a time when women were supposed to know their place and certainly not sing about liberation and being treated badly by the opposite sex. These were the songs that would help influence a whole new generation of women to start standing up for themselves and to be heard when speaking out against domestic violence and being treated as just as an object in the home. Jewell’s sultry and smokey delivery works perfectly on the track You Wanna Give Me a Lift as she puts down an amorous admirer with the line “I’m a little bit warm, but that don’t mean I’m on fire” a killer line. On Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ On Your Mind), the lyric offer a promise of lovin’, but only when said partner arrives home sober, again Jewell gives us the perfect reading of the song.
Lynn’s originals are brought right up to date when delivered by the jazzy soulful vocal of Eilen Jewell and Eilen Jewell Presents Butcher Holler when combined with the guitar mastery of Jerry Miller, Johnny Sciascia on upright A Tribute To Loretta Lynn bass and Jason Beek on drums, they are the perfect accompaniment to these superb Signature Sounds readings of some of the best songs that SIG 2030 Loretta Lynn ever composed. Jim Soars www.eilenjewell.com Properganda 18
he Cowboy Junkies have been ploughing their own highly individual T path for over twenty years now. When the
Canadian band of two brothers (Mike and Peter) and sister Margo formed in the late-1980s their eerie, startlingly beautiful music proved an immediate international hit – here was a band who mixed The Velvet Underground with Hank Williams, Patsy Cline with The Cocteau Twins, so creating music that had roots in both country music and alternative rock, ambient in sound yet very emotional thanks to Margo’s exquisite vocals. The band have never again enjoyed the huge sales that greeted 1988’s The Trinity Sessions but they appear unconcerned by this, preferring to be totally independent so following their own path. This means The Cowboy Junkies can release a series of four different albums under the briefing of The Nomad Series as the muse takes them. Renmin Park is the first of these four and it is a very beautiful album informed by Michael’s time spent living in China. Not only did China inform his songs but he also learnt two songs by Chinese songwriters he admires and they are recorded here.
the title track and follows with Sir Francis Bacon At The Net, which finds The Cowboy Junkies exploring a droll Canadian surrealism. They sound extremely relaxed, bringing in elements of distortion, subtle Chinese instrumentation and a vocal by Zuoxiao Zuzhou on A Walk In The Park – the most experimental song on Renmin Park. The Chinese vocals and instruments – and street recordings – become elements that help lend a baroque, Eastern flavour to the gentle, dark ambience that The Cowboy Junkies are celebrated for creating. If the thought of The Cowboy Junkies going to China baffles you I suggest you relax and listen to Renmin Park, It’s a beautiful album and Margo’s sensual voice is at its finest. Indeed, Renmin Park manages to be both a classic Cowboy Junkies album and the band at their most experimental at the same time. Their website already lists the other three forthcoming albums in the Nomad Series and if Renmin Park is an indicator of what to expect then Canada’s most dreamy band are on a creative roll, producing music that is genuinely haunting, but in the most lovely way possible. Perfect for late winter night listening! Garth Cartwright
The album starts strongly with
ou could say Shelby Lynne’s tragic family history has given her the kind of grounding Y a country singer doesn’t get at a music
Shelby Lynne Tears, Lies And Alibis Everso EVER150 www.shelbylynne.com
academy; when she was 17, her abusive, alcoholic father shot her mother and then turned the gun on himself. Both Shelby Lynne Moorer and her sister Allison went on to become internationally recognised artists, but Lynne’s career has been no bed of roses, and she struggled for over a decade before her sixth album I Am Shelby Lynne (1999) won her a Grammy.
Lynne’s singing combines the down-home southern gothic charm of Bobby Gentry with the soul and sophistication of Norah Jones. Never one to be stylistically pigeonholed, her recorded output has spanned confessional singer/songwriter material, western swing, alt. and mainstream country. Just A Little Lovin’ (2007) was an austerely minimalist take on the Dusty Springfield songbook which subtly underlined the connection between Dusty’s penchant for southern soul and Lynne’s own Alabama upbringing.
Cowboy Junkies Renmin Park Proper Records PRPCD072 www.cowboyjunkies.com
The title of her latest release is Tears, Lies And Alibis, which tells you most of what you need to know about the lyrical content – heartbreak and all its side effects. Lynne has written all ten tracks, produced herself and played guitars, releasing the results on her own newly established Everso label. Although not as stark as the Dusty record, it’s still fairly sparsely arranged, though with a warmer sound than Phil Ramone furnished her with last time around. Veteran Muscle Shoals keyboardist Spooner Oldham dabbles with a Fender Rhodes on Why Don’t You Call Me – the kind of song you can easily imagine Jack Johnson cutting – and Randy Leago’s studio-concocted horn section adds a soulful touch. Elsewhere, the excellent, understated backing vocals hint at Aretha Franklin’s glory days. Like A Fool is the first and best of the slowburning ballads, instantly impressing with its emotional gravitas, although some of the album’s other charms take more time to emerge. Alibi belongs firmly in the tried-andtested cheatin’ song genre, while Something To Be Said About Airstreams is an unexpectedly tender tribute to the charms of travels with a trailer, lit up by John Jackson’s dobro. He switches to deftly blown harmonica on Loser Dreamer, a wistful word portrait with spectral atmospherics. And another key track is the bluesy, stripped down waltz of Old Number 7, which finds Lynne drowning her sorrows in the titular tipple. Jon Lusk
Paul Heaton eteran of the underrated Housemartins and the beloved Beautiful South, 25 years in the business V and 15 studio albums under his belt, Paul Heaton once
again finds more grist for his mill through his solo career. Many albums by major artists fail to deliver up one or two ideas, but Paul Heaton has never been afflicted by this problem. Quite the opposite, in fact, as each song, each verse, indeed each line runneth over with wit, fire, brimstone, passion and drollery. And his strong socialist roots and empathy for his fellow man have always driven his art. Plus his love for the perfect pop song, of course. And what makes this record’s caustic observations of Blighty even more remarkable is that he crafted the lyrics in Holland and the music in Spain. Then he roadtested the material live on his recent Pedals and Beer Pumps tour of 16 pubs across a thousand miles – by bike. What a guy! Heaton’s lyrics – and he wrote them all here, with occasional musical assistance from his guitarist Johnny Lexus – are littered with abused, neglected souls. But as they’re all paired with Heaton’s trademark catchy tunes, you’ll nevertheless find yourself singing along, especially once those jaunty choruses come round. Apart from Lexus, the rest of the band revolves around the strong rhythm section of bassist Jonny Wright, plus Pete Marshall on drums, glockenspiel and fiddles, with Heaton adding his own harmonica blowing. And Burnley boys Christian and Nicky Madden (from cult band The Earlies) not only hosted the recording at their Lancashire studio, but also took producer and engineer duties, with Christian playing all kinds of keyboards and Nicky on sax. The heart and soul of the record comes in two songs. The epic, eight-minute title track, Acid Country is a celebration of everything that goes into multiracial Britain, our “country of contradictions”, with its tribes of washed up skinheads and Mohican-sporting punks, its regions and identities all getting shout-outs. From the Cheddar Gorge to the Glasgow Kiss via Cornish Pasty, London Pride, Bombay mix, scampi bites… not to mention “the sink estates, the floating votes”, the song bemoans our collective national “tsunami of indifference” and makes a call to arms, urging us to “fight a war on greed, and not a war on poverty.” And on the first track, The Old Radio, Heaton cleverly knits together the irony of soul music breaking through and
being accepted and lauded in the 1960s, while racism and bigotry were still pervasive. Another standout track is Young Man’s Game, a nostalgic elegy for lost youth and lost Albion – not to mention milk and paper rounds. Similarly looking back to lost youth, Life Of A Cat expresses a wistful longing for a simpler way of life. While bitterness again pervades the anti-love song to southern England, Welcome To The South. Those still missing the Beautiful South will find much to cheer them here, not least on two wonderful songs featuring Heaton duetting with strong female vocalists. This House has Sally Ellyson (of Hem fame) stepping up to the mic – and the gorgeous music warms the cockles of the heart precisely as the lyrics take a scalpel to the heart of the relationship itself. Even A Palm Tree sees Ruth Skipper (from Moulettes) trading lines with Heaton, like pugilists – and she gets the classic couplet denouncing him and his like: “You’re all just cave men in better cars/ and worse clothes.” There’s more pugilism in the shape of an ex-boxer in House Party, which isn’t the uplifting anthem the title suggests. And even as Heaton holds a mirror up to the worst-off in The Ladder’s Bottom Rung, he manages to give it an incredibly toe-tapping tune. Perhaps there’s a sly nod to one of the Housemartins’ most beloved hits, Happy Hour, in the closing number, A Cold One In The Fridge, which becomes a drinker’s charter, listing all the alcohol he’s not going to imbibe, from whisky, wine and martini to bloody Mary. With Acid Country, a nicely maturing Paul Heaton shows that he remains one of England’s finest songwriters. He’s having a good laugh, he’s loving being solo and travelling light, and he’s still an angry young(-ish) man to boot. Helen M Jerome
Paul Heaton Acid Country Proper Records PRPCD063 www.paulheatonmusic.co.uk Properganda 18
GET A FREE ECM SAMPLER when you join ECM’s email list!
For news about new releases, tour dates and special offers, the ECM email newsletter is the easiest way to keep yourself informed. Simply send your name and email address - and if you want to receive a free sampler, also include your postal details - to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Norma Winstone - Stories Yet To Tell 273 7426 This most intelligent of singers first teamed up with Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German reeds player Klaus Gesing for Distances (also on ECM) and made possibly the best record of her career. Stories Yet To Tell is another triumph, the formula repeated, the style very much the same, but some more live performing and further sessions in the studio have built in even more empathy. Venier’s piano accompaniments and Gesing’s interjections and counter-melodies on soprano saxophone or bass clarinet form a perfect equilateral triangle with the singer’s voice. Anat Fort Trio - And If 273 3216 Pianist Fort divides her time between the land of her birth, Israel, and the US. Her music reflects those influences, having jazz credentials but also leaning towards folksong melodies, a gypsy quality, and heightened romanticism that give her music its accessibility. For her second ECM disc she uses her regular working band of the last 10 years: Gary Wang on double bass and Roland Schneider on drums. The album is bookended by tracks called Paul Motian (1 and 2), tributes to the man who played on her debut and introduced her to ECM. Michael Formanek - The Rub And Spare Change 273 9514 The double bassist leader calls on regular cohort, saxophonist Tim Berne, as well as other Berne group players, pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver, for his ECM debut. A muscular example of the rich tradition that has grown out of the downtown New York scene – this band first played under Formanek’s leadership at John Zorn’s legendary East Village club, The Stone. The title track, which is typical, has two distinct elements, one influenced by Tower Of Power’s rubbery funk, the other loosening the structure and encouraging group improv. Charles Mingus would approve. Charles Lloyd Quartet - Mirror 274 0499 This is the first studio album from the veteran saxophonist’s current – and some say best yet – quartet. Jason Moran on piano, Reuben Rogers on double bass and Eric Harland on drums have built up during concert work the ideal support cushion for Lloyd’s distinctive bittersweet sound. The material is an eclectic mix of originals, hymns, traditional gospel, songbook standards and classic pop. Brian Wilson’s Caroline No gets an achingly lovely reading. Lloyd’s playing becomes even more expressive as he plays his seeking, spiritual solos with an increasingly vulnerable tone. Nik Bartsch’s Ronin - Llyrìa 274 2820 The Swiss pianist has been causing quite a stir with his zen funk, and this third Ronin disc for ECM broadens the scope of the band and its unique sound. The tightly wound, urgent pulses and interlocking riffs are still there but now they relax and open out for periods, before tightening again. This gives saxophonist Sha more room to move, and the contrasts of main theme and interlude also serve to heighten the delight in both tension and release. The results are generously appealing and should build an even more diverse audience. Trygve Seim/Andreas Utnem - Purcor 274 3227 The most breathy of saxophonists teams up with a keyboard player with a background in church music. The two Norwegians first collaborated 14 years ago but this disc, subtitled Songs For Saxophone And Piano, is their first CD. There is a thoroughly beguiling intimacy about the recording, which is made in an old church in Oslo. Seim plays so close to the listener and so quietly that sometimes the note disappears altogether and the sound is a pure saxophone whisper. Utnem is lyrical on piano and equally affecting on harmonium. Giya Kancheli - Themes From The Songbook 274 3230 Dino Saluzzi (bandoneon), Gidon Kremer (violin) and Andrey Pushkarev (vibraphone) got together in secret to record this album as a surprise 75th birthday present for the great Georgian composer. It’s subtitled Giya Kancheli’s Music For Stage And Screen, and really does feel like a strangely beautiful soundtrack to an imaginary road movie. The three instruments interweave and improvise in a rich tapestry of timbre and tone. A bonus is a song sung in tribute to Georgian conductor and close friend of Kancheli, Jansug Khakidze, who last appeared as a special guest on Jan Garbarek’s Rites. Peter Bacon 16
Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble - Officium Novum 476 3855 Nearly 20 years after first collaborating on disc, the partnership between the Norwegian jazz saxophonist Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble, a British vocal quartet with their roots in classical music, remains the unlikeliest of recipes for success. On paper, at least, they continue to be contemporary music’s categorydefying odd couple, currently riding high in the weekly compiled Classical Chart. But on disc the combination proves a joyously beguiling and bewitching meeting of musical minds. Blending Garbarek’s smokey, sultry, freely improvised tenor and soprano saxophones with the Hilliard’s pure, pristine, score-led vocals, the result is something altogether fresh and vivid. And startling, too, in its fluid and fluent interweaving of four fixed voices and the freewheeling, seemingly gravity-free lilt of a solo saxophone. Exotic and unique, it’s a sound that brought new dimensions to early polyphony in 1993’s agenda-setting Officium, and to the meeting and melding of ancient and contemporary music on the 1998 double-album Mnemosyne. A decade on, Garbarek and the Hilliards have teamed up again for Officium Novum, which serves up another compelling marriage between the austere and the luminous. As before, the journey spans the centuries but, in a striking new departure, turns its gaze eastward, with Armenia its anchor point and the music of Komitas, the father of Armenian classical music, as its central focus. What continues to surprise – and delight – is how comfortably the musical mix settles into itself. Somehow, hearing the C13th Pérotin’s Alleluia. Nativitas, a deliciously light and airy concoction topped by Garbarek’s merrily skipping sax, alongside the Hilliard’s haunting a cappella rendition of Arvo Pärt’s transcendentally sublime Most Holy Mother Of God just seems right. With Russia, France, Spain and the ancient cities of Byzantium and Yerevan (the Armenian capital and one of the world’s oldest inhabited cities) all stopping off points along the way, the antique and the new are woven together in hypnotically interwoven strands of music adroitly sourced from past and present. Returning to the glowing acoustic of the Propstei St Gerold monastery in Austria, and with Manfred Eicher back in the producer’s chair, Officium Novum proves to be exquisitely elegant and eloquent in equal measure. Musical provocation doesn’t get more poetic or persuasive than this.
