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And as if her own songwriting wasn't ample reason enough to invest in this and track down the back catalogue, playing guitar on Season of Dreams, one of the album's stand outs, Johnny Dowd also provides the album's only cover, a spare voice and churchy organ version of the trad folk sexual come on Garden of Delight. Highly desirable.
Mike DaviesJody Stecher & Kate Brislin - Songs Of The Carter Family (Appleseed)Exactly what it says on the tin, guv - but hardly conveying the very special nature of the music-making herein. At first, the duo's reinterpretations of classic Carter Family songs might seem a mite low-key, but careful listening will reveal countless subtleties in the vocal phrasing and a myriad of expressive nuances - not to mention the finely considered instrumental backing (just two guitars for the most part, Jody's lead with Kate's rhythm, but hey what tremendous picking, making a real virtue of its quiet virtuosity). Kates glorious singing really does bring a whole new dimension to comparatively well-trodden material like (here, interestingly, it's performed as a duet), but the less well-known songs come off very well too, and Jody's insert notes are (as ever) a model of informed evaluation and illuminating historical and musicological perspective. And the duo round out their ostensibly sparse sound on several of the songs with some extra vocal harmonies from Sue Thompson and Larry Hanks - the latter's scrumptious dark, rich bass specially offsetting Jody's own yearning tenor to great effect, as on the opening cut , and the whole ensemble excels itself on the driving gospel groove of . Every single track has its own particular delights, to which this review cannot hope to do justice - my most meaningful response would be a succinct, strong recommendation. This understated, minimally-produced release is another case of "less is more"; but in truth, that's also the only thing wrong with this wonderful album - its unusually short playing time.David KidmanEric Steckel - Feels Like Home (Me & My Blues Music)Is it me or are blues players getting younger? Eric Steckel is the latest kid on the block and at the age of 17 he is certainly one of the youngest. However, he is already a bit of a veteran having released his debut album when he was just 11. Feels Like Home opens with Just Walk Away, which has power from the outset. Blues rock with a maturity that belies his years. The eponymous title track is sophisticated Southern style rock and shows that he is an extremely talented and classy guitarist. Southern Skyline is an instrumental that highlights his exceptional technique and he is ably backed by Duane Trucks on drums and contributes Hammond organ himself. I haven't mentioned his voice yet but on the plodding Don't Look Behind it demands to have the attention taken away from the guitar. The voice will grow as he gets older but the signs are there that he came become a top class all rounder. He shows that he is as adept on dobro as he is on electric guitar on Smiling Liar and his solo performance on Robert Johnson's C'mon In My Kitchen is raw and exciting. Something Better is a return to the sophisticated rock of earlier on - a very, very strong performance. From Time To Time is a shuffling blues and is as good as anything in the genre at the moment. Is he a possible successor to Stevie Ray Vaughan? He has every chance. When Ignorance Turns To Bliss is an atmospheric acoustic based blues ballad and the predominately instrumental The Ghetto, led by Hammond organ, is an excellent jazzy offering. These tracks serve to confirm his excellence. He shows he can play acoustic guitar too on the closing track, Tuscany. This is an instrumental that calls up memories of days in the sunshine but seems a strange way to end such a powerful album. I'm not complaining, though. If you like your guitar licks then check out Eric Steckel, the baby-faced blues assassin.David Blue June 2008The Eric Steckel Band - Live At Havana (Me And My Blues Records)Listening to this album blind, you'd never guess that Eric's still but a teenager. Such is his prowess on the guitar and such is his passion for the (electric) blues. He recorded his debut CD A Few Degrees Warmer in 2002 with his band, at the age of eleven; it was a bold and confident debut, being a live album, and he followed that up with High Action, a studio effort, in 2004; I'll leave you to work out the math, but three high-quality high-energy blues albums in five years is a staggering achievement for any artist, let alone one so young. OK then, that's got the necessary allowances out of the way at the start, so what about the music? I started off thinking "so what?" but I was very quickly won over by the sheer power of Eric's playing and his command of the idiom; he really is an outstanding musician in that field - ie rockin' electric blues in the approved classic late-60s/early-70s mould - and his band (Nick Franclik, Wayne Smith, Robert Sands, and Duane Trucks, Butch's nephew) are right up there with him, through his every move around the fretboard. Vocally perhaps Eric still betrays a slight tendency in his phrasing to express "what's expected" rather than feeling it afresh from the depths of his soul and/or hard experience (naturally enough considering his tender age), but give him time... This thrilling hour-long set, which stretches Eric's expertise (and that of his band) across the whole gamut of tempos from high to low, storm-ahead shuffles (San-ho-Say) and grinding slow-trains (Radio Blues) to Santana-influenced instrumental (Espirita) and southern boogie (Philips Highway), even throwing in a sensitive and thoughtful nine-minute exposition of Little Wing, was recorded in front of a rightly enthusiastic Havana (=New Hope, PA) crowd right at the tail-end of 2005; just think how much better Eric must be nowadays! Quite stunning.David Kidman