This week’s music releases

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Kevin Bryan reviews the best new music releases.

Kinky Friedman: Lasso From El Paso

Singer-songwriter Kinky Friedman was working as a member of Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue when he recorded the eclectic Lasso From El Paso in 1976.

This gave the eccentric Texan a rare opportunity to rope in rock luminaries such as T-Bone Burnett, Roger McGuinn and Mick Ronson to underpin his mildly whimsical musings on the human condition.

He certainly made the most of his good fortune, although the venture wasn’t a great commercial success and Friedman is better known these days as a writer of detective and mystery novels.

The Ballad of Ira Hayes and a live rendition of Kinky’s classic Sold American are the best of the bunch.

Percy Sledge: Live in Kentucky

This inexpensive new Wienerworld DVD captures veteran soulman Sledge’s 2006 show at Kentucky’s Mountain Arts Centre.

The former hospital orderly struck gold very early in his recording career when his debut single, When A Man Loves A Woman, soared into the higher reaches of the singles charts on both sides of the Atlantic in 1966.

This majestic ballad provides the memorable finale for an undemanding jaunt down memory lane which also revives some lesser known gems from Percy’s ilustrious back catalogue including I’ll Be Your Everything, Take Time To Know Her and Out Of Left Field.

American Heartland: Legends of Country

This eminently tuneful three-CD anthology revives a selection of country classics from the likes of Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Johnny Cash alongside contributions from several performers whose connections with the Nashville establishment are tenuous to say the least.

Legendary roots rockers The Band and singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg slot firmly into the latter category, chipping in with The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Leader of the Band respectively to add a little more variety to the proceedings.

Bellowhead: Revival

The rumbustious British folk outfit make their major label debut with their most accessible and expansive offering to date.

Two fine sea shanties, Let Her Run and Roll Alabama, open the proceedings with a genuine flourish, and Bellowhead also apply their rousing big-band sound to the oddly cinematic psychedelia of Moon Kittens and a splendid revival of the great Richard Thompson’s 1974 masterwork, I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight, before tackling a classic murder ballad in the shape of the album’s epic finale, Greenwood Side.

Gram Parsons: The Early Years Vol 1 & 2

Gram Parsons is best remembered these days for his pioneering country-rock exploits with outfits such as The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers, but this ultimately tragic figure actually began his performing career with Kingston Trio soundalikes The Shilos.

This entertaining archive package couples some unpolished demos they recorded with the youthful Parsons at a South Carolina radio station in 1965 with a selection of Gram’s hitherto unreleased solo performances from later the same year and should be required listening for anyone with an interest in the Florida-born balladeer’s early years as an aspiring young folkie.