Kevin Bryan reviews the best new music releases.
Don Williams: Reflections (Sugar Hill Records)
Don Williams is one of country music’s senior citizens these days, and the famously-relaxed balladeer can look back with quiet satisfaction on a highly rewarding career which began long long ago in the mid-1960s with the Pozo Seco Singers.
A string of solo hits followed in the period between 1974 and 1991, and although he isn’t such a hot commercial property these days Don is still mining the same rich vein of laid-back country fare which has become his musical trademark.
His latest Sugar Hill offering features this unassuming character’s inimitable versions of songs penned by luminaries such as Guy Clark, Jesse Winchester and the late great Townes Van Zandt, whose contribution is the beguiling opener I’ll Be Here in The Morning.
Emily Smith: Echoes (White Fall Records)
Emily’s fifth studio album finds the young Scottish singer-songwriter utilising the talents of an assortment of top-notch musicians from both sides of the Atlantic, including steel guitar supremo Jerry Douglas of Transatlantic Sessions fame.
Emily’s rare ability to embrace a much-recorded traditional ballad and make it entirely her own is evident througout this enchanting set as she breathes new life into absorbing narratives such as Reres Hill and Twa Sisters before closing with a finely judged revamp of Bill Caddick’s John O’ Dreams.
Suzy Bogguss: Lucky (Proper PRPCD 121)
Suzy Bogguss has described country music legend Merle Haggard as the “poet of the common man”, and this easy-on-the-ear new CD finds Suzy reinterpreting some of the great man’s most popular songs from a female point of view.
She lends a whole new lease of life to the cream of Merle’s back catalogue in the process, and the likes of Gretchen Peters and Beth Nielsen Chapman also lend a hand as she immerses herself in the deceptively homespun delights of classic Haggard creations such as The Bottle Let Me Down, Silver Wings and Sing Me Back Home.
The Proof: 100% The Proof (Note Records)
This seasoned bunch of blues specialists have built a solid reputation on the British club circuit during their relatively brief existence, and the quartet’s eagerly anticipated debut album also boasts guest appearances from former Whitesnake guitarist Micky Moody and sometime Thin Lizzy stalwart and Bird of Paradise hit-maker Snowy White.
Soulful vocalist Paul Cox is in particularly fine fettle on a splendid revamp of Blind Faith’s classic Steve Winwood composition, Can’t Find My Way Home, setting the seal on an excellent CD package.
10cc: Live in Concert – Clever Clogs (Wienerworld WNRCD5074)
10cc’s distinctive approach to music-making spawned a string of wittily memorable hits during the 1970s, although the version of the band which recorded this enjoyable jaunt down memory lane at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in 2007 only featured one original member in the shape of Graham Gouldman.
Former drummer Kevin Godley made a cameo appearance on Old Wild Men before Gouldman and his slick sidemen regaled their highly receptive London audience with perennial crowd-pleasers such as The Dean and I, Rubber Bullets and the inevitable I’m Not In Love.