Kevin Bryan reviews the best new music releases.
Fox: Images ‘74-’84 (Cherry Red CDBRED 605)
This eminently tuneful two-CD set charts the relatively brief recording career of Fox, who notched up three UK hits during the mid-1970s before giving up the ghost in 1977.
The band existed primarily as a vehicle for the talents of expatriate American songwriter Kenny Young, who’d penned memorable ditties such as Under The Boardwalk and Captain Of Your Ship for The Drifters and Reparata and the Delrons respectively before relocating to England in 1968.
Noosha Fox’s distinctive vocals set the band apart from many of their contemporaries in the pop-rock field, and the Aussie songstress is in particularly fine fettle here on tracks such as Only You Can and Imagine Me, Imagine You.
For Freedom Alone: The Wars of Independence (Greentrax CDTRAX1314)
This year sees both the Scottish independence referendum and the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn, and the country’s leading folk label has chosen to commemorate these momentous events by releasing this hugely evocative anthology.
The Corries, Robin Laing and demon fiddler Alasdair Fraser all make telling contributions to a memorable melange of music, poetry and song before the proceedings draw to a close with the great Dick Gaughan’s poignant plea for national reconciliation, Both Sides The Tweed.
Holly Williams: The Highway (Georgiana Records)
It can surely never be easy to pursue a musical career in the shadow of a famous ancestor, and in the case of this Nashville-based singer-songwriter the luminary in question is no less a legend than the great Hank Williams.
Hank’s talented descendant explores the universal themes of love, loss and desire via some splendidly pared down and uncluttered slices of mildly introspective folk-rock, aided and abetted by friends such as Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan’s son Jakob and, rather unexpectedly, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who harmonises with Holly on the closing cut Waiting on June.
Chris Eckman: Harney County (Glitterhouse GRCD 785)
The Walkabouts’ creative mainstay Chris Eckman may have been based in the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana for quite some time now but the content of his latest solo offering was inspired by the vast empty landscapes of Southern Oregon far far away in the US of A.
Harney County’s harsh and inhospitable beauty provides the backdrop for a mesmering album very much in the mould of Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, blessed with finely judged cinematic narratives such as Ghosts Along The Border, Rock Springs and The Carnival Smoke.
Willie Watson: Folk Singer Vol 1 (Acony ACNY-1411)
The former Old Crow Medicine Show mainstay makes his solo debut with a deliberately timeless package which delves deeply into the American folk songbook to unearth a captivating blend of standards and obscurities.
The Leadbelly favourite Midnight Special sets the ball rolling in infectious style and the rest of the set is dominated by the blues culture of America’s deep south, with James Alley Blues and Utah Phillips’ haunting murder ballad Rock Salt and Nails providing ideal vehicles for Watson’s expressive tenor.