This week sees new releases from Get The Blessing, Todd Snider, David Gibb & Elly Lucas and a trio featuring Kuljit Bhamra, Jacqueline Shave & John Parricelli.
Get The Blessing – OCDC (Naim Jazz)
This is a powerful beast of a record that sets off at a prowl with the noirish title track, thus laying out the signature sound of this quartet. The key is the riffing vamp of Jim Barr’s bass and the tightly coiled drums of his rhythm and Portishead partner Clive Dreamer. Across the repeated figures, the twin horns of Pete Judge, mostly on trumpet and flugelhorn, and the saxes of Jamie McMurchie dance around the harmonic potential. American Meccano features the wordless vocals of Robert Wyatt and a gorgeous little tune and there are other echoes of the Canterbury jazzers of yore (especially Hatfield And The North) in the obliquely potty titles.
Seeing them live you are aware of the array of pedals at the feet of the horn players, adding all sorts of treatments to the natural timbre of the instruments. Occasionally there are hints of Jon Hassle-like ambience, but mostly the riffs drive things at jazz-rock levels, with a melodic intensity that manages both complexity and hummability. There are extra little embellishments like the guitar of Adrian Uttley, especially effective on Adagio In Wot Minor, with the occasional use of piano on Torque for example. Low Earth Orbit evokes a Gong riff, but without all the pot-head-lunar-cy, although this is certainly the kind of fusion that later versions of that Anglo-French combo would recognise. For a four-piece they can sound huge and it really works live too. Catch them if you get half a chance, it’s almost worth it for Jim’s deadpan stage persona alone. But then again that’s daft and this is anything but… It’s clever beyond measure and equally enjoyable. [Reviewed by Simon]
Todd Snider – Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables (Aimless Records)
You can always rely on Todd Snider to raise political and social issues, but the generous helping of wry humour that he employs makes his songs all the more effective and prevents them from becoming mere polemic. Religion, bankers, unemployment and amoral youth all come under his scrutiny on his latest release and a cover of Jimmy Buffet’s West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gown fits perfectly into Snider’s salvo on the ills of society.
The album is not all about social inequality, he finds time to cast his eye on other matters. The Very Last Time describes clinging onto a failing relationship, Brenda depicts the enduring partnership between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as a kind of love story and there is the true tale of a killing in Alaska involving the wonderfully named Digger Dave and Yukon Charlie. The arrangements are attractively informal and performed by an adept core of musicians, which includes the fiddle and backing vocals of the talented Texan singer/songwriter Amanda Shires.
Snider tells engaging American stories from the viewpoint of the working man and the dispossessed; a bit like Steve Earle, but with jokes. [Reviewed by Michael Hingston]
Listen to an exclusive stream of the album via The New Yorker website.
What a charmer! A witty, bright delight of a record, it’s simply voiced, but well recorded to make the most of this bushy-tailed duo’s obvious talent. We take off, quite literally with “Crunch went the gravel as the wheels started turning…”, the line that starts the joyous Man On The Road. It’s a travelling song written by Gary and Vera Aspey, set to the tune of The Road To California, an arrangement that seems to bring the sunshine with it. Uncle Joe follows, a tale of a man attired in a seemingly inappropriate bowler hat for sailing, an aunt Flo on a permanent knitting spree and cousin Jack also off to sea as an Admiral. The trad Blacksmith boasts a gorgeous guitar line and Elly taking the vocals solo, until the refrain towards the end, is just perfect. Other traditional songs include the cheekily breezy Jerusalem Cuckoo, a simply affecting gallows tale in Sam Hall and (They Were Only Playing) Leapfrog, lifted from Oh What A Lovely War.
The original songs blend seamlessly and Three Magpies thievery is highly topical as are the cash-strapped times of the title song. Linda Woodroffe’s Goodbye To The Plough Horse is wistfully sad amidst it all, but the overall effect of David and Elly’s instruments and voices in perfect harmony is simply lovely. At just shy of 40 minutes it’s beautifully judged too and simply leaves you wanting more. I for one simply can’t stop playing it. Crunch goes that gravel again… [Reviewed by Simon]
Kuljit Bhamra – virtuosic tabla player, composer, producer and star of the British Asian music scene – has long been a cross-cultural explorer, playing a crucial role in the careers of many bhangra and Bollywood stars. The list of films and west-end musicals for which he’s written scores speaks for itself: Bhaji On The Beach, Bend It Like Beckham, Indiana Jones & The Temple Of Doom, Bombay Dreams, The Far Pavilions among many others… His latest cross-genre outing finds him in the company of violinist Jacqueline Shave who leads Britten Sinfonia and acclaimed jazz guitarist John Parricelli. Drawing on classical, jazz and Indian music, the trio create an entrancing collection of musical vignettes on this world tour.
Parc Floral opens with the delicate sounds of classical violin, tabla and acoustic guitar – a restful scene setter in the city of Paris. Bhamra’s tribute to master shehnai (reed instrument) player Kadir Durvesh shifts the setting to Turkey with tishing percussion, Spanish-tinged guitar and slithery violin. Machair To Myrrh begins in the Scottish Hebrides courtesy of Shave’s violin while a duet with jazz guitar takes it to the Mediterranean and into North Africa – crunchy harmonies and melodic improv lending it a more experimental flavour. Bhamra’s tabla sounds completely at home in the Scottish setting of the five-part Sounds Of Harris that Shave wrote while on the Isle of Harris, likewise an air from Beethoven’s Op 132 slots in the middle of this suite perfectly. Bhamra’s Escape To Tibet, inspired by the Tibetan markets in Goa, changes the mood yet again with rapid-fire violin and mellow guitar picking; Summer in Le Marais takes us on a beautifully wrought excursion to Paris once more, while the lively finale ends the journey in Brazil. An intelligent, inventive and seamless artistic collaboration. [Reviewed by Sofi]