This week’s music releases

American Music Library - The Hits of 1960
American Music Library - The Hits of 1960

Kevin Bryan reviews the best new music releases.

This is the second volume in an interesting new series of anthologies which explores the American singles charts year by year, bringing together all the tracks which captured the hearts of record buyers on the other side of the pond but made no impact at all over here.

The contents are understandably patchy to say the least but a few genuine gems do emerge from 1960’s batch of golden oldies,including The Coasters’ Shoppin’ For Clothes, Charlie Rich’s Lonely Weekends and an early Ike and Tina Turner offering, A Fool in Love.

The second album from Knebworth-based guitarist Carter and his bluesy cohorts marks the trio’s transition from capable covers band to stylish original performers.

They tackle some interesting self-penned material which draws on influences as diverse as Gary Moore, Eric Johnson and Steely Dan along the way.

The latter’s demon axeman Elliott Randall also makes a telling guest appearance on one of the stand-out tracks, a tribute to his former bandmate Bernard Purdie entitled The Purdie Shuffle.

This digitally re-mastered re-issue revives the highly sought-after 1973 debut album from Welsh rockers Sassafras, expanded a little with the inclusion of two bonus tracks culled from an equally rare single which was released by Polydor the following year.

The twin lead guitars of Ralph Evans and Dai Shell gave Sassafras an instantly identifiable sound but lasting success sadly never came their way despite the undoubted quality of expertly crafted melodic ditties such as Busted Country Blues and Across The Sea of Stars.

Devotees of authentic Americana revere North Carolina-born Malcolm Holcombe as one of the finest practitioners of this beguiling genre, and the acoustic balladeer’s 10th album, Pitiful Blues, must surely rank as one of his finest offerings to date.

Holcombe’s stripped-down and unadorned approach to music-making has prompted comparisons with everyone from JJ Cale to Tom Waits and he’s certainly one of the most spontaneous and compelling singer-songwriters you could ever wish to hear.

Newcomers to his emotionally charged sound would be well advised to lend an ear to the unique delights of Sign For A Sally, The Music Plays On or the haunting Savannah Blues.

This 1972 offering was the first of seven albums Esther Phillips recorded for the Kudu label and was arguably the creative highpoint of her long and often troubled career.

Esther was in particularly gritty and uncompromsing form on fine tracks such as Gil Scott-Heron’s Home Is Where The Hatred Is and the Allen Toussaint-penned title tune, underpinned by some inspired contributions from top notch New York session men such as guitarist Cornell Dupree and pianist Richard Tee.