Arvo Pärt - Symphony No.4; Fragments from Kanon pokajanen Los Angeles Philharmonic / Esa-Pekka Salonen; Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir / Tõnu Kaljuste 476 3957 The prospect of a fourth symphony from Arvo Pärt, the reclusive Estonian composer who has established himself as the hypnotic high priest of seriousness, spiritualism and the sublime in contemporary music, has been tantalising his ever-growing legion of admirers for the best part of four decades. The long wait came to an end in 2008 when Esa-Pekka Salonen persuaded Pärt, who celebrates his 75th birthday this year, to return to the large-scale symphonic form to mark the conductor’s 17th and final season at the helm of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The invitation proved timely in other ways. Pärt had been searching for a suitable theme for a new symphony for some time, lighting upon texts relating to guardian angels as a suitable starting point. A commission from a city whose very name means ‘The Angels’ was an offer he couldn’t refuse. Scored for string orchestra, harp, timpani and percussion, and based on the ancient liturgical text Canon Of The Guardian Angel, the result, in an evocative performance recorded live in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Walt Disney Hall home, is music that seems to inject itself straight into the imagination to heady, intoxicating effect. Spanning three movements and 35 minutes (measurably longer than its three predecessors) it is Pärt at his measured, meditative, mystical best. Elemental and esoteric – as befits a work subtitled Los Angeles – the Fourth Symphony may be noticeably less incense-laden than some earlier works, but this remains music that shimmers, darts, trembles and thunders with a concentrated intensity all of its own, and that can’t fail to cast its own darkly radiant spell. The more than apt coupling is an edited version – Fragments, as Pärt describes it – of 1997’s Kanon Pokajanen, which shares with the Fourth Symphony the spirit and contained passion of Church Slavonic poetry. Sung with an earthy but lightly worn fervour by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, its dark mahogany accents are the very essence of Pärt’s uniquely entrancing signature. Michael Quinn Properganda 18
speranza Spalding’s debut release E was an extraordinary calling card, introducing her talents not only to the
voice, counterpointed as ever by the deep tones of her acoustic bass. The album kicks off with a setting of poem by William Blake - Blake’s mix of the romantic and bitterly realistic appeals to Spalding’s own sentiments - but moves swiftly from that apparent innocence to the swirling passions of the epic Knowledge Of Good And Evil, set off by some urgent piano from Genovese. The pianist contributes a song of his own, Chacacera, influenced by the dark tango style of Astor Piazzolla, as is his ecstatic arrangement of Wild Is The Wind, a long time highlight of Spalding’s live shows and best known of course in a version by Nina Simone. But Spalding more than holds her own in comparison to the great Nina.
jazz universe but also creating a stir in World Music where her Latin roots were appreciated. And for good measure, pop and soul fans fell for her grasp of grooves and a great melody. The only criticism was that the range of music was so wide it left the listener wondering who the real Esperanza was. Chamber Music Society partly answers that question. This is, in her own words, a more cohesive and coherent release. It sticks largely to one style, pitching Spalding’s own songs against a string quartet which can be taut and edgy one moment or lush and romantic the next. But if strings and the Chamber Music title suggest a classical tone - and Spalding’s background and learning are very much in the classical world - don’t be fooled: this is also an album rich in the jazz tradition and not averse to the odd good pop tune either. In fact it’s intriguing to compare Spalding’s use of strings (sharply arranged by the massively experienced Gil Goldstein) to Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet or Robert Wyatt’s current release with the Sigamos Quartet. Most of the material is written by Spalding and features her light but oh so seductive
Esperanza Spalding Chamber Music Society Heads Up HUI3181002 www.esperanzaspalding.com
If it all sounds a bit earnest, then so be it: for one so young and so early in her career, Spalding takes herself mighty seriously - but then she has the credentials and the ambition to do so. But there are many sides to Spalding and if hip hop, funk and soul are more your bag, then check out her next release, Radio Music Society, which explores that side of her influences. So watch out for more surprises from a special talent. Andy Robson
Kinch whose phrasing has perhaps more bite than on his auspicious 2002 debut Conversations With The Unseen. lthough Soweto Kinch is first and foremost a musician, he is perhaps best understood if A one accepts that the Birmingham 30-something
is a practitioner of the dramatic arts in the most general sense. His previous release, 2006’s A Life In The Day Of B19 B19, had not so much a track listing as a series of scenes that depicted Kinch’s quotidian reality on an estate in his Midlands hometown, and on this follow-up there is also a strong theatrical undercurrent, although the subject matter has wider ramifications.
Kinch plays alto saxophone and raps throughout and his primary analytical motivation is commentary on the iniquities of modern day capitalism, something which crystallizes most forcefully on Paris Heights Heights, a kind of mini radio play on debt collection for the bling generation. It is a jocular but sober evocation of cynical business and busy cynicism, set to a funky electric groove embellished by sharply resonant dub rimshots. It is followed by Suspended Adolescence, a hard-swinging acoustic track in which the core band of trumpeter Byron Wallen, guitarist Femi Temowo, bassist Karl Rasheed-Abel and drummer Justin Brown settle into a full-blooded minor blues that elicits strong improvisations all around, none more so than from 18
Between them, Paris Heights and Suspended Adolescence encapsulate the challenge that Kinch presents to listeners of both pop and art music, because the tracks effectively ask each constituency to embrace the other, for devotees of the backbeat to accept the swingbeat and vice versa. Some may find the notion problematic. Furthermore, the plethora of ideas that Kinch presents may also disorientate, yet The New Emancipation is a courageous work that does not lack craftsmanship. As the ideas tumble forth you have to roll with the free form and wide range of Kinch’s vision, but it has both worthwhile messages and melodies, none more so than the gorgeous gospel anthem, Help, which unveils a brilliant vocalist called Jason MacDougall. It’s a reminder that soul, as well as jazz and hip-hop, has a part to play in Soweto Kinch’s inventive theatre of the mind. Kevin Le Gendre
Soweto Kinch The New Emancipation SKRS SKP002CD www.soweto-kinch.com
the mid-1990s, the Norwegian keyboard player Bugge Wesseltoft formed the label. The idea was to release his own work, and with his second album, IA nJazzland New Conception Of Jazz, he sold some 200,000 copies. This unexpected success
encouraged him to expand his label and after some fifteen years or so, Jazzland is widely regarded as one of the most exciting jazz labels in Europe. Beady Belle was their first vocal signing, a collaboration between singer/songwriter Beate Lech and bassist Marius Reksjo. Lech’s growth as an artist is one of the Jazzland success stories. With maturity, she has learned to get inside a song, and since she has written both music and lyrics on At Welding Bridge, she gives numbers such as Runaway Mind or Leeway real meaning. There’s less emphasis on the electronic grooves of earlier albums, more a reflective, slightly pop-edged rhythmic feel that neatly contrasts the clever lyrics and the deep emotions they explore. Solveig Slettahjell had already established herself as one of Norway’s foremost singers with a host of awards and successful albums behind her before debuting on Jazzland with Tarpan Seasons. Accompanied by her wonderful Slow Motion Orchestra, several pieces were originally unveiled at the Vossa Jazz Festival in 2009, where she drew on a wide range of influences, from a male choir on Precise Content, to country music on Desert Song. But How They Shine is classic Slettahjell which means a kind of perfection any girl singer today would give their eye-teeth to achieve.
Beady Belle At Welding Bridge
Solveig Slettahjell Tarpan Seasons
Such is the way our perceptions of jazz are shaped, it is fair to say that if Atomic were an American group, they would be known as one of the very best bands in jazz today. Yet despite a large and impressive discography on Jazzland, they still remain relatively unknown in the UK. Theater Tilters should help change this grave miscarriage of justice, a double CD of suave, sophisticated and ever creative free bop, a term which hardly does justice to this remarkable quartet who, chances are, will hold you spellbound. In Norwegian musician’s circles, Eivind Aarset is regarded as something of a genius for his remarkable creativity on guitar, wringing sounds out of his instrument that defy imagination. His labour of love is his Sonic Codex Orchestra, and Live Extracts is taken from concerts in Germany during this last couple of years. Aarset is a story-teller, and each performance is a musical journey that is both absorbing in its exposition and awe-inspiring in its realisation. This is truly an impressive album – about as good as electronic jazz gets today. Stuart Nicholson www.jazzlandrec.com
s p l e Ph
Atomic Theater Tilters
Eivind Aarset Live Extracts
helps first grabbed attention with the fiery first edition of Empirical, but this new recording reveals his assured talents in a more relaxed, P melodic context. Where Empirical had a tougher, more experimental edge,
Jay Walkin’ finds the trumpeter looking to masters like Wynton Marsalis and Dizzy Gillespie for a more straight ahead sound. There’s something gloriously old school about Phelps’ tone: perhaps it’s to do with his trans-Atlantic upbringing but he has a swagger and confidence rare among Brits, and he passes this zip and swing to the rest of the band. It’s all there in the opening title track; this self-penned composition has a Dizzy-like sense of fun and has a singing interplay with Hutchings’ sax. That sense of mischief spreads to a cover of Jackie McLean’s Out Of The Blue, with Mwenso delivering a typically irrepressible vocal. Not that there aren’t darker colours. Hutchings’ sax is knottily intense on the long meditation Ten Years, while Jonathan Gee, the album’s quiet star, lays down a prowling piano break on the same track. Gee’s talents enable him to veer from a spare, Monk-like solo on A Dose Of Aladine, to richer, percussive chords that support his colleagues when it’s their turn to flex their soloing sinews. Gene Calderazzo is another with New York tang to his drums, not commonly found on the British scene, which adds a further colour to the band. But this is very much Phelps’ show. He can be cocky, but he’s never arrogant, and he’s at this best when he doesn’t try too hard as on the strings-soaked, bluesy Blue And Sentimental. This is the most satisfying expression yet of Phelps’ undoubted potential. And to that he owes much to the accomplished band around him. Although Jay Walkin’ is rooted in a classic sound of the late 40s and 50s, the band remain fresh and contemporary. Whether you’re new to jazz or are a long time aficionado, this spanking release will afford many pleasures. File under ‘Let the good times roll’… Andy Robson
Jay Phelps Jay Walkin’ Specific Jazz SPEC012 www.lineupmusic.com/jp_site Properganda 18
www.propergandaonline.com for daily updates between issues of this quarterly.
