Kevin Bryan reviews the best new music releases.
Divided & United – The Songs of the Civil War (ATO Records)
This poignant and highly evocative two-CD set was assembled by Randall Poster and bluegrass guitarist Bryan Sutton, and draws on performances by some of roots music’s leading lights as it presents a vivid musical portrait of the American Civil War.
T Bone Burnett, Steve Earle, Dolly Parton and Old Crow Medicine Show all make telling contributions to the proceedings, and former Byrd Chris Hillman also chips in with an affecting rendition of the great Stephen Foster’s Hard Times Come Again No More. Splendid stuff.
Alasdair Fraser & Natalie Haas: Abundance (Greentrax/ Culburnie CUL 124)
The latest release on Fraser’s excellent Culburnie label finds the expatriate Scottish folk fiddler continuing the highly fruitful musical partnership with classically trained cellist Natalie Haas which began with Fire & Grace a decade ago.
The duo tackle a finely judged blend of traditional tunes and contemporary material as they help to revive the cello’s traditional role in Scottish dance music, with The Corrie Man, Neil Gow’s Wife and Connie Suite emerging as the cream of an eloquent crop.
Janine Jansen: Bach Concertos (Decca 478 5362)
Janine Jansen’s latest project finds the violinist in typically sparkling form as she tackles some of Bach’s finest chamber music in close collaboration with 12 like-minded musical cohorts.
This exhilarating new Decca CD features Bach’s Violin Concertos Nos 1 & 2, a brace of exquisite violin sonatas and the composer’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, which finds the Dutch virtuoso working in tandem with oboist Ramon Ortega Quero.
Echoes of France Vol 2 (Fantastic Voyage FVDD 184)
France may only be separated from Britain by a few miles of murky and storm tossed water but French popular music has rarely made too much of an impact on record buyers on this side of the Channel.
This interesting two-CD set aims to redress the balance a little as it serves up a tuneful introduction to the distinctive delights of Gallic music-making, drawing on recordings made between the 1930s and early 60s by the likes of Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, Juliette Greco and the mystifyingly successful Johnny Hallyday to name but a few.
Mash It! (More) Jamaican R&B and the Birth of Ska (Fantastic Voyage FVDD 178)
The second volume in compiler Mike Atherton’s well researched series chronicling the evolution of ska and reggae focusses attention on 50 appealingly rough and ready recordings from half a century or so ago.
The life-affirming contents include vibrant early waxings from several performers who would go on to become leading lights of the reggae genre, including Owen Gray, Laurel Aitken and Jimmy Cliff, who chips in with three tracks, I’m Free, Dearest Beverley and Miss Jamaica.