DCSIMG

Album reviews: Congo Natty | Diana Jones | Gjermund Larsen Trio

The Scotsman’s music critics review the rest of this week’s album releases

POP

CONGO NATTY: JUNGLE REVOLUTION

BIG DADA SOUND, £13.99

Star rating: * * *

In a previous hip-pop life, Congo Natty was better known as the Rebel MC, whose Street Tuff hit has been cited as an influence by Dizzee Rascal. Since then, the man born Michael West has operated in an underground capacity, fusing elements of roots reggae, especially the sonorous dub of the soundsystems, with the hectic skitter of drum’n’bass. His latest album is a satisfying, sociable affair, mixed by On-U mainstay Adrian Sherwood and guitarist Skip McDonald and featuring a host of guest vocalists, including Tippa Irie and General Levy and Top Cat.

FIONA SHEPHERD

FOLK

DIANA JONES: MUSEUM OF APPALACHIA RECORDINGS

PROPER RECORDS, £13.99

Star rating: * * *

Music probably doesn’t get much more downhome than Diana Jones’ latest, which was recorded in a cabin at the Museum of Appalachia in East Tennessee, where Jones and her fellow musicians lit a fire, pulled up their chairs and played live in a circle. It helps that Jones’ throaty contralto sounds like it could have graced one of Alan Lomax’s field recordings and that songs inspired by death, misfortune and heartbreak come easily but, even with all that in her favour, Museum of Appalachia Recordings is curiously flat in atmosphere.

FIONA SHEPHERD

GJERMUND LARSEN TRIO: REISE

HEILO, £13.99

Star rating: * * * *

A very fine album indeed from Norwegian fiddler Gjermund Larsen, impeccably accompanied by Andreas Utnem on piano and harmonium and Sondre Meisfjord on double bass. All his own compositions, they remain distinctively Scandinavian sounding with ringing double-stopping and singing tone, projected with great poise and heart.

Apart from a sleeve note in English from broadcaster Fiona Talkington, there is little to explain the tunes or their Norwegian titles, but this is music which can be left to speak eloquently for itself. Much of it, such as the sweetly contemplative Eleseus’ vuggeslått I, or Brureslått – written as a wedding gift for his bride – are gently paced, but with scope for Larsen’s fiddle to soar.

Meisfjord’s considered bass work and the grainy tones of Utnem’s harmonium provide a nicely measured framework for Tøyenvals or the hymn-like Menuett i A.

JIM GILCHRIST

CLASSICAL

IDA HAENDEL: VIOLIN RECITAL

RCA RED SEAL, £14.99

Star rating; * * * *

Ida Haendel was 80 when she recorded this disc in 2008. Five years later, it is released, displaying the extraordinary musicianship of one of today’s most outstanding violinists. There is a robustness and strength of character in all these performances – from Bach to Saint-Saëns – that is distinctively old school. And even with the odd intonation waver in Saint-Saëns’ Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, the sheer passion of the playing is uniquely compelling. Spellbinding virtuosity colours unaccompanied numbers such as Haendel’s own arrangement of Lalo’s Symphonies Espagnole (Intermezzo) and Bach’s Chaconne. There’s Brahms, Wieniawski, Sarasate and Mozart, too. A historically valuable release.

KEN WALTON

JAZZ

THE SWALLOW QUINTET: INTO THE WOODWORK

XTRAWATT, £14.99

Star rating: * * * *

American bass maestro Steve Swallow has a long and distinguished record in weaving his magic in subtle and delicately inflected fashion, but has always been able to switch into a more muscular vein when required, underlined here on two short but highly energised tunes, Unnatural Causes and The Butler Did It.

His signature electric bass is complemented by his regular musical and life partner, Carla Bley, laying down her whispy and highly individual harmonic web on Hammond organ, and a new band that features the cutting saxophone work of Chris Cheek, Steve Cardenas on guitar and the fluid drumming of Jorge Rossy.

There is nothing showy about their interaction – Swallow’s carefully crafted compositions are delivered through a relaxed but intricate group interplay that allows the melodic hooks and rhythmic nuances to emerge.

KENNY MATHIESON

WORLD

THE ROUGH GUIDE TO FLAMENCO

RGNET, £9.99

Star rating: * * *

This is the third Rough Guide with this title – nobody could accuse the RG folk of not moving with the times – but it casts the net much wider than the two previous attempts. Arguably too far: the sickly-sweet sound of Sephardic-Turkish singer Yasmin Levy has nothing to do with the astringent flamenco tradition. But in other ways this is an interesting compilation, taking in the hip-hop style of Lenacay and the “flamenco Tamla-Motown” Son de la Frontera as well as standard fare. Flamenco never stands still.

MICHAEL CHURCH

 

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