Diamonds In The Dirt is Joanne Shaw Taylor’s second album. It was recorded in Jim Gaines’ studios in Tennessee with the same crew as her first CD and although still only in her mid-twenties, her years of experience shine through sounding supremely confident and assured on her 10 self-penned originals. Everything simply smoulders – from the bass-heavy bounce of World On Fire to the Muscle Shoals feel of The World And It’s Way with its sensual guitar lines and Joanne’s smoky drawl. Then there’s the sumptuous guitar sound that stings and sparkles around the punchy Same As It Never Was and the irresistible Can’t Keep Living Like This with its sultry Dayna Kurtz-style vocals, throbbing rhythm and electrifying guitar that builds to a stratospheric mood on the fade-out.
Shaw Taylor has been deeply into music since she was small, when she enjoyed her dad’s extensive rock Jandoanne blues collection and took classical lessons on acoustic
guitar - but it was the Christmas gift of an electric guitar set her on a new course. When she was twelve, the first record she ever bought was Albert Collins’ Ice Pickin’ and she spent her summer holidays learning the whole album note for note. She became captivated by the records of Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan and realised that this was what she wanted to play and set about discovering everything she could about this stuff called blues. She continued to listen and learn, perfecting her technique to the point that, by her early teens, she was confident enough to play in public. When she was just sixteen, Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics saw her on stage and was stunned. He recalled “I’ve played with all sorts of blues musicians all over the world, I even made a film Deep Blues where I went to Mississippi and recorded legends such as RL Burnside and Jessie Mae Hemphill. But last year I heard something I thought I would never hear – a British white girl playing blues guitar so deep and passionately it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!” He was so impressed that in 2002 he asked to her to join his group D.U.P on their European tour and she went down a storm. Afterwards, she formed her own blues band, a power trio that gigged around Britain for a few years gaining experience before she made her debut album White Sugar for Ruf Records who teamed her up with award winning American producer Jim Gaines. Gaines knows talent when he sees it and has won several Grammy awards producing huge selling albums for Gatemouth Brown, Lonnie Brooks, Luther Allison, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Santana, Buddy Guy and George Thorogood. He jumped at the chance to work with Joanne, teaming her with the in-demand session musicians Steve Potts on drums and Dave Smith on bass who let her soar on her own road tested material, doing what she does best - playing the hell out of that guitar! White Sugar created quite a stir when it was released in 2009. Live gigs went worldwide with Joanne developing huge fan bases in Germany, Scandinavia and particularly America where she picked up a few awards of her own and played with heroes like BB King, Jimmie Vaughan and Joe Bonnamassa and adopted Detroit as her World headquarters.
She rips the roof off with Jump That Train which bops, bangs and boogaloos along with a vengeance, just slowing momentarily to allow Joanne to crank up her guitar again and burst in with showers of full throttle pulverising blues notes. Who Do You Love is a funky wall of sound with the rhythm section coming on like Double Trouble while Joanne bangs in with a scathing, strutting set of guitar lines. Things slow down with the soul-flecked Diamonds In The Dirt which is powered by Dave Smith’s pumping bass lines and Steve Potts rock-steady drums that allow Joanne to use her best voice on a love song that’s deep in Mavis Staples territory and then, right at the end, she comes in with a slinky slice of guitar that you’ll want to hear again and again.
People say she has a voice like Bonnie Raitt or Susan Tedeschi and can play guitar like Joe Bonnamassa or Derek Trucks but why make comparisons? She’s a total original with a huge talent that will, without doubt, propel her to the real big time in no time at all. Watch out! Ken Smith
Joanne Shaw Taylor Diamonds In The Dirt Ruf Records RUF 1164 www.pigs-ear.biz/jst Properganda 18
THE CREOLE CHOIR OF CUBA songs, laments and hymns of freedom with contemporary material learned on their first visit to Haiti in 1996.
mighty cat purring, the bass voice of Marcelo Luis pulsates percussively; suddenly Fidelo Miranda’s A powerful tenor swoops over, like a huge eagle, then the
That terrific opener to Tande-La is Edem Chanté, which the sleeve note translates as Listen To Us. A closer translation might be Help Me Sing - it’s not a great leap from “edem chanté” to “aidez moi chanter”. The Creole in which they sing was spoken by the Choir’s parents and grandparents. It’s a marvellously expressive language, formed from inherited African tongues, Taíno, spoken by the indigenous Caribs, with words appropriated from French, English and Spanish. Songs such as Le May de Travay, which reclaims Vodou from it association with Duvalier, and Neg Anwo, a denunciation of the rich Haitians who live high on the hills, literally looking down on their destitute compatriots, are clearly political, but the language they exist and are sung in is in itself a construct of defiance and liberation.
chorus emerges, as if from the forest, to answer his call. Tande-La opens like the soundtrack of wildlife film. It’s majestic, stirring music, strange yet familiar, the sound both of African plains and medieval European cathedrals. This excitement and delight is sustained through a dozen songs of struggle, love, faith, material poverty and spiritual riches, until the album concludes with Chen Nan Ran (Chains Round The Waist), an appeal for freedom, somewhat reminiscent of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, encompassing historical slavery and colonial exploitation, and the oppression of these neo-liberal times. Here this ensemble of ten extraordinary singers is known as The Creole Choir Of Cuba. At home in Camagüey, the country’s third city, they are Grupo Vocal Desandann – The Descendents - because they all share Haitian ancestry. Haitians first arrived in the late 18th century, after Toussaint L’ Ouverture led slaves in rebellion and French plantation owners fled to Cuba, bringing their slaves with them. L’Ouverture became a Napoleonic tyrant himself, setting an example followed by ‘Papa’ and ‘Baby Doc’ Duvalier. Brutal dictatorship, foreign occupation, grinding poverty and natural disaster have resulted in wave after wave of Haitians coming to this area of eastern Cuba. The Choir has its roots in a more recent period of hardship – and creativity. It was formed in 1994 during what is known as the Special Period, the era of economic free-fall in Cuba after the USSR abolished itself and, with it, Soviet support for Castro’s Revolution. Food, power, fuel, work – all were in desperately short supply. In response Cubans looked to themselves and their own resources. They have long enjoyed excellent health care and the highest literacy rates in the Americas. Now Cubans have a highly productive urban agriculture, too.
Cuba has a 600 strong long-term medical team in Haiti, and after the devastating earthquake in January the Creole Choir of Cuba travelled to Port-au-Prince to join them. Every day, wherever they could find shade, they sang for, and with, the people. Their leader Emilia Diaz Chávez says their aim was “to help the Haitian people de-stress with music”, but that translation renders this more superficial than was their intent. The second track on their CD is Se Lavi, a song about a pordiósero, a person so poor all he has is a sack on his shoulder and God by his side. He wanders all day in search of food before sleeping in a doorway, feeling the total indifference of everyone to his plight. Far from indifferent, The Creole Choir of Cuba returned to the shattered land of their forebears and sang Edem Chanté (Listen To Us) – their music demanding that attention be paid. But, remember, Edem Chanté means Help Me Sing, too, and every day Haitians, in defiance of their desperate situation, gathered to sing with the Choir, and teach them their songs. Julian May
The same resolve gripped them culturally, so members of the Professional Choir of Camagüey, beneficiaries of the Revolution’s admirable educational policies who had studied music in their colonial city - so beautiful and architecturally important it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – turned to their own musical inheritance, the traditional songs passed down through their families, generation after generation, since their arrival. Grupo Vocal Desandann augmented these resistance
The Creole Choir of Cuba Tande-La Real World CDRW 181 www.creolechoir.com 22
y the time they had scooped Best Newcomer in the Songlines Music Awards earlier in the year, this Lisbon based B group had already released their second album in Portugal, where it stayed at the top of the charts for over a month. Cançao Ao Lado, Deolinda’s debut album for World Connection, was a refreshing take on Portuguese fado, and showed strong influences from the urban songs of the late folk/pop innovator António Varições, as well as bringing various rural folk styles into their city. Instead of using the melancholic, ringing rones of the Portuguese guitar – so synonymous with fado – Deolinda’s sole song writer Pedro da Silva Martins plays a variety of other guitars. Though ‘Deolinda’ might be thought of by many as a synonym for the group’s charismatic singer Ana Bacalhau, the name actually refers to a fictional character whose stories represent the dreams and aspirations of all four members of the group, and paint pictures of contemporary everyday Portuguese life. Deolinda’s new album Dois Selos E Um Carimbo (Two Stamps And A Seal) signals the group’s growing maturity, as well as reminding Portuguese people of their recent history: “During the dictatorship,” explains Ana, “a document always had to have two stamps and a seal to be official. Using this as the title of our second album is to show we have achieved our goals and fine-tuned our sound, which is both folk and ready to take on the 21st century.” Bacalhau’s singing is more measured and restrained than before, and the overall feel is slighty more subdued and pensive than their previous work. Much of this stems from the sedate waltz time signatures that run through Passou Por Mim E Sorriu, Ignaras Vedetas, the Madredeus-flavoured Uma Ilha and even Quando Janto Em Restaurantes, though the latter goes through some quirky tempo changes towards the end. As before, Pedro’s lyrics deal mostly with affairs of the heart and offer wry commentaries on the Portuguese psyche. His brother Luis Jose Martins and Zé Pedro Leitão share duties on double bass, piano and backing vocals, and the guest musicians include a string section and percussionists wielding spoons and triangles. It’s a solidly consistent addition to their canon.
Deolinda Dois Selos E Um Carimbo World Connection WC43088 www.deolinda.com.pt
World Connection move into new territory with their latest signing, the Beijingbased band Hanggai. Having spent a lot of time touring the world since the release of their critically lauded debut in 2008, the six-piece group have earned the right to call their second album Juan Zou De Ren (‘He Who Travels Far’). They take much of their inspiration from the music of inner Mongolia (where four of them hail from), mixing original compositions with new arrangements and sometimes lyrics for traditional pieces. Like Tuvan neo-traditionalists Huun-Huur-Tu, they use folkloric instruments such as the tsuur (flute), tobshur (2-stringed lute), and the distinctive whinneying tones of the morin khuur (horse head fiddle). These vividly evoke the soundworld of the vast grasslands, which the group’s name actually refers to. Then there are the eerie hoomei (overtone or throat-singing) styles the area is now well known for. Just as that other wellknown Tuvan group Yat-Kha indulge their penchant for head-banging rockers, Hanggai add electric guitars, pounding drums and programmed beats. And they also use a banjo, in the manner of ‘China-grass’ exponent Mamer. Producers Ken Stringfellow (REM, Neil Young) and JB Meijers have given the band an expansive sound, and with their new-found confidence gained from experience, Hanggai felt ready to do things more their own way this time around: “We all recorded as a band together and live – rather than instrument by instrument,” they say. “We feel that He Who Travels Far is much more our CD as a band – and with the addition of new band member Shang Li (Yilalata) there came more guitar parts into our music.”
