Album reviews: Billy Bragg | Scottish National Jazz Orchestra

The rest of the albums released this week, reviewed by our critics


Billy Bragg - Tooth And Nail

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Cooking Vinyl, £11.99

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Everybody’s favourite troubadour has finally made the record he has threatened to for more than 30 years.

If his work with Wilco on Woody Guthrie’s legacy demonstrated his curating talent, Tooth And Nail showcases an unassuming writing talent in full bloom. These songs are tight and dynamic – Do Unto Others and Over You are wonderfully simplistic gospel, and Handyman is painfully tongue-in-cheek. And the latter’s confessional admission of DIY shortcoming is a merciful release. Throughout, Bragg’s wise and witty acknowledgement of his vocal limitations is more affecting than ever, choking the chorus of There Will Be A Reckoning to good effect.


Download this: No One Knows Nothing Any More, January Song

Justin Timberlake - The 20/20 Experience

RCA, £12.99

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Seven years since the man who would be the Prince of Pop last released an album, he returns to the fray as part of the Timbaland/Timberlake alliance. J Roc weighs in for good measure with no discernible difference to the sound. The James Bond fused with Jimmy Dean look is tried and tested, as is the super synthetic global beat which anchors the likes of Mirrors and the first single, Suit And Tie. Justin is the only game in town when it comes down to the Strawberry Bubblegum he is peddling, and this is a perfectly packaged product of its times.


Download this: Mirrors, Pusher Love Girl


Rebecca Pronsky - Only Daughter

Nine Mile Records NMR0142, £12.99

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This is the Brooklyn singer/songwriter’s third album on Texas’s Nine Mile Records, and she will arrive shortly in the UK, performing with keyboard player, guitarist and husband Richard Bennett, who is also producer of the 10-track CD. Bass, drums, pedal steel, banjo and percussion are slotted in with guest vocals in an album that avoids the usual country clichés. His electric guitar does twang over her acoustic instrument and individualist lyrics to create a sense of style that travels the English-speaking world, and here it inspires in the opener, Rise Up, rocks The Garden and cheerily galvanises the ending nostalgia of Please Forget Me.

Norman Chalmers

Download this: Glen Tipton


Scottish National Jazz Orchestra - In The Spirit Of The Duke

Spartacus STS017, £11.99

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Last autumn’s Duke Ellington-themed tour by the SNJO was undoubtedly one of the best live Ellington experiences in Scotland in living memory. This CD is a 16-track fusion of the five Scottish concerts and it not only captures the young band getting a kick out of the glorious repertoire, but also showcases its world-class ensemble playing (especially that of the saxophone section), and such terrific soloists as Ruaridh Pattison (alto sax), Martin Kershaw (clarinet), Ryan Quigley (trumpet), Tommy Smith (tenor saxophone) and the inimitable Brian Kellock (piano).

Alison Kerr

Download this: Amitra’s Dance, Kinda Ducal/Rockin’ in Rhythm


Anna Leese, Stephen De Pledge - Italian Love Songs

Champs Hill CHRCD050, £11.99

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When the Italian Minister of Higher Education wrote to Rossini in 1868 suggesting Italy’s music conservatoires be reformed, the self-confessed musical know-nothing claimed Italian music consisted of works by Rossini, Meyerbeer’s operas, and little else, outraging one Giuseppe Verdi. This album refutes the unhappy minister’s musical ignorance, if only in terms of Italian song, with two New Zealanders, soprano Anna Leese and pianist Stephen De Pledge, performing works by Bellini, Puccini, Donizetti, and also of Sir Francesco Paolo Tosti – whose songs filled many British homes in the late Victorian and Edwardian years – with assurance and care. The result is a highly enjoyable recording.

Alexander Bryce

Download this: Track 6, Puccini: Terra e Mare