Album reviews: Glenn Tilbrook | Diana Jones | Courtney Pine | Alyth | Aneinu | Niyireth

POP

GLENN TILBROOK AND THE FLUFFERS: PANDEMONIUM ENSUES

***

QUIXOTIC RECORDS, 12.72

WITH a deal of solo touring and recording under his belt, former Squeeze frontman Glenn Tilbrook throws himself into the creative opportunities of band life with this wildly varied collection, which encompasses the Cajun feel of Best Of Times, the Beatlesy Through The Net and the sunny Bacharach pop of Black Sheep, all of which are anchored in Tilbrook's effortlessly melodic songwriting style. His voice is as agile as ever, while fellow Fluffer Lucy Shaw gives Lily Allen a run for her money with an engaging, quirky lead vocal on Product. Top curiosity value goes to the closing retro-futuristic dash Too Close To The Sun, with special guest intoning from one Johnny Depp.

DIANA JONES: BETTER TIMES WILL COME

***

PROPER RECORDS, 12.72

IT HAS been a long haul for Nashville-based songwriter Diana Jones, but there's a touch of prophecy in her album title, as she was recently, aged 41, classified as an "emerging artist" at the Folk Alliance Awards. She has also caught the ear of Nanci Griffith and Mary Gauthier, both of whom contribute backing vocals to this album, which nods the head to old-school country and mountain music. Jones's alto voice has the serene authority of Gillian Welch, whether outlining a wife's deadly desires (If I Had A Gun) or turning a trapped Scottish coalminer's dying scrawls to his family into a mournful but loving valediction (Henry Russell's Last Words).

FIONA SHEPHERD

JAZZ

COURTNEY PINE: TRANSITION IN TRADITION

****

DESTIN-E RECORDS, 12.72

THE album is described as a homage to Sidney Bechet, but there isn't much going on musically that fans of the first great star of the soprano saxophone would recognise. No matter. It is one of Pine's strongest statements in a recording career that now spans 23 years, and features the kind of eclectic mlange of Black music traditions that we have come to expect in his music. As the title implies, these traditions – New Orleans jazz, reggae, South American and African music, and even a bit of what sounds like Klezmer on New Orleans aka (Crescent City Rise) – are in a constant state of combination and reinvention by an electrifying band that includes Pine on bass clarinet, soprano saxophone or alto flute (but no tenor), Omar Puente's electric violin, guitarist Cameron Pierre, Alex Wilson on piano, and several guests, including American vibes player Stefon Harris.

FOLK

ALYTH: PEOPLE LIKE ME

****

NAVIGATOR RECORDS, 12.72

IT'S almost a decade since Alyth (then performing as Alyth McCormack) made her debut album, so this excellent set is long overdue. The Lewis-born singer is in typically expressive voice on both traditional Gaelic songs and contemporary material in English, including Suzanne Vega's The Queen and The Soldier, Jim Malcolm's Neptune, Boo Hewerdine's A Smuggler's Prayer and Justin Currie's People Like Me (with the writer adding backing vocals). She performs Mo Ghaol igfhear a Chuil Duinn unaccompanied, and sings Brendan Graham's Till Morning Will Come with just Brian McAlpine's piano behind her, but most songs feature combinations of a superb band that includes McAlpine on accordion as well as piano and keyboards, Jonny Hardie and Aidan O'Rourke on fiddles, and Fraser Fifield on whistle, plus bass and drums and the additional colours of cello, vibes and percussion.

KENNY MATHIESON

WORLD

ANEINU – HASIDIC-ORTHODOX MUSIC FROM THE FESTIVAL OF THE TORAH IN JERUSALEM

***

WERGO, 13.70

IF VOCAL and instrumental refinement is your thing, read no further, because the sophistication of the music on this CD is about on a level with what you'd hear at a Home Counties rugby club on a Saturday night. But if you're interested in a living strand of musical history – of a kind normally only open to initiates – this field-recording could be for you. Collected in 1992, these tracks are culled from a four-and-a-half hour session at which Israel's top klezmorim lead the faithful in a celebration in which circles of singers dance round the sacred scroll after a long prayer, the refrain of which translates as "Answer us on the day we call". The clarinet is the dominant instrument, backed by drums, electric guitar and synthesiser; the melodies reflect Arabic, Turkish, Greek, and American roots, as well as influences from Eastern Europe.

It's commendable that this German record company should continue to put out CDs that cannot possibly sell very many copies in the shops, but which still fly the flag for ethnomusicology.

NIYIRETH – MUSICA COLOMBIANA ANDINA

****

EUCD, 11.72

NIYIRETH Alarcn is a conservatory-trained mezzo who has dedicated herself to popularising the music of the high Andes. Some of her infectious rhythms arrived from Cuba, some were brought over by slaves from Africa, and others by Europeans who brought the waltz, which evolved into the "pasillo" ("small step") which became the basis for a song tradition. The prime instruments are two variants on the lute – the tiple (a Colombian adaptation of the Spanish guitar) and the bandola (descended from the Italian mandolin). What gives this music its particular quality is the percussion on the fringes, notably the esterilla – a row of cane sticks woven together like a place-mat – and the chucho, the rainstick. Why should a handful of seeds sliding past rows of little sticks inside a hollow tube sound so magical? No point in asking why – just enjoy the frisson.

MICHAEL CHURCH