Hanggai He Who Travels Far
He’s also a very talented singer, as his exquisite vocal on Borulai’s Lullaby underlines. Fans of the band’s relatively understated first album Introducing Hanggai will recognise Ayrhindu as a new version of Drinking Song, the rowdy party piece that has become a firm favourite World Connection of their shows. And another pleasant surprise is the appearance of guitarist Marc Ribot, who weaves a glammed-up solo into Dorov Morlaril. Hanggai should travel even further with this WC43086 www.myspace.com/hanggaiband new record. Jon Lusk Properganda 18
oan Armatrading is full of the most delightful contradictions. An intensively private person, she Jdelights in having written a huge crowd pleaser, which
had audiences world wide rocking in the aisles. The song in question is Best Dress On, her new single with one of the year’s biggest choruses.“At the time of writing that, I didn’t think everyone would like it, but when I finished it I could stand back and let people make up their own minds.Half way through the European leg of the tour, I realised it really had taken on a life of its own. After we had stopped playing, everyone just kept singing it, We started counting how many choruses they would do on their own, then in America the same thing happened. In Denver they held the record with 25, but when we went to Canada there was a 27. ‘Hey hey look at Joan now’ they were singing, which was amazing to hear after all this time!” That Denver crowd is immortalised in a live clip included in the new single package, and Joan has even published a league table of the audience performances on her website! (www.joanarmatrading.com) The Picture Dome in Homefirth puts itself emphatically on the British music map by topping the table, while Glasgow, Leicester and Inverness make the Top 5. A DVD Live At The Royal Albert Hall captures one of the sell out shows on the This Charming Life tour, which kept Joan and her band on the road for most of 2010. Stalwart sidemen Spencer Cozens and Gary Foote are joined by bass wizard John Giblin. “I’m really lucky with these musicians,” says Joan. “Most nights were superb, and to be honest the standard never drops below very, very good.” Joan will be 60 this year but shows no sign of slowing down, having hit a purple patch for writing and performing. Having worked so hard this year she is looking forward to taking December and January off, but only to channel the creativity in a different way. “The main way to practice for me is just to write songs, and I like to really be on my own, moving around and dancing. You can revisit subjects, because there is always a whole load of stuff going on which changes things. It constantly amazes me. I was on a train where a bunch of young girls, aged 14 or 15, were getting really excited about something, and it turned out they had just discovered the taste of olives!
“I like the saying, ‘the more you learn the more you realise what you didn’t know.’
Joan Armatrading Live At The Royal Albert Hall Hypertension HYP10274 www.joanarmatrading.com
Over the past ten years, the principal lesson Joan has learned is that she is happiest doing everything musical on her own. On 2003’s album Lover Speak she made a conscious decision to take control, so by the time Into The Blues was being recorded, she was playing everything. Well, almost everything. “I got a drummer involved because although I can play drums, it might have proved a step too far with everything else I was doing.” Joan is loving her current success, and the fact that even a new Usher release could not topple her from being number 1 in the chart. Even more impressive because she is a fan! “I like listening to Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Amy Winehouse, Antony And The Johnsons – even Pixie Lott. I am still interested in what is going on!” she laughs. “By 2012, I will have been doing this for forty years, and things have changed dramatically.” But then good music never goes out of fashion… Colin Somerville
n many ways this is a direct companion piece to last year’s IHopeland, coming as it does
under Trevor’s chosen solo identity rather than Miracle Mile, despite the obvious contribution of that duo’s other half. While that previous work was touched with optimism, Keepers is by Trevor’s own admission marked by loss. The effect is bittersweet melancholy as Keepers maintains the model of its predecessor in mixing song and spoken poetry.
Jones’ pen is once again pin sharp as he traces lines of insight across the yellow notepad that he repeatedly refers to in his lyrics. Musically too, long term Miracle Mile partner Marcus Cliffe makes the most of the melodic opportunities. His arrangements add bold new variations with the swell of strings, painstakingly played and layered and compiled with additional samples creating an epic quality that plays against Jones’ intimate confessional voice. There are a couple of moments, such as Fatherless Son and Folding Sheets that reach almost Scott Walker-ish grandeur. There are also folkish themes, almost Celtic, that bubble up in the sumptuous grace of Nothing Between Us But Air and the heartbreaking concluding poem Montemaggiore. It’s there too in the guitar introduction to the poem that seems to act as the album’s keystone, He Could See Nothing But Shadows. Like Hopeland, this is a CD to take in one sitting and in sequence, so as best to follow and take in the drama that a poets eye for detail and the gift of melody bring. Every line seems poised and primed to deliver an impact, but at a price for the singer. In NothIng Between Us But Air Trevor finds, “looking for love is like dusting for prints,” before admitting that, “with all the world to write about I write about you.” Compelled but mystified at once and such contradictions surface again in I Deny, the gorgeous melody is pricked by the urgency of a nagging mandolin and Trevor confesses, in a moment that seems to speak personally to the listener, “So here’s my gift to you, it comes at a cost, it’s a fire for the cold, a light for the lost, I know no better way of stemming the flow, to know what you love and love what you know.”
Jones Keepers MeMe Records CDMM15 www.miraclemile.co.uk
There’s a telling moment at the end of Moondust Lullaby where Trevor again seems to be addressing you directly. “It’s a moondust lullaby, guaranteed to make you cry, a potency you can’t deny, I mean look at you now, just look at you now…” Delivered in his tremulous voice over a swell of strings it’s a high risk confession of the songwriter’s art that had your reviewer nailed. Bullseye! Simon Holland
KING CREOSOTE KARINE POLWART EMMA POLLOCK FUTURE PILOT AKA MC SOOM T KIM EDGAR MICHAEL JOHNSTON MATTIE FOULDS
SIDE SHOW - album out now “A touching, melancholic and beautiful collection of folk-flecked pop” ★★★★ THE LIST “An album of great depth and astounding breadth” ★★★★ THE SKINNY “Pick of the week” ★★★★ SUNDAY MAIL “Classy stuff” SUNDAY HERALD “Excellently conceived, brilliantly executed and splendidly presented”
BBC MUSIC TIMES ★★★★ THE TIMES ★★★★ THE SUN ★★★★ THE INDEPENDENT SUNDAY EXPRESS ★★★★ SUNDAY
Tour Dates Jan 2011 16 Glasgow - The Old Fruitmarket 17 London - Jazz Cafe
★★★★ GUARDIAN ★★★★★ SCOTTISH
18 Milton Keynes - The Stables 19 Manchester - Club Academy
rowing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, the first music that made me want to sing was soul music,” says G Huey in introducing his first new album in eight years. It
seems that despite the then burgeoning Summer Of Love, Huey tuned his dial to KDIA and through the direct link to its sister station, WDIA in Memphis straight to the heart of Stax. Ironically for someone who’s made one hell of a career as a singer, Huey was always reluctant to cover his first love, believing some of the original performances to be untouchable. But now for his first record in over eight years he and fellow News’ cohorts have pooled their favourite Stax numbers and the result is Soulsville. It could have been a tricky thing to balance, perhaps trying to recreate the original authentic sound, but instead of a straight copy, The News have simply chosen to recorded the songs as they would have been originally, live in the studio. That where The News cut in and the assembled might of Wilson Pickett, Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Booker T et al, gracefully bow out. Slavish attention to detail is rightly deemed secondary to getting the groove down. Thankfully they prove well up to the task. Don’t Fight It is a muscular opener, with Huey naturally soulful voice aided by some beefy guitar. The original was a Top 30 hit in the UK for Wilson Pickett, but not every track will have that familiarity. In fact the next two, Solomon Burke’s Got To Get You Off My Mind, followed by Free, are probably cases in point. Respect Yourself puts us on more familiar territory however and the added duet vocal from Dorothy Morrison proves a telling contribution. You can’t do Stax without Otis Redding of course and although a particularly onerous task for Huey, the band and especially the brass section and swelling B3, however, see him through with flying colours. Eddie Floyd’s Never Found A Girl is sublime and the title track, is gritty with some especially nice guitar work from Bill Hinds. You can picture Rufus Thomas on Little Sally Walker and imagine his sweaty, exaggerated, bug-eyed pout. The rolling rhythms of the next three, I Want To (Do Everything For You), Just The One (I’ve Been Looking For) and Don’t Let The Green Grass Fool You, all slip naturally into the News’ musical pocket. The concluding Never Like This Before (a belter) and the slinky instrumental Grab This Thing finish things in fine style. Top marks then to saxman Johnny Colla for a set of arrangements that work a treat. A surprise package for me, but mighty fine. Simon Holland
Huey Lewis & The News Soulsville Proper Records PRPCD074 www.hueylewis.com 26
Win every CD featured in this issue. Enter our competition at www.propergandaonline.com Sign up for the Properganda newsletter for regular updates between issues.
Mabon Live At The Grand Pavilion
The Askew Sisters Through Lonesome Woods
Chris While & Julie Matthews Hitting The Ground Running
Easy On The Records - EOTR01
Wild Goose - WGS372CD
Heads On Music Fat Cat - FATCD022
Back in the day live albums invariably sounded like they were recorded in a leaky potting shed and would be likely to kill a young band’s career stone dead at a stroke. Yet times have changed and this album – recorded on home turf in Porthcawl – superbly captures the virtuoso dynamics of Mabon at full tilt.
An excellent second album from Emily and Hazel Askew, young musicians with talents to match or exceed some more heavily-promoted names. Melodeon, violin and vocals, unaided by guest musicians, create rich textures for an uncompromisingly traditional set of songs – including several major ballads – and instrumentals.
Voted Best Duo in last year’s BBC Folk Awards, Chris While and Julie Matthews cement their reputation for sophisticated songwriting and emotive performance, sounding remarkably perky on their 10th album together.
The outrageously gifted accordion player Jamie Smith leads from the front as the Welsh six-piece explore all corners of Celtic music, incorporating Breton and Galician styles while dipping toes into mazurka, klezmer and other dance traditions. Yet it’s the empathetic interplay between them that makes them so exciting. Large chunks of it will have you leaping on tables throwing your undies in the air, but there are dramatic mood shifts, too, with the heartrendingly mournful The Tale Of Nikolai The Dancing Bear and the coolly atmospheric Divers Alarums, subtly guided by Calum Stewart’s flute. And in case you need any more convincing, they even throw in a live bonus DVD featuring occasional band member Ruth Angell on fiddle.
Their arrangements are constantly inventive, from the minimal twin-fiddle pizzicato on Sweet Lemaney, to unaccompanied two-part harmony on Jack the Jolly Tar, and an all-stops-out attack on Henry Martin. Hazel’s singing has mellowed a little since their first outing, while Emily’s ever-changing solo fiddle part on a cleverly-assembled version of the Two Sisters ballad is reminiscent of Dave Swarbrick’s classic accompaniments to A. L. Lloyd’s singing. The instrumentals are crisply played with imaginative variations, and the whole is as strong an affirmation of traditional English folk as you’ll hear from the younger generation. The Askew Sisters deserve to go far.
Delicate harmonies, gently sympathetic arrangements and intuitive accompaniment from the likes of Howard Lees on guitar, Joe Broughton (strings), Neil Fairclough (bass) and Bryan Hargreaves (percussion) are the mark of a collection that includes songs about Roman centurions, Australian bush fires, Cumbrian floods, a Spanish gravestone and, er, the Everly Brothers. A couple of the songs are drawn from the multiartist All Along The Wall project about Hadrian’s Wall to add further variety, but the overriding thread through it all is the compassion in all the material, enhanced by the natural yearning they bring to it. It’s engaging, thoughtful, well-crafted, melodic and immensely radio-friendly…and whether it should rightly be considered folk music or not is an argument for another day…
A.L. Lloyd An Evening With
Jez Lowe And The Bad Pennies Wotcheor!
Martyn Joseph Under Lemonade Skies
Fellside - FECD220
Tantobie - TTRCD111
Pipe Records - PRCD020
Much credit has to go to Paul Adams at Fellside for taking the plunge with a 1972 vintage amateur recording of A.L. Lloyd live at the Top Lock Folk Club in Runcorn as despite the natural limitations of the source it seems to have scrubbed up remarkably well. Raconteur, entertainer, singer and teacher of the most generous spirit, Lloyd may not have perfect pitch, but his confident tone is warm and all that’s required to get the appreciative audience under his spell.
A celebratory tribute to the people and cultural history of the North East of England, ingeniously presented in the form of a radio show, enhancing Jez Lowe’s already impressive track record as one of the region’s mightiest talents.
With 31 albums in a 28 year career, no one can say that Martyn Joseph hasn’t regularly produced the goods. In that time he’s had a few deserved hits, but these days he tends to have more of a cult following.
