Tom Robinson Band: Anthology 1977-1979 (EMI Records)
This enjoyable four-disc set brings together everything Tom Robinson’s politically-aware combo captured for posterity during their brief time together, including the entire contents of their acclaimed debut album Power in the Darkness and its disappointing vinyl successor TRB Two.
The compilers have also included a generous helping of hitherto unreleased bonus material, with audio recordings from a couple of live concerts sitting snugly alongside a DVD featuring the Granada TV documentary Too Good To Be True and a string of late 1970s promo videos.
Ugly Guys: Lost in the Badlands (Angel Air SJPCD 422)
Commercial success has largely eluded vocalist Paul Shuttleworth and pedal steel guitar ace Vic Collins during a lengthy career which began with superior pub rockers the Kursaal Flyers in the mid 1970s, although Little Does She Know did make a minor impact on the UK singles charts in 1976.
The two men’s passion for tuneful country orientated pop remains undimmed however, and they’re now operating under the self-deprecating pseudonym of the Ugly Guys, delivering an easy-on-the-ear new Angel Air album whose highlights include Heart River Falls, The Hard Way and a fine cover of the similarly under-appreciated Mickey Jupp’s Modern Music.
Phil Beer: Rhythm Methodist (Talking Elephant TECD 121)
In 2004 the multi-talented Mr Beer took a break from his day job with English acoustic roots duo Show of Hands to record this eclectic solo album, tackling some sprightly instrumental pieces from around the world alongside material penned by several of his favourite songwriters.
Gems such as Jimmy Cliff’s Sitting In Limbo, Jackson Browne’s Our Lady of the Well and The Band’s epic Acadian Driftwood all received the distinctive Phil Beer treatment, and Phil also re-visited Dylan’s Old Riley, which he’d first been taught by folk luminary Ashley Hutchings when the pair were both members of the Albion Band in 1990.
Martin Eastwell: Lady Maggie’s Lilt (MMC 104)
This soothing showcase for the talents of lutenist Martin Eastwell draws on a selection of mainly Scottish and French pieces from the lute book assembled by the aristocratic Lady Margaret Wemyss.
Lady Margaret was just 12 years old when she began transcribing these charming compositions in 1643, and her book was gathering dust in the Sutherland family archives until its recent rediscovery supplied contemporary listeners with a rare opportunity to enjoy some of the courtly airs and dance tunes which would have captivated listeners during the first half of the 17th century.
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors: Good Light (Magnolia Music)
Nashville songwriter Drew Holcomb is a firm believer in the redemptive power of classic rock music and his band’s sixth album mines a rich vein of quietly uplifting Americana, all of it delivered with a distinctively Southern sensibility.
Drew’s wife Ellie chips in on harmony vocals as his finely honed outfit weave their subtle melodic spell via stand-out tracks such as Nothing But Trouble, A Place To Lay My Head and Tennessee.