OUR critics round up the rest of the week’s album releases
Wolf People: Fain
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APPARENTLY, the members of Wolf People were teenage hip-hop fans. Quite how they got from there to their current folk-prog incarnation is between them and their record collections but the end result is an absorbing update on the sound of early 1970s psych-folk-blues-rock fusioneers such as Genesis, Family and Pentangle. Their second album Fain features songs about highwaymen and boring into your soul – and one of the year’s best singles in the form of dynamic pagan odyssey All Returns. But Wolf People are not purist revivalists, simply excellent, exploratory musicians with the confidence to blend rogue elements, such as the funk bassline of Answer or the fuzz guitar throb on Thief, into their already tight framework.
Seasick Steve: Hubcap Music
IN HIS hand-scrawled press release for his latest album, Seasick Steve is at pains to point out that no computers were involved in the making of this record, that it will be available on vinyl and that it features a guitar made from two hubcaps and a garden hoe. Nothing wrong with fidelity to the old ways as long as it yields good music, but not even guests Jack White and John Paul Jones can hotwire this workaday collection of blues, boogie, southern soul and country which proceeds mainly at a nippy pace but, ironically, lacks the raw punch of some of his earlier albums.
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THE crossover dance band of the year don’t come packing some spanking new club style, but reheating 1990s deep house and, especially, drum’n’bass with a clutch of up-and-coming singers such as gurning John Newman and The Voice contestant Becky Hill, in tow. Emeli Sandé – whoever she is – does her best to emulate Shara Nelson’s contribution to Massive Attack with her coffee table jungle cut More Than Anything, while the similarly string-laden Soul II Soul collective appear to be the model Rudimental aspire to, but the pacey fare on offer is just too formulaic to bear comparison with such groundbreaking acts.
Leonard Elschenbroich & Alexei Grynyuk play Shostakovich & Rachmaninov
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THIS is an exceptional set of performances by German cellist Leonard Elschenbroich and Kiev-born pianist Alexei Grynyuk, in which the sheer poise and eloquence of Rachmaninov’s expansive Cello Sonata is chillingly offset by the dry pallor of Shostakovich’s Viola Concerto, his last work seamlessly arranged for cello by Daniil Shafran. Where there is supreme beauty in the Rachmaninov – the darkened brilliance of the Allegro scherzando, and an Andante every bit as ravishing as that of the Second Piano Concerto – there is a curt austerity in the Shostakovich, all of which this duo articulate with complete conviction. Rachmaninov’s deliciously mellifluous Vocalise provides a warm and cosy ending to a seriously good disc.
Gary Burton: Guided Tour
Mack Avenue Records, £14.99
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THE vibraphone maestro Gary Burton has called his forthcoming autobiography Learning To Listen, and that is an art being practised to the full in this second release from his current quartet with guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez. Burton turned 70 this year, but has lost none of his musical acuity or desire to discover fresh things, and his mastery of the four-mallet style is as refined as ever. The interplay between the band is a constant delight, whether on energised uptempo material – Lage’s Sunday’s Uncle and Sanchez’ delightful Monk Fish are prime examples – or graceful ballads, including Colley’s elegant Legacy and a lovely reading of Michel Legrand’s Once Upon A Summertime. Burton was never a prolific composer, but offers two new tunes of his own, including his tribute to the late Astor Piazzolla, Remembering Tano.
Bruce Molsky: If it ain’t here when I get back
Tree Frog Music, online only
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THE title sounds like a threat, but from the moment Molsky gives clear and plaintive enunciation to the opening lines of Wreck of the Dandenong over his double-stopped fiddle accompaniment, you know you’re listening to the real deal.
On this genuinely solo album, Molsky, the Bronx’s greatest gift to American old-time music, ranges through repertoire acquired during 45 years of globetrotting. He picked up Dandenong in Australia, the perky guitar track Bimini Gal pays tribute to the Bahamian guitarist Joseph Spence, and the fiddle tune Rattle Down the Acorns skitters all the way from West Virginia. Molsky’s banjo skills are well exercised, flickering under the song New Cut Road or taking a more gently measured approach to Johnny Booger.There is real pathos – and social documentary – in his singing of Piney Mountains, while such seasoned old-timers as Shady Grove and Cumberland Gap are reprised with admirable freshness and consideration.