His set ranges from ballads great and short, through shanties to humorous songs and even one rather splendid shaggy-dog story, The Kush Maker, that Bert expertly makes his own by adding ‘autobiographical’ detail. There are several ballads from the Child collection, with the typical deception, jealousy, murder, ghostly visiting and transformation that often mark them as old and as tied to folk-lore as song. The epic Tamlyn seems to pack it all into its seven and a half minutes, but he also berates Child for excluding songs, perhaps on account of their ‘salty’ content. In that respect, thankfully, Lloyd doesn’t hold back and the irreverent humour is a welcome flip side to the numerous dark deeds. For the folk-musiccurious this is a fine primer, for the cognoscenti it’s essential.
Local folk legends like Jack Armstrong and Billy Pigg are name-checked in the buoyant opening track Barnstorming around Andy May’s gorgeous Northumbrian pipes to set an uplifting mood that seldom falters throughout an album that reflects working class culture in inventive fashion. Smuggling pertinent social comment into a colourful variety of material encompassing blackleg miners, land girls, pub quiz teams, Grace Darling’s sister and a suicidal football fan, Lowe’s songs are rich in humanity, compassion and humour. He champions underdogs and outcasts and, in accessible fashion, places the proud character of the North East into the context of life’s daily trials. The Young ‘Uns, Louisa Killen, Benny Graham and the Tyneside Maritime Chorus pop up in the supporting cast and, even by Lowe’s admirable standards, it’s pretty special.
On the basis of this, though, he deserves to be back in a larger spotlight. The songs here are beautifully crafted objects, whether it’s a meditation between the myth and reality of the United States on Lonely Like America or the powerful pull of love in You’re The Moment. With his lived-in voice and songs shot through with tinges of country, Joseph mines much the same territory as Mark Knopfler, but definitely stamps his own mark on everything. He’s a master of the slow burn, letting the arrangement build and swell on On My Way, or having the heartache ratchet up slowly during One Step Up. To listen to Martyn Jospeh is to hear a real master at work.
www.informatik.uni-hamburg.de/~zierke/ lloyd/index.htm SH Properganda 18
Win every CD featured in this issue. Enter our competition at www.propergandaonline.com Sign up for the Properganda newsletter for regular updates between issues.
Ewan McLennan Rags And Robes
Brian Finnegan The Ravishing Genius Of Bones
Fellside - FECD235
IRL - IRL046
Singing Tree Music - DDD2326CD
Edinburgh-born (now Yorkshire-based) Ewan may be a fairly new kid on the block, but his exceedingly confident debut CD is remarkably impressive. Ewan displays not only a disarmingly accessible way with (mostly trad) songs and tunes, but also a hell of a talent for original composition that’s definitively within the tradition.
Singers Pauline Scanlon and Éilís Kennedy are both veterans of the Irish music scene, and this duo debut shows just how well their voices work together, swelling up the ache on Edward On Loch Ernes Shore or bringing out the joy in the Gaelic Síle.
His vocal style is a strong, determined and distinctive vibrato-rich burr that clearly derives from early Dick Gaughan, whereas his fluid guitar playing is, audibly, directly inspired by that of his tutor and mentor Martin Simpson. Nevertheless (and perhaps against the odds then), Ewan possesses a strikingly individual presence as a song-carrier; his crisp, fresh and passionate personal interpretations of As I Roved Out and MacColl’s Old Man’s Tale and Jamie Foyers (to namecheck but three) are up there with the best on record. And, notwithstanding the skilful embellishments from either Peter Tickell or Jackie Oates on a handful of the disc’s tracks, “less” (ie Ewan as solo performer) can still very persuasively count for “more” in terms of impact. A truly magnificent debut.
The Shee Decadence Shee Records - SHEE2 The second album from the all-female Scots band is quite a leap on from their 2008 debut, A Different Season, which ended up festooned with award nominations. As impressive as it was, this is a far more accomplished and confident beast entirely. They have a refreshingly open approach to the material, drawing on Americana, folk and jazz in a blaze of tunes that range dramatically from the rampaging Vankarin Polska and the joyous blend of styles on Meltdown to the effective mood piece Room To Breathe, Lillias KinsmanBlake’s flute playing and Shona Mooney’s fiddle particularly shining. Vocals are shared by Laura-Beth Salter, Rachel Newton and Olivia Ross, who produces a show-stopping performance on the traditional ballad Eppie Morrie and has written a song Morning Star which may yet elevate her into the same songwriting league as Karine Polwart. All this and a powerful arrangement of Abigail Washburn’s modern folk fable Sugar And Pie. It’s ambitious but they wear their varied array of hats with some elegance.
Produced with grace by John Reynolds (Sinéad O’Connor) this is a deliciously intimate disc where the arrangements and instruments frame the vocalists, allowing them to drive the material. Given the winning warmth they project, it’s a perfect strategy. Whether working in unison, creating harmonies, or twining around each other, there’s a rare, unspoiled purity in their work, and the choice of material, with a good sprinkling of Gaelic pieces, keeps it firmly rooted; even an Australian song like The Streets Of Forbes is the tale of an Irish bushranger, while the classic white gospel of The Poor Wayfaring Stranger feels like hardly a step from Ireland. For a first step, this is a long stride.
Chris Newman Still Getting Away With It
explosive quartet KAN. Yet this disc, nominally Brian’s new solo album, boasts a formidable supporting cast including Leon Hunt, Rex Preston, Ed Boyd, John Joe Kelly and Damien O’Kane. Animated Flook-like reel- and jig- structured pieces (mostly Finnegan originals) are replete with Brian’s signature supple and nifty whistle work at every turn of the melody or twist of the rhythm. They’re balanced by some less expected musical and stylistic diversions: newgrass on Superfly and Marga’s Moment, and a magical sequence where the slow, dreamy Starrs is followed by the rippling cadences of Seasick Dee. Every track contains a generous helping of intelligent and intriguing instrumental embellishments, and superlative technical expertise and musicianship is a given. Unusually for a purely instrumental album, this is an eminently repeatable experience. Ravishing genius indeed – make no bones about it.
Old Bridge Music - OBMCD19 To celebrate his 40-year career, Chris Newman, ultra-skilled guitarist (and mandolinist, composer and arranger) proudly presents his latest solo album, which contains 18 satisfying (mostly guitarled) excursions across and within a bewildering number of musical boundaries. Chris’s lightly-worn but intense virtuosity is mirrored in the quietly dazzling playing of the fellow-musicians he’s invited to the sessions; these include brother Mark, Simon Mayor, Paul Buckley, Nollaig Casey, Arty McGlynn and Máire Ní Chathasaigh. This eclectic and inventive CD takes us from the darkly extravagant Pear Drops And Fourteen Pounds and a breakneck Hot-Club dash (Not Likely!) to the delicately haunting Air On A Shoestring and the tenderly reflective Closing Time via individual takes on barndances, Irish slip-jigs and Québecois reels and classily combining oldtime with ragtime, blues and jazz. To balance the virtuosity, there’s a spellbinding warmth in Chris’s immaculate playing, a lyricism that never compromises the onward momentum. Chris’s eager and easy engagement with every musical genre under the sun makes him seem virtually a one-man Transatlantic Session on this scintillating, irresistible disc.
Brian, whistle player parexcellence, was a mainstay of the amazing Flook!, since whose demise he’s joined forces with Lau’s Aidan O’Rourke and mates Ian Stephenson and Jim Goodwin to form the
Doghouse Roses This Broken Key Yellowroom Music - YLLWRM 007 The sophomore full length from Scotland’s Paul Tasker and Iona Macdonald find their focus moving west – all the way to America in fact, with its mentions of Woodstock and turnpikes, and the general countryish, backwoods feel that tinges songs like Thunder Of The Dawn. Macdonald’s voice brings to mind Fleetwood Mac’s Christine Perfect with its Anglo soulfulness; that comes to the fore in the brooding Devil In Me and on the tenderness of The Highwayman, the only song on this collection to reference their homeland. Tasker is a definite find on guitar, whether fingerpicking in a Bert Jansch style or sketching out rhythms. His work gives the album its strong acoustic foundation and supports a very solid house of songwriting. The backing musicians are solid without ever intruding on the front pair, allowing them to shine brightly – and they do. With this release it’s evident that Doghouse Roses are in full bloom.
Win every CD featured in this issue. Enter our competition at www.propergandaonline.com Sign up for the Properganda newsletter for regular updates between issues.
Chris Ricketts & Mark Willshire Simple Folk
Andy Cutting Andy Cutting
Robb Johnson Man Walks Into A Pub
Lane Records - LANECD001
Irregular - IRR077
The guitar/vocal and bass duo of Ricketts and Willshire shine brightly on this debut. They mine a folk/gospel seam from both sides of the Atlantic, equally doing full justice to the old chestnuts Briery Bush and Wade In The Water.
So finally, the master box player whose enlightened accompaniments have enriched countless other albums from the likes of Kate Rusby. June Tabor, Chris Wood, Martin Simpson and Blowzabella - takes centre stage.
The title suggest exactly what Robb does here. In effect, on this unashamedly simple all-acoustic recital, he revisits his folk club songwriting roots (and the joys of playing acoustic guitar), with a clutch of new songs written for his monthly Hove Folk Club nights.
A trio of Ricketts originals sit very comfortably alongside the traditional material; he’s not only absorbed the styles, but also the idioms, to create some very convincing songs. Given their Portsmouth origins, however, it’s no real surprise that much of the focus here is on sea chanteys. Rather than the raucous aspect, though, this pair focus on them as songs. That brings out their innate beauty and melody (older listeners will recognise the tune of Sally Brown as the theme from Z Cars). The highly stripped-down sound suits the way they tackle the pieces here, with the intimacy bringing a brisk, heartfelt immediacy that draws the audience into the songs.
Eschewing the all-singing, all-dancing production techniques that may have tempted other virtuosos, Cutting pares everything back to its barest essentials on a refreshingly uncluttered album so organic that chosen accomplices like Ian Carr (guitar) and Mike McGoldrick (flute) were denied any rehearsal or arrangement opportunity and virtually everything was recorded live in one take. A risky strategy but great musicians respond instinctively to one another and the album’s enormous strength is in its very simplicity. That and some great tunes that range from morris favourites Cuckoo’s Nest/Old Molly Oxford to Simon Thoumire’s mesmerising Granton Fish Bowl to a contrasting mix of polkas, waltzes, jigs penned by the lad himself. Oh, and the fact that his playing is unspeakably brilliant helps…
Candidly and chummily embracing familiar Johnson issues, he deals with “pieces of the real world” and more global concerns alike in literate yet forthright, accessible language. It plays out with an almost punkish zeal capturing the stark honesty of one man, one voice, one guitar, one vision setting. With pinpoint precision Robb hones in on telling details, the little things that matter, while aiming his wake-up call at us all, to shake us from our complacency whether at home A Place In The Country or wider afield Someone Else Can Save The World. And then at the centre of life’s tribulations Robb lets us savour priceless moments such as a late-night encounter with an urban fox Pennypot Lane. All of which adds up to another unmissable chapter in the voluminous Robb Johnson songbook.
CoUNTRY AMERICANA reviews Willie Nile The Innocent Ones
Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band Legacy
Michelle Wright Do Right By Me
River House Records - RHR9912
Compass - COM45432
Savannah Music - SAV81252
When has it ever been helpful to brand an artist or band as ‘the new’ anything? Especially when ‘the old’ one is still active, it says more about the latter’s lost glory days than the newcomer and is particularly true in Willie Nile’s case, as he’s quite capable of standing on his own merits.
Ever since his early tenure with Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe, Peter Rowan has constantly blazed trails across an unsurpassed breadth of musical territory. His debut recording for Alison Brown’s label finds him in the company of his veteran touring Bluegrass Band (Jody Stecher, Keith Little, Paul Knight), with a mouth-watering handful of guest musicians – Del McCoury, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, Ricky Skaggs, Tim O’Brien – who variously make cameo appearances on three of the disc’s 13 tracks.
