This week sees new releases from Paul Brady, Oli Brown and Joe Pug plus a Best of compilation from Tim Edey.
Paul Brady – Dancer In The Fire: A Paul Brady Anthology (Proper Records PRPCD101)
Through the 70s, Brady earned the reputation as the foremost interpreter of the Irish folk tradition, with some of his arrangements regarded as definitive. He was also a leading light in the hugely important Planxty, but as the 80s dawned he turned his back on the tradition and has since gained equal respect for his own songs. As Nanci Griffith quipped, picking up her 2011 Lifetime Achiever’s folk award, “I just hang out my window and try and catch the good songs as they fly by on their way to Paul Brady’s house.”
This anthology gains extra kudos by being Brady’s own choice, a most interesting selection that dips a toe or two back into the folk days. There’s a rock ‘n’ rolling Duncan And Brady while the haunting I Am A Youth That’s Inclined To Ramble and elegiac Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore echo Brady’s own Atlantic crossings. The rest, a Hank Williams song aside, are Paul’s own compositions or co-writes.
That the discs aren’t sequenced chronologically is another strength. Some of these recordings have a period feel, notably those from the 80s, but by ringing the changes those tropes are quickly lost in what is after all a very fine song sequence. Brady’s notes are a good read too. He acknowledges influences like JJ Cale and Little Feat for Trouble Round The Bend and Steely Dan for Dancer In The Fire; or writing in Bonnie Raitt’s garden with Smile. Then there’s opening for Dire Straits and Eric Clapton in huge arenas with just an acoustic guitar for protection that led to the latter guesting on Deep In Your Heart.
But Brady is no bragger or blagger and the affect is disarming: It’s more that he’s acknowledging his peers and pals for their part in this story. Politics, love, family and personal fortune, or lack of it, are also mixed into the engaging narrative that if you let it, will work its charm along with this selection of songs. As a package it adds up to the best introduction to Paul Brady, save a handshake and chat, you can ask for. [Reviewed by Simon]
Tim Edey – The Best Of Tim Edey (Gnatbite Records)
2012 is clearly Tim Edey’s year, carrying off not one but two awards at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards in February – Musician of the Year and Best Duo for his partnership with Kiwi harmonica man Brendan Power in the wake of their album Wriggle And Writhe – and joining The Chieftains for their 50th anniversary tour in June. Now comes the timely release of an 18-track compilation to celebrate the phenomenal talents of this humble multi-instrumentalist, documenting Edey’s solo career and his fruitful collaborations of the past decade with tracks drawn from Daybreak (2001); Irish Music From The Dingle Peninsula & Beyond (2005); Farrago (2007); The Collective (2010) and Disgrace Notes (2010).
The result is a joyful mix of trad dance tunes and Edey’s own compositions that surprises and delights by turn, shifting in mood, style and tempo for an enjoyable and well sequenced listen. Out on The Ocean Guitar Jigs makes a gentle opener but there’s plenty of lively playing to follow: a swinging Independence Hornpipe, a jazzed-up version of Auld Lang Syne and a jaunty Baltic Arrival.
Among the guests, vocalist Seamus Begley steps up to the mike for an exquisite rendering of Amhran Na Leabhar, Sharon Shannon adds accordion and whistle to Little Bird and percussionist Lucy Randall lays down the groove for Dawning of The Day Samba – a clever marriage of Latin American rhythms and an Irish air. Kent To Kintail showcases Edey’s compositional skills while an elegant, Spanish-inflected guitar duet with Jon Sanders blossoms into a Gypsy swing number, ending the collection on a high. The man’s a genius! [Reviewed by Sofi]
As guest guitarist with Irish legends The Chieftains, Tim will be appearing on BBC Radio 2’s Simon Mayo Drivetime show tomorrow (Tuesday 24th April) and on Later With Jools on BBC2 TV in the evening (10pm) with a further performance on the extended Later with Jools on Friday this week (27th April 2012).
Oli Brown – Here I Am (Ruf Records RUF1178)
Oli, despite his tender years, is a talent maturing quickly and enjoying the wise patronage of blues heavyweights like legendary producer Mike Vernon, Paul Jones and John Mayall, the man with probably the most astute ear for a blues-rock guitarist in history. His third release, Here I Am, is produced by drummer Wayne Proctor, who used his own studio and keeping time pressure at bay, created the room for Oli’s most satisfying set of songs by a country mile to really take flight.
It’s admittedly more contemporary rock, with a blues base than vice versa and the crunching title track sees Oli naming a couple of heroes (Jimi and Stevie Ray), making clear he’s not here to live in their shadow. The blistering guitar solo on Manic Bloom shows he’s rightfully claiming his own turf. But this isn’t a guitar work-out for its own sake, the songs really stand up and You can Only Blame Yourself and Start It Again are just two further examples demonstrating Oli’s ability to make a solo work in context, albeit with technique to spare. Then there’s the soulful, smouldering I Love You More Than You’ll Ever Know. Hell! Mr. Brown is getting down! Stunning! [Reviewed by Simon]
Joe Pug – The Great Despiser (Joe Pug Music LRR67452)
You can see the intent in the cover sticker quoting Paste Magazine’s review comparing Joe to Dylan, Waits, Ritter or Prine, but four such distinct talents… Really? It transpires that Joe has a simpler, humble faith in his music, being content to send people free CDs/downloads, so long as they agree to share them with friends, a strategy that has yielded considerable reward and personal connection to a fast growing, sizeable US audience.
Listening to The Great Despiser, it’s easy to see the appeal. At its heart is the performance of an intense, lyrical singer/guitarist with his craft doubtless honed by countless solo gigs. But for this CD, producer Brian Deck has created thoughtful embellishment and a band of hired hands build fuzzed-out rockers and quirky country around Joe’s poetic, yearning voice that has just the right level of rasp. I hear Michael Stipe in the oblique lyrical alchemy of Ours and Crazy Horse fronted by John Hiatt for ragged rocker, Stronger Than The World.
More names… And there are plenty of familiar ones here. I’ll wager Pug’s currently isn’t one of them. I’ll also wager that if the others have your attention, The Great Despiser is waiting for you. [Reviewed by Simon]