The Scotsman’s team of music critics lend their ears to the latest offerings from the music world
Lyle Lovett: Release Me
LYLE Lovett comes to the end of his longstanding record contract with this impishly titled set of covers and originals, some previously released, which only confirm how fluently this practised hand can navigate the roots gamut, from yearning country ballads to skiffly western swing. The transition from the likes of flavoursome bluegrass opener Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom to the smooth barroom rhythm’n’blues of Isn’t That So is seamless. Whether dispatching a slinky blues take on Chuck Berry’s Brown Eyed Handsome Man, duetting with kd lang on an entirely non-cheesy version of the title track or flirting with the appropriately feline Kat Edmonson on Baby It’s Cold Outside, everything is of a standard one would expect from Lovett without particularly whetting the appetite for his next step.
The Ting Tings: Sounds From Nowheresville
PROVING that writing simple pop hooks can be an arduous task, The Ting Tings finally follow up their two-million-selling debut album We Started Nothing after four years and several scrapped recordings. While the Mancunian duo’s desire to push into fresh territory yields both the commercial reggae-tinged track Soul Killing and the generic R&B pop of Day To Day, the better moments on this so-so second album, such as Hit Me Down Sonny, stick close to the martial drums and cheerleader chants of That’s Not My Name and Shut Up And Let Me Go. Elsewhere, Katie White elects to put on her best hanging-on-the-block American accent for Guggenheim, a punchy White Stripes-a-like drum’n’blues eruption which sounds slight but cool. Business as usual, then.
Graeme Clark: Mr Understanding
Only Available from graemeclark.co.uk
IT MUST take guts for a bass player to step out of the shadow of a successful band and front his own highly personal solo material, but even though the lyrics suggest that Wet Wet Wet’s Graeme Clark is laying his emotions on the line, his songs all walk on the mild side. There is no sense of even a skirmish on his alcohol confessional Me And The Devil Inside, while the distinctly docile blast of Hurricane, the supine Kiss Of Life and the supper club pop of All I Want Is You all fail to make an impact or burrow under the skin.
Philip Glass: In the Penal Colony
Orange Mountain Music, £13.99
MUSIC Theatre Wales’ production of Philip Glass’s pocket opera In the Penal Colony toured the UK in 2010, calling in at Edinburgh en route. As a production it was as dark and oppressive as the Kafka story it is based on. As such this newly released sound recording, using the original MTW cast and string quintet, focuses the mind on the aural experience, which is an alluring mix of dusky colours and nerve-jangling rhythms under Michael Rafferty’s musical direction. Michael Bennett (tenor) and Omar Ebrahim (baritone) emerge with probing clarity. Notably, the recording is issued on Glass’s own label.
Tord Gustavsen Quartet: The Well
ECM Records, £12.99
ADMIRERS of the Norwegian pianist Tord Gustavsen will know not to expect anything raucous in the course of this gorgeously sculpted set of music, drawn in part from commissions for the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and the Oslo Church Music Festival, with a short Glasgow Intro midway (no explanation – presumably the piece was conceived there). The pianist’s trademark sinuous, minimalist melodies and spacious, gospel-inflected textures are omnipresent in the music. Tore Brunborg is the ideal saxophonist for this kind of setting, as he reminded us on a recent Edinburgh visit with the excellent Meadow, and dovetails beautifully into the pianist’s well-established relationship with bassist Mats Eilertsen and Jarle Vespestad. The Well and the aptly-named Circling build in quietly compelling fashion, while the vibrant Playing injects a more energised, uptempo feel amid the prevailing gracious, reflective ambiance. It all augurs well for the quartet’s Edinburgh concert next month.
LAMOND GILLESPIE, CORMAC CANNON & JOHN BLAKE: THE TRIP TO CARRICK
Only available from store.pipers.ie
INSPIRED by Irish diaspora recordings made in New York during the 1920s, this immensely enjoyable album sounds as if it could have been recorded in the back kitchen of a West Clare howff during a particularly heady session, but was in fact made over three weekends in a cottage near Carrick, Co Donegal.
Gillespie’s fiddle, Blake’s piano and Cannon’s well-tempered set of uilleann pipes skip along together with fluid ease, including such classic repertoire as The Bucks of Oranmore and The Green Groves of Erin, as well as a couple of Scottish interludes including a jaunty version of the Gaelic song Tha Mi Sgíth, while Cannon’s pipes give plangent solo voice in the lament Caoineadh Ui Domhnaill.
Trad albums can’t come much better recommended than with this one’s glowing endorsement by Donegal fiddle legend Tommy Peoples.
Ahmad Al Khatib and Youssef Hbeisch: Sabil
Institut du monde Arabe / Harmonia Mundi, £13.99
Dorsaf Hamdani: Princesses du chant Arabe
Accords croisés / Harmonia Mundi, £13.99
THERE’S a new creative energy fuelling contemporary Arab music these days, as classically-trained musicians draw on their traditional heritage and harness it to experimental use, and this is explicitly the programme embraced by oud-player Ahmad Al Khatib and percussionist Youssef Hbeisch. As the former points out, strictly classical Oriental music requires the player not only to compose but also to be an arranger and improviser, while all the time respecting the limits imposd by tradition. This, he says candidly, feels too heavy a responsibility – hence his attraction to experimental music. He and Hbeisch have both taught at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in East Jerusalem, and both are seasoned campaigners on behalf of the increasingly dispossessed and deracinated young Arabs under Israeli rule. Their improvisations have a very muscular resonance, and open up a wide range of soundworlds. “Sabil” means an exploration.
The Lebanese singer Dorsaf Hamdani takes a much more reverential view of the musical past. Her project is to honour the great female singers of the Arab world by recreating their artistry. And this means pre-eminently revisiting the Lebanese diva Fairouz, and the late great Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, who is still a huge star nearly 40 years after her death. Hamdani’s recreation of the latter is necessarily only a distant approximation, but she catches the characteristic timbre and swing of Fairouz. Her instrumental backing is spare and traditionally acoustic, and her CD wonderfully evokes the true sound of Arabia.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 18 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 9 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North east