A hatful of celebrity endorsements (Springsteen, Lucinda Williams, The Who) are a tip off of the quality of this new CD, that but for a career marred by the worst of record company politics would surely be troubling the top of the charts. The Innocent Ones is a classic collection of new-wavish-powerpoppers, (think DBs, Nerves, Plimsoles, Knack, Graham Parker, Tom Petty) generous with melodic hooks and engaging lyrically. There’s scarcely a let up from the opening salvo of Singin’ Bell, One Guitar and the title track, the guitars (multiple) layering stinging riffs atop which, Willie is joined by a veritable backing chorus line. Somehow this packs more into a gleeful 40 minutes than some manage in a career and there may be lots of touchstone references in the mix, but there’s only one Willie Nile.
Within, Peter delivers an impressive new batch of 11 original songs couched in the very style that launched his career. These range from the classic gospel Turn The Other Cheek and the seriously sublime Night Prayer, the poignant hymn-like Father, Mother to the folkier uptempo breakdown The Raven (with a subtle brilliance in its instrumental fills that could only have been conjured by true masters of the art of unobtrusive virtuosity). It’s the sincerest of tributes to Rowan’s consummate mastery of the genre when I term any of these fresh compositions the embodiment of timeless roots bluegrass.
SC Blackberry Smoke
Frazey Ford Obadiah
Little Piece Of Dixie Bamajam - BJAM01001
Nettwerk - 308962 Following 10 years as a leading member of the critically acclaimed Canadian trio The Be Good Tanyas, Frazey Ford has taken advantage of a break from touring and recording with the band to record her own story with a solo album. Obadiah is the result and uses for inspiration the themes of motherhood, earth and the land. Obadiah collects thirteen songs, seven of which are from the pen of Ford, most of which have a laid back soulful groove harking back to singer songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Van Morrison. Along with occasional guitar courtesy of fellow Tanya, Trish Klein, what we have is a collection of fine observations on life all delivered in Ford’s signature sultry, campfire vocal. Folk, funk and a healthy dose of soul all make for an album with wide appeal.
Yowsah! This rocks! Impressively hirsute and steeped in the legacy of Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Allmans, Marshall Tucker, et al and charcoal filtered through The Black Crows and Buckcherry, this Atlanta combo are unashamedly flying the Southern Rock flag. I guess the title says it all, A Little Piece Of Dixie, but then again… There are undoubtedly strong regional sentiments caught up amidst the crunching Humbucker-richriffing, but anyone who name checks Ray Wylie Hubbard, as they do in the opener Good One Coming On, has a little more going on behind the simple beer drinking, skinny dipping, partying that the songs so gloriously celebrates. It surfaces again in the following Like I Am, celebrating the stoner aesthetic with just a hint of humility and Who Invented The Wheel, a smart take on the departing lover. Elsewhere, however, Restless and Shake Your Magnolia are unapologetic balls-to-the-wallrockers, both boasting blistering guitar solos. A final mention for Prayer For The Little Man and the child in the midst of a separation and Freedom Song, a rat-race opt out. Both are mighty fine, but taken together demonstrate a keen mind in the songwriter’s chair and more to this band than meets the eye, although, fundamentally they rock!
Repackaged and remastered Do Right By Me was the 1988 debut release by Canadian country singer Michelle Wright, now brought into the 21st century and ready to be heard by a whole new audience. With over 42,000 albums sold in Canada alone, the original Do Right By Me was a major hit there when first released. It gave Michelle her first ever hit singles, no less than seven in Canada and it also led to her first US record contract and a successful career that continues today. All seven of the hits from the original release are still present including her three Top 10 singles Do Right By Me, I Wish I Were Only Lonely, and Michelle’s distinctive cover of Andy Kim’s Rock Me Gently. Also included on the album is the bonus track None Of The Feeling Is Gone, a duet with the late Terry Carisse.
RW Hampton Austin To Boston Cimarron - CS11092 Some 2000 miles the distance, emblematic of a musical journey that takes the scenic route, stopping off in a few unusual backwoods for this singing cowboy. Freddie Mercury’s Crazy Little Thing Called Love and the standard Danny Boy, might not seem obvious staging posts for the booted and bedenimed Hampton, but this is a modern cowboy, as at home in an open-top sportster in the city as on horseback. He does, however, genuinely do the latter, actually marking him out more as a cowboy singer than in the Autry, Rodgers, Ritter territory of the movie-studio-star-maker-machinery. That said this CD brings together its own star studied line up to support Hampton’s rich baritone voice. Joe Diblasi as producer, engineer and arranger, and executive producer Gary Bright have been able to call on Grammy winning dobro player Al Perkins, bagpiper Eric Rigler, who played Irish whistle on Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, steel player extraordinaire Jay Dee Maness from the Desert Rose Band and legendary accordionist Frank Marocco. White Stetson tipped to the mainstream, those quirky moments, mining the rockabilly in the Queen song and the émigré sentiments of the Irish lament prove worth the detour.
Joyce Cobb With The Michael Jefry Stevens Trio
Duke Heitger with Ken Mathieson’s Classic Jazz Orchestra Celebrating Satchmo
Nels Cline Dirty Baby
Archer - ARR31934
Lake - LACD 286
On this two CD set guitarist Nels Cline, best-known as a member of Wilco, has created music to accompany artwork by Los Angeles based artist Ed Ruscha, who had a major retrospective at the Hayward Gallery in London in 2009. This musical interpretation of Rusha’s work features two large ensembles and the music is paired with reproductions of Ruscha pictures and insightful liner notes by Cline.
Joyce, Okie born, Nashville raised and Memphis oriented has already had one hell of a career, signing to Stax and hitting the Top 40 for Hi offshoot Cream with Dig The Gold. Gospel, naturally was her first musical calling, but as a soulstress she’s also opened the bill for the likes of Muddy Waters, The Temptations and Al Jarreau. She has the history and she still has the voice. Moanin’, the opener proves a revelation, apart form anything else I’m not familiar with Bobby Timmons’ and Jon Hendricks’ lyrics for the Art Blakey standard, but Cobb then takes the swinging blues a step on with a harmonica cameo that surprised further. The skittering Jitterbug Waltz gives Cobb and pianist Michael Jefry Stevens playful scope (Cobb positively purrs) and bassist Jonathan Wires also gets into the act. Whatever the material, from Hoagy Charmichael’s gorgeous Skylark on which Stevens stretches out while Cobb sits back waiting her cue, through to the bold mix of Berlin’s Blue Skies and Monk’s angular In Walked Bud, the performances are really finely balanced. Nothing phases Joyce, her voice simply skips across the music and the trio (including drummer Renardo Ward) all feature in what seems like perfect proportion. The results are warm as if the quartet thoroughly enjoy one another’s company. A delight.
TM Archie Semple The Clarinet of Archie Semple Lake - LACD 290 Archie Stuart Nesbit Semple was not a well man during the latter period of his short career, ill health forcing his retirement when he was aged just 36. However, all this doom and gloom was 6 or 7 years in the future when these exultant tracks were laid down. Along with Sandy Brown, Archie Semple was one of the great Scottish clarinet exports, best remembered for his 18 years featuring in the superb Alex Welsh Band. All the numbers on this album were recorded between 1957/58, apart from one piano solo track by the peerless Fred Hunt from 1959. Fred appears on 17 of the 21 items, while the remaining 4 feature a quintet which included trumpeter Dickie Hawdon who must have had the most varied career of any British jazz musician. Google him and find out – his beautiful Bobby Hackett-inspired playing is a great bonus on this CD. But this is essentially Archie’s album, from the rasping intensity of the up-tempo selections, witness Goody Goody, to the mostly lower register of Sugar Babe. Prepare to be impressed.
Paul Adams of Lake Records is well-known for giving CD life to countless classic albums by just about anybody that counts on the trad/mainstream front, together with new recordings by today’s leading artists. We should now add the sobriquet “saviour”. This wonderful recording was made in 2008 just before the world economy was headed for the s-bend and was languishing in nowheresville as a result. Paul heard the tracks and this splendid album is the result. When you buy this CD as, if you have ears and any sense you surely will, you will be able to read the copious track-by-track history and analysis by the leader of this authentic and superb orchestra, Ken Mathieson. New Orleans resident Duke Heitger pays homage to the original jazz soloist without slavish copying, although just about anyone who puts a trumpet to their lips owes something to Louis. Duke has a glorious sound and is completely technically assured. I am sorry I am delaying you, you need to be on the phone, online, or down to your favourite store to buy this “wonderful world” of music.
Cryptogramophone - CG142
Supporting musicians include Jon Brion, Nels Cline Singers cohorts Scott Amendola and Devin Hoff, Nels’ twin brother Alex Cline and some of L.A.’s most illustrious instrumentalists and improvisers. Cline’s orchestrations offer a panoply of sound and vision: from pedal steel and cigarbox guitars to harmonica, banjo ukulele, violin, cello, saxophone and trumpet, all the way through Cline’s mysterious Quintronics Drum Buddy. Nels Cline has a unique approach to music combining everything from jazz to rock and beyond and Dirty Baby is a fascinating recording of ambition, scope and surprise.
The Nels Cline Singers Initiate Cryptogramophone - CG143
Django Reinhardt Musette To Maesto 1928-1937 JSP - JSPCD966 The great Gypsy guitarist and luminary of The Hot Club is served by all manner of compilations and not always very well, with numerous rehashes of the same numbers rendered with varying degrees of audio quality. JSP, however are a label that do things properly and comprehensively, offering valuable new insight in the process. This five disc set is the first of two that catalogue Django’s early years and rise from rhythm banjo player, to the guitarist whose left hand, crippled in a fire, made his ability all the more fantastic. This is of course a seriously scholarly undertaking that delights in copious detail, the early alternative spellings of his name for starters, but the documentation of the sessions is vital in telling his story. You can chart his steady rhythm playing progress, but there’s the sudden thrill as he cuts free with a trilling run at the start of Carinesa on disc one. You can picture him doing it and the rest of the band looking round agog. Then there’s the stunning bonus short film at the end. It’s another wonderful set from a label that has turned this sort of compilation into an art form in itself. Word has it a new JSP catalogue is being printed. Badger you local retailer for one, who knows what you might discover.
Released earlier this year, this handsomely bedecked double disc set is dressed in some suitably fascinating photos of the giant Hadron Collider at Cern, that evil of science that was going to blow us all down a black hole, whilst the creationists enjoyed a nano-second of glee. It speaks of bold experiments, although not necessarily of rationalism, as the jazz-rock-scrungefusion is designed to trip the emotional synapses rather than objective and calculated analysis. Singers they aren’t, although Nels voice in a non singing capacity is involved, but Devin Hoff (basses) and Scott Amendola (percussion, mbira and live effects, loop, etc) are the regulars, here joined on a studio disc by David Witham and Yuka Honda on various keys. On the live disc of their first gig, members of Deerhoof are on hand for additional percussion. The frazzled and frantic electronics of Floored will not be everyone’s cuppa, but it has a post BB Miles’ funk in its heart and Divining is not alone in being utterly lovely. Redline To Greenland, however, sounds like GCHQ eavesdropping extra terrestrials until he band burst menacingly in, sounding like the Sonic Mahavishnu Youth Orchestra. Has anyone invented the term jazz postrock yet, or can I have it?
Danilo Pérez Providencia
Bill Frisell Beautiful Dreamers
Debbie Arthurs’ Sweet Rhythm The Talk of the Town
Mack Avenue - MAC 1052
Savoy Jazz - SVY17799
Lake - LACD 288X
This Grammy-winning musical ambassador, polymath, pianist and composer has long bridged cultures and genres. After a grounding in classical piano in his native Panama, he studied jazz in the US before launching his career during the late 1980s. As a band leader/solo artist, he’s been making albums since 1993, and in 2000, became part of Wayne Shorter’s group.
The guitarist is something of a keeper of the flame when it comes to American music, but he is certainly no dry archivist. Songs like Stephen Foster’s title track and the Carter Family classic Keep On The Sunny Side appear here as you have never heard them before, herded in, along with a whole bunch of original Frisell compositions which sound just as classic and well-worn, to form a continuous line of gentle and quietly joyous music.
Providencia is less overtly rootsy than much of his work, and finds his regular bass player (Ben Street) and drummer (Adam Cruz) joined by alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, scat singer Sara Serpa, percussionists and a quaintly chamberish woodwind/brass section. The album celebrates his becoming the proud father of two daughters, kicking off with the episodic Daniela’s Chronicles, which combines classical, jazz and Latin flavours. Galactic Panama swings to Panama’s ‘tamborito’ rhythm, and the two Panamanian bolero standards Historia De Un Amor and Irremediablemente Solo are barely recognisable, underlining his trademark avoidance of the obvious.
