Album reviews: The Pierces | Skerryvore | Dr John

Picture: Contributed
Picture: Contributed
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The Pierces: Creation



The Pierce sisters, Allison and Catherine, have relocated from their native Alabama to California where, apparently, it “feels like being on vacation the whole time”. Judging by this new album, theirs is the kind of vacation which involves snoozing in the shade all day rather than hoovering up sights, culture, cuisine and experiences. Creation only advances their reputation as a Stateside Corrs, settling for the middle of the road when their harmonic abilities could be deployed to more atmospheric effect. Even a hallucinogenic trip to find themselves has failed to light a fire under their sedate, over-produced, folk-flecked pop.



Serenissima: Music from Renaissance Europe on Venetian Viols



This exquisite disc by the Rose Consort of Viols is much more than the outward trek through the 16th century viol music of Italy, Germany, France and England. The real magic lies in the rich, reedy, succulent sound quality produced from a set of instruments made by modern viol-maker Richard Jones, based on the craft of the Venetian instrument maker Francesco Linarol. Their crimson timbre gives an earthy definition to the various airs and dances by such distinctive composers as Isaac, Lassus, Susato and Byrd. A compelling and unexpected treat.



Dr John: Ske-Dat-De-Dat…The Spirit of Satch



From one New Orleans legend to another – Dr John assembles a stellar cast of guest musicians, including Bonnie Raitt and the Blind Boys of Alabama, to pay tribute to the Big Easy’s greatest export, Louis Armstrong. Ske-Dat-De-Dat is as playful and musically eclectic as its subject – the beatific reflection of What A Wonderful World is rendered instead with jaunty optimism, while Mack The Knife gets a jazzy hip-hop makeover – hep-hop if you will – from Terence Blanchard and Mike Ladd. Dr John often takes a back seat, allowing his guests to call the shots. Rapper Telmary Diaz and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval deliver a Cubano Tight Like This while soul singer Anthony Hamilton contributes a delicious slow jam take on Motherless Child. But it is always a pleasure to return to Dr John’s musical gumbo, as distinctive in its own way as Satchmo’s.


John Coltrane: Offering

Impulse / Resonance Records


THE musical explorations of the saxophonist’s final two years divided his audience then and now, but for devotees of the radical experimentation and intense spirituality of that period, this is an essential release (if you don’t fall into that category, best try before you buy). This concert took place in his native Philadelphia in November 1966, less than a year before his untimely death, and is sourced from a mono campus radio recording, acceptably cleaned up for this release. The music is characteristic of this phase in his artistic development, and comprises extended, unremittingly full-on interpretations of Naima, Crescent, an abruptly truncated Leo and My Favourite Things, and a shorter version of Offering, with his quintet of the day featuring Pharaoh Sanders, Alice Coltrane, and Rashied Ali (but minus Jimmy Garrison – bassist Sonny Johnson substitutes valiantly), and various local guests.



Skerryvore: Chasing The Sun



They may be the hot young band that formed on Tiree almost ten years ago, but Skerryvore are old-fashioned folk-rockers at heart, with the emphasis on the rock. At times, as in the opening anthemic Can you Hear Us? with its bagpipe guitar, or the singing accordion riff of Blown Away, there are inevitably echoes of Runrig, if lacking the poetic spirit of the MacDonald brothers’ songs.

My main reservation is with the mid-Atlantic, Celtopop tenor of songwriter and vocalist-guitarist Alex Dalglish’s songs and delivery. Songs range from the joyful rockabilly beat of We Can Run to the heartfelt You Were My Friend, while Walk with Me is about as country-ish as they get. There’s plenty of Highland stomp in instrumental sets such as The Rut or Oblique Bend, which kicks off sounding like a ZZ Top number until Martin Gillespie’s pipes blow in. There’s no faulting their infectious energy.



Arve Henriksen: The Nature of Connections

Rune Grammofon


Norwegian-born Arve Henriksen is Scandinavia’s leading jazz trumpeter — working here with a hand-picked group of musicians on violin, Hardanger fiddle, cello, bass and drums to make an ECM-style disc of intimate sounds and textures. The music is quiet and meditative with Henriksen’s trumpet adding a singing tone.

There’s an improvised feel and a prevailing mood of Scandinavian melancholy, although several of the tracks meander for rather too long. Hymn features a trumpet solo over an irregular oscillating string pattern and keen brings a welcome faster pace with excellent instrumental solos.