Kevin Bryan reviews new music, re-released gems and compilations.
Jacques Brel: Simply Brel
The delights of French chanson are still something of an acquired taste on this side of the English Channel but Jacques Brel’s literate and theatrical creations transcend all barriers of language and culture, and this fine three-CD set brings together a generous selection of his early recordings, including what is arguably his best known song, Ne Me Quitte Pas.
The Belgian singer-songwriter’s finest material may have been covered in translation by rock and pop luminaries such as Scott Walker, David Bowie and Alex Harvey over the years but these archive performances possess a power and passion that has rarely been equalled by any of his well meaning admirers.
Canned Heat: Live in Europe 1973
The latest CD/DVD package in this excellent series of recordings from the Montreux Jazz Festival captures the 1973 incarnation of Canned Heat in concert at the prestigious Swiss event.
Inveterate record collector and larger than life frontman Bob Hite led an outfit which was steeped in the authentic spirit of the blues, and they were joined on four of the tracks here by veteran Texan guitarist and fiddler Clarence Gatemouth Brown, who added his own unique brand of showmanship to fine ditties such as Please Mr Nixon and Worried Life Blues.
Steve Earle: Live in Europe 2005
Perennial protest singer Steve Earle is in typically honest and self-deprecating form in another richly rewarding two-disc set from the Montreux archives.
Armed with just an acoustic guitar, mandolin and wheezing harmonica, Earle regaled the audience as the city’s Stravinsky Auditorium with some choice extracts from his challenging repertoire, including the title track from Steve’s 1988 breakthrough album, Copperhead Road, and some pointed examples of his flair for acute social commentary such as Dixieland and the sadly all too topical Rich Man’s War.
Jim Keaveney: Out of Time
Keaveney’s name may not be familiar to all but the most dedicated devotee of authentic Americana but Out of Time is actually the Texas based performer’s fifth album, and if its four predecessors were anything like as good as this they must have been rare works of art indeed.
Jim’s music is a beguiling throwback to the golden age of the singer-songwriter, prompting comparisons with the likes of Dylan, Woody Guthrie and Townes van Zandt as he serves up free flowing and tuneful gems such as From The Black, How Was I To Know and Eugene To Yuma for your listening pleasure.
Erja Lyytinen: The Sky Is Crying
This impressive new CD finds Erja Lyytinen paying homage to the rich musical legacy of Elmore James as she tackles some of the legendary bluesman’s most compelling creations, including Dust My Broom, It Hurts Me Too and the emotionally charged title tune.
Her vocals may still be something of an acquired taste, but surely no-one could quibble about Erja’s instrumental prowess as the Finnish slide guitarist brings her modern sensibilities to bear on these stirring offerings from one of the leading lights of 1950s blues.