Album reviews: Bob Dylan | Dallahan | Paul Vickers

Bob Dylan. Picture: Getty

Bob Dylan. Picture: Getty

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Our writers review the latest album releases

ALBUM OF THE WEEK

Bob Dylan

Shadows In The Night

Columbia

Star rating: ****

The indefatigable Bob Dylan returns once more, not just relentless in his enthusiasm for getting back into the studio yet again – this, the follow-up to 2012’s Tempest, is his 36th album – but in the resolute quality of what he does.

While many of his contemporaries might be celebrated for their youthful vigour, Dylan’s strength is that these days he sounds every one of his 73 years.

His voice sounds drier, steadier, less prone to the excited yelp of his younger days or the relatively smooth croon of his mid period.

There’s a certain sense of weather-damage there too and Dylan knows exactly how to use it.

Shadows In The Night is in some ways an odd beast for Dylan, a covers record comprising his favourite songs from Frank Sinatra’s catalogue, yet one or two of these versions may well go on to be accepted as definitive. There are 13 listed players on the record in total but it all sounds beautifully minimal.

Dylan’s tender vocal creak is drawn against Donnie Heron’s swooning pedal steel guitar and a muted brass backing on I’m A Fool To Want You and Some Enchanted Evening, while Full Moon And Empty Arms is a study in contentment despite the sentiment.

Why Try To Change Me Now? sounds deliciously ironic when applied to Dylan himself (“I’m sentimental, so I walk in the rain / I got some habits, even I can’t explain”), although is possible that listeners on this side of the pond might find the juxtaposition of this American icon with the theme tune 
to Birds Of A Feather (aka Irving Berlin’s What’ll I Do) a discordant one. David Pollock

Download: I’m A Fool To Want You, Why Try to Change Me Now?

OTHER RELEASES

POP

A New International

Come To The Fabulon

Poum

Star rating: ****

Plugging away at the Scottish music scene for more than a decade and a half, Biff Smith’s group The Starlets built up an affectionate following even as they registered minimal commercial gains. Having mutated into A New International last year, the new name seems to have brought with it a fresh impetus – this debut album was recorded in Sheffield with Richard Hawley producer Colin Elliot, and it’s not just a majestic, distinctive piece of work, but one whose grandeur and ambition speak of resonant self-confidence. From the swooping, mariachi-style anthem Valentino to the horn-caressed balladry of the title track and the Brecht-meets-Barry swoon of The Life And Times it’s an irrepressible and easy to adore piece. DP

Download: The Land Reforms, Come The Revolution

Paul Vickers and The Leg

The Greengrocer

Alter Ego Trading Company

Star rating: ****

Edinburgh’s premier gentleman psychedelic polymath Paul Vickers has delayed the release of his third recorded collaboration with The Leg, yet the wait seems to have worked out well. The former Dawn of the Replicants frontman, who also performs as a comedian and storyteller under the name Mr Twonkey, has brought in King Creosote to assist with a surrealist and vaguely food-related concept record which is hugely musically impressive even as it does a good impression of demented whimsy. Standouts include the frenzied banjo-pickin’ hoedown of The Bendy Bridge (Look Out Wendy), crashing incantation Chaos Magic and the slow, spectral title track. DP

Download: Bound To The Sour, The Greengrocer

FOLK

Dallahan

When The Day Is On The Turn

Dallahan Music DLHN002

Star rating: ****

Jani Lang is already well known to Scots musicians as the nation’s resident Hungarian fiddle virtuoso, and now he’s a lead instrumentalist in this braw Edinburgh-based band which puts an original twist on Irish and contemporary Celtic song and music. In their first full album (featuring guest uilleann piper Jarlath Henderson) the band’s fiddle, button accordion, bass and banjo are radiant behind Jack Badcock’s strong, warm vocals and guitar. Extremely surefooted.

Norman Chalmers

Download: Maggie’s Jigs

JAZZ

Zirilli, Boscagin, Mullen, Stanley

Radio Londra

Trio Records TR592

Star rating: ***

Radio Londra is not so much the name of an album as the name of an exchange programme, the brainchild of Italian drummer Enzo Zirilli, introducing UK musicians to Italian audiences, and vice versa. For this project Zirilli paired the great Scottish guitarist Jim Mullen with guitarist Luca Boscagin and Ross Stanley on the Hammond B3 organ, for a contemporary twist on the classic organ trio. The results are as varied as the programme – which ranges from the ultimate jazz ballad Stardust to the Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – and most likely to be appreciated by lovers of soul-jazz or guitar nuts. Alison Kerr

Download: You Must Believe In Spring

CLASSICAL

Vroni Holzmann

Dream Tree

Synchrony Sounds

Star rating: ****

Edinburgh-based composer Vroni Holzmann’s music tends to the minimal. In this new album of piano music, many of the pieces involve a simple, deliberate-sounding phrase, repeated several times before being developed, sometimes reaching towards a climax, sometimes fading out. The result is clear-cut musical phrasing, and highly affecting, although the emotion is of the subdued, reflective kind rather than overt, with a strongly filmic quality in its imagery. In this recording, Scottish pianist Kirsteen Davidson Kelly seems to downplay the emotional content even further, as though stressing the formality and regularity of the music. As a result, the dynamic is flatter than perhaps the music requires, with less interplay between foreground and background than one might expect – curious, given the dappled nature of the composition. Nevertheless, this is emotive, inspirational music that rewards repeated listening. Alexander Bryce

Download: Sea And Sky

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