OUr roundup of the latest releases
Trouble Came Looking
The voice that has driven Deacon Blue all these years has re-established his Dundonian identity in a revitalised solo career. Gone are the American rock affectations of old, to be replaced by folk and country influences and songs coloured by the biographical and stripped of bombast and bluster.
Now I Smoke Like I Used To Pray is good old fundamentalism turned on its head, but this has the air of a man musically filling his lungs with fresh ideas. Holy Night has a sparse fragility to make Paul Buchanan envious, and is political with the smallest of “p”s.
Download this: Any Drug Will Do, Good Man
Everything that 21st-century pop should be, James Blake is obliquely compelling, his tremulous tenor like a less neurotic Antony Hegarty. His progressive rock parentage – James Litherland of Colosseum – has invested the 24-year-old with an instinctive flair for the art of the singer-songwriter. Retrograde is wantonly ethereal with surprising bite, its beats politely insistent without being intrusive. Brian Eno’s presence on Digital Lion is a generation-spanning coup, and the RZA’s urban edge lifts Take A Fall For Me to another level.
Download this: Digital Lion, Retrograde
The Blue Room
Universal 0602537242702, £15.99
The American singer’s new CD ramps up the country aspect that has always been part of her unique sound, and pays tribute to the classic 1962 Ray Charles LP Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music. It initially comes over as a strange mix of strings, twangy guitars and songs from the country repertoire plus a handful of more recent numbers, but it emerges as a highly personal and compelling listen, with the gut-wrenching blues of Guilty and torch-singing of I Can’t Stop Loving You offset by the joyful rock’n’roll of Changing All Those Changes (which sounds like Billie Holiday singing Buddy Holly) and the infectious Bye Bye Love.
Room Enough for All
Temple Records online only
The latest album from the enduring Scotland-based foursome kicks off with spoken poetry, titled Bagpipe Music, from the pen of Louis MacNeice, here turned into a song by fellow countryman Sean O’Donnell leading the band.
The other ten tracks mix powerful, lesser-known pipe and fiddle tunes with a few Gaelic and Scots songs plus one liberal US poem, set again by singer Sean. The tracks then finish with a musical fanfare to Lawrence Tynes, the New York Giants’ place kicker, and the only Scots-born player to win the Super Bowl.
Download this: The Eight Men Of Moidart
Challenge CC72565, £37.99
Richard Strauss’s Elektra offers sopranos one of the most difficult roles in all opera, and not just because she is on stage throughout. If the opera is no easy listen today, it is small wonder that news of its 1909 première went viral in the technology of the day, with magazines and newspapers falling over themselves to comment, caricature and re-tell anecdotes.
For Elektra (the excellent Evelyn Heritzius), this 100-minute cry of revenge for her father’s murder (at the hands of her mother’s lover) reveals that her own life, too, has come to a full stop. This handsomely packaged production from Netherlands Opera deserves a hearing, even if Strauss’s music ensures it won’t be a comfortable one.