The band is just a trio, with Eyvind Kang on viola and Rudy Royston on drums. Listen to the opener, Love Sick, and you hear how complete a sound these three instruments make, Kang and Frisell sharing the melody and harmony while Royston creates a brushed cushion. All three are providing all the musical elements on this album, melody, harmony, rhythm, all shared. And making simply gorgeous music, of course.
In this current era where the aim so often appears to be to obscure the lyrics as much as possible, how refreshing it is to revel in the glory of Debbie’s perfect diction. Here is an English singer who sings in English, not American you understand. Debbie is fortunate in being able to secure the services of a superb and sympathetic sextet, none more so than pianist Martin Litton who has played with just about everybody who counts in this genre, including Kenny Ball, Humphrey Lyttelton, George Melly, etc., and has appeared as featured soloist at Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller tributes at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall. Witness his stunning breaks on My Blackbirds Are Bluebirds Now. Make no mistake, this is a feelgood CD which makes copious use of some lesser-known verses to familiar songs, many of them associated with the 1920’s songstress Annette Hanshaw, whose work has long been championed by Ms Arthurs.
Dani Wilde Shine
Bjorn Berge Fretwork
Erja Lyytinen Voracious Love
RUF Records - RUF1163
Grappa - GRCD4321
RUF Records - RUF1161
Produced by Mike Vernon, a linchpin of the 60s/70s UK R&B scene, this second album by the young Brit is impressive on several counts. She sings both blues & soul with conviction. Her guitar playing, acoustic & electric, has authority. Her compositions, 9 of the 11 tracks, are diversely interesting. The accompaniment, including younger bro Will on excellent blues harp and some stellar guests, is a cut above the norm. With Mike in the chair the overall balance of sound is crisp, clean and clear.
Unrestrained by genre, Norwegian Bjorn Berge is a guitarist who knows no bounds. Primarily, he’s blues based but once he starts on that 12 string acoustic he can take it anywhere. Along side his own compositions, previous albums have included music from sources as diverse as Robert Johnson, Skip James, Motorhead and Jethro Tull.
The press release calls this an album of 13 love songs. That being so, I wouldn’t want to meet Erja when she’s in a bad mood. There’s a lot more frustration and pent-up anger here than sweet nothin’s. When she’s not keeping her eyes “tight on the prey” she’s alone and forsaken with “crowes” at the door (a misprint or a FinnishAmericanism?), feeling caged, bitter and lonely, denying love and generally being a sour puss. Maybe it’s those long dark nights. The good news is this results in some powerful music.
The performances range from full on to wistful, among them a rolling reworking of the Stones’ Miss You at one extreme, at the other a couple of Dani’s reflections on the plight of African children. As long as she doesn’t suddenly go all Madonna on us, Ms Wilde is among the better bets for a British blues revival.
This CD is a perfect showcase for Berge’s considerable guitar talent with demonstrations of fiery strumming on Crazy Times, Leo Kottke influences on These Streets, luscious slide work on Paris, haunting licks and contrapuntal runs on Charles Brown’s Drifting Blues, diesel-powered frenzy on Fretwork and dreamy delicate playing on Skijumper. Great guitar needs vocals to match and he has one of those hoarse lived-in voices that can rasp out rockers like Zebra and Crazy Times but then show its tender side on bluesy love songs like You’re So Fine which, for me, is one of the stand-out tracks on an album full of adventurous musical ideas.
The songs on this second album on Lake for Debbie Arthurs (the first was Thank You Mr Moon LACD 233) span the classic period of the great American Songbook 1925 to 1940.
Despite my old fart’s wariness of ‘rock’ masquerading as ‘blues’ it would be churlish to deny that Erja’s singing is as feisty as her lyrics, her guitar playing is mostly appropriately ball-blistering (though she does do delicate as well) and her accompanists are solidly in the pocket. Strongly recommended to women who are currently at odds with men. A potential best-seller, then?
he possessor of a highly colourful, T chequered musical CV,
Brown’s place in the rock ‘n’ roll pantheon is none the less guaranteed through his exceptional lyrical contributions to Cream, (I Feel Free, White Room, Sunshine Of Your Love, etc.) He mostly wrote with Jack Bruce and continued that relationship after Cream disbanded as well as developing his own musical ambitions in parallel. Pete was already a poet, first published at the tender age of 14 and despite his Surrey roots became part of the Liverpool Scene in the early 60s that also gave us The Scaffold, Grimms and so forth. Alongside Pete’s writing, his first jazz-art-avant fusion-combo was called The First Real Poetry Band and included future jazz giant John McLaughlin in its ranks. Moving through line ups including Danny Thompson on bass and Dick Heckstall Smith as part of the brass attack the band continued to mutate through the mid 60s. Eventually guitarist Chris Spedding came into the frame and out of the experimental melee arose Pete Brown & His Battered Ornaments.
least there was no usurping done. Fast forward as we must and with Road Of Cobras it seems Brown is finally happy with his own vocal performance and in the company of keyboard player Phil Ryan hasn’t lost his songwriting mojo. A couple of star names add intrigue, with Mick Taylor and Clem Clempson on guitars and Arthur Brown guesting on one track. But the story of this record is actually bigger than celebrity cameos. It’s neatly arranged, bold and big brassy, funky, bluesy and more. There are passages in Scroll On for example that mix Genesis’ prog-moves into the languid funk. OK! Pete Brown will never be Peter Gabriel, but his voice hangs on in there, becoming increasingly compelling as the disc unfolds. The addition of some choice female vocals from Rietta Austin smoothes Pete’s rougher edges at times (think Jack Bruce on a B day), but there’s obviously a natural performer in him defying these really very good tunes to trip him up. The band too is great, but for fans of words there are some great delights as every track containing a quotable couplet or three. Pete’s still a poet at heart and by surrounding himself with some fine musical talent has delivered something of a surprise. Simon Holland
A Meal You Can Shake Hands With In The Dark was duly released. Then with lots of gigs booked a second recording was started as the band was also added to The Stones’ Hyde Park bill. Mutiny in the ranks, however, saw Pete kicked out and his voice (deemed the weak link) taken off the second record entirely. Undeterred the wonderfully named Piblokto followed although only lasting the same two albums, but at
Pete Brown & Phil Ryan Road Of Cobras Proper Records PRPCD055 www.petebrown.co.uk
Amit Chaudhuri Found Music
Babel Vortex - BVOR1089
Jayrem - CDJAY416
A raga version of Leiber and Stoller’s epic Broadway defies the imagination. Yet nevertheless the pitterpatter of tabla, some bluesy lead guitar, and the occasional interjection of crooning trumpet make the opening track of Indian author and academic Amit Chaudhuri’s concept album a perfect mission statement.
Arriving a decade after their groundbreaking debut 100%, this is only the second album by this New Zealand/Aotearoan duo. Their innovative, electronic roots music draws on kapahaka (Maori performing arts), hip hop, soul and contemporary dance genres, such as the drum ‘n’ bass beats that percolate through Tirama and the mutant house of Te Whanau A Tama Nui Te Rä.
I was particularly charmed by his take on Good Vibrations which snakes all over the place before eventually settling into a jazzy boogie-woogie jam with only the vaguest connection to Brian Wilson’s original. And then there’s a more conservative but no less appealing run through the Beatles’ Norwegian Wood which is already blessed with a melody with something of an Indian lilt about it. Alongside such tripped-out extemporising around familiar standards there are a few of Chaudhuri’s own enigmatic songs reflecting on, among other things, his Bombay childhood. It’s rare in this age of over-compressed in-your-face pop to hear something this unpredictably inventive, playful and real.
Freemuse & Deeyah Present Listen to the Banned Various Artists
The organic slap and thwack of sampled poi (percussion balls) is still the basis of their sound, courtesy of programmer/producer Maaka McGregor (a.k.a Maaka Phat). As before, Mina Ripia sings exclusively in Maori, and once again, she’s joined by numerous guest vocalists, plus Iain Gordon (of Fat Freddys Drop) on squelchy, retro keyboards. Perhaps because several tracks are karakia (sung prayers) rather than waiata (songs), Ora is a calmer record than its predecessor, and seems more focused on the voices – best heard on the startlingly beautiful a cappella opener Tuhia Te Hä.
Grappa - HCD7249 An on-the-nail title does a fine job of summing up the thinking behind this diverse compilation of musicians from around the world who have faced censorship and exile from repressive governments. Norwegian composer and human rights activist Deeyah’s superlative job balances roots-based tracks with more innovative studio-orientated numbers making the end result consistently listenable. There are tracks from Iran, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Turkey, and Pakistan to name but a few, but my personal favourite is the exuberant Constitution Constipee (constipated constitution) from the Cameroon’s Lapiro De Mbanga. The fact that Lapiro ended up being sentenced to three years imprisonment for writing this “anthem for the people” is one of many disturbing stories of persecution, banishment, and even murdered friends relayed in the sleeve notes. Yet the music rises up regardless, a testament to the resilient spirit of the people behind it. So forget the idea of the worthy but dull charity record - this is a superb collection in its own right.
www.listentothebanned.com Properganda 18
Colosseum Live 05
The London Lasses & Pete Quinn By Night & By Day
6 Day Riot On This Island
Ruf - RUF 1162
Lo La Records - LL005
Tantrum Records - TANTRUMCD004
Pete Brown is covered elsewhere in this issue and interestingly two tracks he co-wrote with Bruce, Theme From An Imaginary Western and Rope Ladder To The Moon, find at outlet here. The two records also share guitarist Clem Clempson, who along with Dave Greenslade, bassist Mark Clark, founder and powerhouse drummer John Hiseman and singer Chris Farlowe can claim to be the core of the band’s definitive line up. The late Dick HeckstallSmith’s place on reeds is taken these days by Hiseman’s wife, the suprememly talented Barbara Thompson. As well as the two tracks mentioned above (the first originally from Daughters Of Time and a favourite), this double disc set contains an expanded run through an epic Valentyne Suite amongst a host of the band’s classics . That originally appeared in three parts (as things did back then) on the second side of the album of the same name of course. They are a pretty senior crew these days, but make a sprightly, zestful noise and instrumentally Greenslade’s keys and Clem’s fretwork are excellent, Hiseman thunders and Thompson throws some real jazz shapes across the mix. Farlowe (now 70) and Clark may not have the full vigour of youthfull pipes, but don’t let the side down.
The London-based Irish band celebrate their 10th anniversary with their fourth album…and it’s an absolute beauty. The addition of Brona McVittie, particularly, seems to have given them a new range, with her rich harp playing and lyrical singing, both of which she demonstrates to enchanting effect on Ballyronan Maid and A Stór Mo Chroi, a classic emigration song which might sound hackneyed is less sensitive hands. Their arrangement, too, of the Irish language song Johnny Seoighe is showstoppingly tender. The elegance and lightness of touch which distinguishes them from most other Irish bands blossoms as they tackle an invigorating selection of tune sets without the frenzy that afflicts much Irish music, allowing full rein to the intricate interplay between the dual fiddles of Karen Ryan and Elaine Conwell and the box and flute playing respectively of Maureen Linane and Elma McElligott, while Pete Quinn’s rhythmic piano maintains order. It’s all rather wonderful.
Take Me is as dynamic an opener as you could wish for on a record and sure fire proof that 6 Day Riot (they have a plan you know) are on course for great things. The massed chorus of reverb tinged voices, give way to a careering snare tattoo, reggae rhythms and mariachi horns. Through all of this a great little tune with Tamara Schlesinger’s urgent appeal to be transported, literally and emotionally elsewhere. Tamara is proving to be a fine singer and this incarnation of the band is looking like a worthy foil for her folk-pop stylings. The largely acoustic instrumental mix is capable of fair drama (Out To Sea and the opener) and tender caress on the fragile Run Away for example. Lyrically too there is real intrigue, although I can’t pretend to offer any real insight, but there’s possibly the sense of things either confined or at the edge or limit, either of time in For Anne, seemingly about an execution, or in lines like “Watch me there with wonder, as you stand on the shore,” as our heroine is cast adrift. 6 Day Riot Have A Plan was, of course, the bold tilt of a title of their last CD. If this is it, it’s a bloody good one.
Just About As Good As It Gets
One of numerous companies reissuing blasts from the past, Smith&Co’s authoritative 2CD sets are always among the zappiest compilations and best buys at the affordable end of a crowded market. The latest three are no exception.
Elvis Presley – The Rockabilly Years We turn first, as is befitting, to Elvis Presley: The Rockabilly Years (65 tracks - studio and live - SCCD2432). Latterly a constipated Las Vegas cabaret entertainer, albeit still a monumental presence until his death in 1977, when Elvis turned the music world on its head in the mid 50s he was a lean, handsome, hungry hick from the Mississippi sticks who exploded into an international phenomenon by fusing his love of R&B, gospel and country music with dynamic synthesis. That period is the focus of this double. It has all been said and reissued before but if you’re still missing the point you are urged to listen to young Elvis tearing the lid off the melting pot. Every successive generation should be reminded.
Rock ‘n’ Roll Red Hot! - Various While Elvis gained prominence as ‘The King’ he was by no means alone. As he broke boundaries many others were rattling the cage, some of whom had been recording long before he got started, the majority immediately inspired to ride the roller coaster. Smith&Co’s Rock ’n’ Roll Red Hot! (64 tracks - SCCD2435), a random compilation of choice cuts with no perceptible logic to the running order, is an all-action power pack. From Little Richard’s Ready Teddy to Dale Hawkins’ Susie-Q, via artists famous and forgotten, with vibrant surprises among the familiars, there’s no let up. I now need a cold shower. Throw yourself into this one loose-limbed and ready to rock.
Johnny & The Hurricanes –Red River Rock Anthology Come the late 50s instrumental recordings became the vogue, spearheaded by the twangy guitar of Duane Eddy and the subject of Smith&Co’s other new release, Johnny & The Hurricanes: Red River Rock - Anthology (60 studio tracks + 16 track live DVD SCCD2429). Led by the honking, squawking tenor sax of John Pocisk (aka Johnny Paris) the original line-up also prominently featured organist Paul Tesluk and guitarist Dave Yorko accompanied by Butch Mattice (bass) and Bill Savich (drums). The group’s most successful recordings were raucous revisions of earlier Americana; some of us were just as impressed by their spontaneous flipsides. What 21st Century ears will make of it all is anybody’s guess. Authenticity note: the CDs are mastered from source tapes, not dubbed from disc. Qualifier: the DVD (as yet unseen by this reviewer) is an 80s gig, not the original guys behind Johnny.
Twenty Best of the Year Bellowhead Hedonism Navigator Praised everywhere from The Super Soar Away to the chair I’m sitting in, this is without doubt a masterpiece and the band’s finest work as Jon Leckie marshals their intense creativity. Clever without the clogs, fun with a soupcon of frivolity and dramatic and dynamic like only an 11 piece, pumping brass and all can be. SH “English folk has never seen or heard anything like Bellowhead at full throttle...it’s both rare & exhilarating to hear a band having so much fun. ” ★★★★Q “A grandstanding album of soaring strings and blazing brass. ” ★★★★The Telegraph “A pile-driving third album.” ★★★★ MOJO “This album is clever AND enormous fun.” Guardian
“Like Madness invading your local folk club. Their best yet by several splendidly raucous miles.” ★★★★Uncut
Oli Brown Heads I Win Tails You Lose Ruf One of the brightest young blues flames burning up a stage on the current circuit. Life on the road and Mike Vernon’s sympathetic hand have toughened his sound, but boy can he play guitar. SH BRITISH BLUES AWARDS 2010 Male Vocalist of the Year & Young Artist of the Year. “A real talent and should have a great career” Joe Bonamassa “One of the best and brightest guitar heroes performing in the world today” Classic Rock “the hottest young pistol in British Blues”★★★★MOJO “I am a big fan of this boy” Walter Trout “You’ve got it man, you’ve got it going” Robben Ford
Eliza Carthy & Norma Waterson Gift Topic From two of the folk tradition’s most gifted exponents comes the most welcome gift of all: a present for the present that truly respects the past, superbly sung and beautifully presented. DK This first duo album by Eliza Carthy and her mother Norma Waterson is both achingly beautiful and somewhat surprising, including their now famous segue of Ukulele Lady into Amen Corner’s (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice. CI “The new album Gift by Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson is one of the finest things I have heard in years.” Mike Harding BBC Radio2 “Impressive - even by their standards.” ***** The Guardian “..a genuine rite of passage as cherished tunes are handed down from one generation to another with grace, humility, honesty and love, as well as plenty of style.” **** The Sun
Beth Nielsen Chapman Back To Love BNC Beth Nielsen Chapman takes courage and inspiration from the tragedies of her own life to create an uplifting series of songs blending country, pop and folk with loving care. CI I’ve enjoyed her experiments, but this is what she does best. Great tunes that tug at the heart strings. SH “A joyous collection of Skilfully written songs.” Nick Barraclough BBC Radio 2 “A gorgeous return to mainstream rock.” **** MOJO “Classy songs, classy vocals....in short a class album.” **** Maverick “A joyful collection of songs about love and life.” Album Of The Week Sunday Mercury
The Imagined Village Empire And Love ECC Simon Emmerson’s invigorating project setting English folk music into a modern multi-cultural context flourishes on this more streamlined second album highlighted by sitars, African percussion… and Martin Carthy’s brilliant re-working of Slade’s C’mon Feel The Noize. CI The other big-band of folk and another masterstroke of C21st cultural melding. SH “A quantum leap beyond the first Imagined Village album.” ***** The Independent “A joyous celebration of English and global culture.” ****The Times
The Burns Unit – Sideshow - TBU The bold Scots-Canadian alliance involves some unlikely bedfellows – Karine Polwart, King Creosote, Emma Pollock, Pilot AKA, MC Soom T et al – resulting in one of the most excitingly original albums of the year. CI I can’t wait to see this lot in January. SH
Chumbawamba – ABCDEFG - No Masters In Arguably the Best Conceived Dissection of life’s Eternally Frustrating Grumbles, Chumbawamba present A Brilliantly Canny, Daring Exposé of our Fatuous cultural Gallimaufries; this lexicon should be the required curriculum! DK Oysterband, Jon Boden, Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow join the fun as Chumbawamba blend wit and sarcasm with irresistible melody, producing – in Wagner At The Opera - one of the tracks of the year, the story of a concentration camp survivor. CI
The Creole Choir Of Cuba - Tande-La - Real World The international debut by this Cuban group of Haitian descent showcases passionate and stirring freedom songs as a testimony to their roots. JL Several radio sessions greeted their last visit as well as an appearance on Later. Watch them take the imminent London Jazz festival by storm. SH
Dr John & The Lower 911 - Tribal Mac goes back to his swampy Louisiana roots and creates a gumbo of blues-soul-funk-rock. Angry political songs take on an even greater resonance after the BP Gulf oil spill. GC No prisoners are taken on this steamy Gumbo stew of polemic and prime kick-ass funk. His best in years. SH
Mary Gauthier – The Foundling - Proper Records Produced by Michael Timmins of Cowboy Junkies, Mary Gauthier surpasses herself with an intimate, at times shockingly raw album, that pulls no punches in some brutally honest observations inspired by her search for her birth mother. CI What at first seems a maudlin cycle of dirges about the singer’s grief at being abandoned and rejected by her mother slowly emerges as another gutsy masterpiece from the queen of southern country comfort blues. JL
Fay Hield – Looking Glass - Topic A serious folk record that triumphs with its old-fashioned virtues: confident, defiant and thrillingly sung, possessing a keen attention to detail and a respectful, loving treatment of sources; this particular looking-glass gives a proud and thoroughly convincing reflection of Fay’s talents. DK Striking debut album by the young former Witches Of Elswick singer, bringing unusual depth and richness to some deeply researched and largely unfamiliar traditional material. CI
Ian King – Panic Grass And Fever Few - Fledg’ling With its credible contemporary zeitgeist, Ian’s deeply personal and unassumingly innovative response to English folk tradition has produced one of the year’s most stimulating records, one whose vision will continue to inspire all-comers well beyond the year-end. DK Terrific genre-breaking debut album enterprisingly merging traditional material with gorgeous and highly sophisticated brass arrangements of reggae. CI
Los Lobos – Tin Can Trust - Proper Records One of the greatest of the first wave of Americana acts in the 80s and still going strong, making what is one of their best albums ever into the bargain. Indomitable spirit despite the hard times seems to be the calling card here amongst the sultry blues and Tex-Mex, all recoded live as a band in the studio for extra clout. SH Tin Can Trust is the band’s finest album in many years. It rocks hard, swings like a monster and has two downhome Mexican dance numbers that explode out of speakers. The most eclectic and perfectly executed album you will not hear this year. GC Properganda 18
Lunasa – La Nua - Proper Records Still setting benchmark standards for Irish music, Lunasa roar back after an extended break with La Nua (it’s Irish for ‘New Day’) with flautist Kevin Crawford, fiddle player Sean Smyth and uilleann piper Cillian Vallely in epic instrumental form. CI
Ralph McTell – Somewhere Down The Road - Leola McTell’s first new studio album for a decade proves his incomparable skills both as songwriter and guitarist are undiminished, including several outstanding songs about some of his own blues heroes. CI He can still cut it with the very best and the songs paying homage to his blues heroes have to be heard. SH
Pete Molinari – A Train Bound For Glory - Clarksville Recordings There’s a subtle mystery to these deceptively simple songs, a misty reverie of timelessness descends over a collection of classics, that sound like standards, soundtracking an era where simple pleasures are allowed to hold sway. I have my ticket, I’m on my way. SH A gem of an album. Pete recreates the sound of Roy Orbison and Jim Reeves yet brings his own very fresh Chatham stamp to every original song. GC
Alasdair Roberts – Too Long In This Condition - Navigator Always fascinating, constantly surprising, refreshingly individual…Roberts delves deep into the underbelly of traditional song on this invigorating opus. CI In which this brave Scotsman applies the richly oddball arrangements developed on his last all-original effort Spoils to a freshly blood-splattered collection of traditional songs. JL
Heidi Talbot - The Last Star - Navigator Sumptuous John McCusker-produced intimate second album by the former Cherish The Ladies singer, also revealing for the first time a hitherto unseen talent for songwriting. CI This CD sounds fantastic, great care has been taken over capturing instrumental timbre and the arrangements are subtly intricate. On top of this there’s Heidi’s voice. (Sigh!) SH
Richard Thompson – Dream Attic - Proper Records This commodious attic space contains the stuff that dreams are made of: a bunch of excellent new songs from a seasoned performer who’s still RT at the top of his game, further boosted by what must be counted some of his most “dreamattic” axe-wielding ever. DK The grand master of folk-rock shows enduring passion and boundless energy with an impeccable new collection embracing pathos, humour, romance and fury in equal measure – enterprisingly recorded live on stage. CI
Chris While & Julie Matthews – Hitting The Ground Running Fat Cat The Best Duo winners at the 2009 BBC Folk Awards deliver an immaculately crafted set of songs intriguingly embodying a colourful array of subjects from ancient Romans to Australian bush fires. CI Two of the best, most imaginative song writers on the circuit. Vivid stories and voices to die for. Sublime. SH
“An outstanding collection of songs.” ★★★★MOJO “These 14 songs, as simple as toast and butter and almost as comforting, prove the singer/songwriter equation is still working out on both sides.” The Daily Express “A very strong album even by Ralph’s own high standards, and may well in time come to be regarded as one of his best ever” Net Rhythms
“His always underrated guitar playing is still in fine shape and the best of the new material matches anything he was singing in his pomp” fRoots “Welcome back McTell, we’ve missed you.” Properganda
Tour Dates Wed 10 Nov Thu 11 Nov Fri 12 Nov Sat 13 Nov Sun 14 Nov Tue 16 Nov Wed 17 Nov Thu 18 NOV Fri 19 Nov Sat 20 Nov
Truro, Hall For Cornwall Bath, Chapel Arts Verwood, The Hub Andover, The Lights Northampton, The Royal Lincoln, Drill Hall Stamford, Corn Exchange Haverhill, Arts Centre Maidenhead, Norden Arts Eastbourne, All Saints Church