June 2007 The SteelDrivers - Reckless (Rounder)The Nashville-based SteelDrivers delivered one of the most soulful and intense of 2008's bluegrass albums, and 2010 sees them set to repeat that trick with album number two.On the face of it, nothing's changed – in terms of lineup, we've still got Chris Stapleton (guitar), Mike Henderson (mandolin, National guitar), Tammy Rogers (fiddle), Richard Bailey (banjo) and Mike Fleming (bass). But, we now discover, the band has recently been dealt a body-blow with the departure (since recording Reckless) of Chris, whose distinctive lead vocals have hitherto provided the SteelDrivers' most powerful signature. Quite simply, this feature is the one that has thus far set SteelDrivers apart from any other bluegrass-tagged outfit you could name: the tough, in-yer-face, ragged rasp of Chris's singing, which surely owes more to the Southern rock of Lynyrd Skynyrd, is worlds away from the smooth high bluegrass tone you get with the standard issue outfit. It embodies all the passion and pain his personal lyrics need to convey, and seems to inspire in the other musicians an even higher plane of gritty energy that's not only immensely satisfying for both player and listener but also so very convincing on all fronts. And he's also capable of putting across the softer nuances in between the harsh and equally deeply-felt bluesy realities (as on the world-weary old-man's reflections of Where Rainbows Never Die).Standout tracks seem to come thick and fast, from the hard-times tale of Good Corn Liquor (which at one point includes a break into a falsetto-register shout that's both unexpected and blood-curdling) through the beltout chorus of The Price and the robust, ballsy don't-mess-with-me swagger of Peacemaker on to the soul-inflected lonesome honky-tonk of You Put The Hurt On Me and the fearsome bluesy Appalachian stomp of the haunting closer Ghosts Of Mississippi.And stunning though Chris's voice is, I can't help being knocked out too by the instrumental work, which is powerhouse in the true sense of the word, virtuoso in an expressive way, ie without thrusting cascades of tricky notes and runs into your ears. Even on the more leisurely gait of Can You Run, which is perhaps the closest the band come to the "conventional" bluegrass sound, there's a serious fire to the music, the rich controlled lustre of the fiddle work in particular, which carries right over into the perfection-style harmony vocals too.Yessir, I can foresee that Reckless is very probably going to be my bluegrass album of the year.David Kidman October 2010 Andy Steele - Night Fishing (Talking Elephant)

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The celebration concert covered all possible bases from the broad church of folk that forms Peggy's musical world: from the traditional ballads she so loves through to her own original compositions that so ably and memorably espouse her personal preoccupations and responsibilities, particularly in the areas of war, feminism and union politics. These songs so deserve to be more widely heard, and if this CD is regarded even partly as a taster for Peggy's songwriting then that's no bad thing in my book (folks can then go on to investigate the lovely trio of albums Peggy recently recorded for Appleseed). So finally to the performances – Peggy's cohorts did her proud, fully rising to the occasion. Some were granted solo or lead appearances, and shone accordingly without eclipsing Peggy's own personality. Memorable moments include: Cindy, on which Peggy, brother Mike and half-brother Pete perform together for the first time in decades; Che Guevara, with Peggy leading the ensemble (Eliza & Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson, Calum & Kitty MacColl) in rousing chorus; Billy Bragg's unrehearsed duet with Peggy on Darling Annie is quite touching in true downhome "all fell together on the night" fashion. There are inevitably some entirely forgivable lapses in intonation, but the charm of the performances and sense of occasion overrides any concerns of a purely technical nature here. At times Peggy even leaves the stage completely, yielding the spotlight to Norma and Eliza (for Lowlands Of Holland), and later on to Mike and Pete individually. Of course, the items which Peggy performs solo – and there are quite a few – carry an intimate resonance all their own, and the gentle power of her sharing these songs with us is well communicated even through the CD medium. And the rather special bonhomie of the final two items, Sing About These Hard Times and Love Call Me Home, is genuinely irresistible. As is the whole concert (in spite of one or two "you really had to be there" moments that you may find less-conducive-to-home-listening). Yes, these two discs are definitely to be cherished.

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There's a clutch of hold love together uptempo numbers variously etched in bluegrass, country and twangy pop colours (of which Love Came Just In Time stand tallest), but it's the quieter, more thoughtful numbers that really stamp on the seal of quality'; the 9/11 inspired hymn to the forgotten angels on the street who toil behind the scenes, the dedicated second grade teacher, the bus driver who keeps spare change for those who can't pay, her lullaby to her kids My Whisper, and a heart tearing cover of Julie Miller's Broken Things. As yet, Selis has gathered more glowing reviews than she has actual commercial success, but if she keeps them coming like this it won't be long before the title's a redundant question.Mike Davies Sid Selvidge - I Should Be Blue (Archer Records)I've had a real job finding out much about Greenville, Mississippi-born Sid, beyond the fact that he spent his early days in Memphis learning to play the blues from the likes of Furry Lewis, Fred Mc Dowell and the late Jim Dickinson, after which he's toured the world, etc etc, and claims Dylan as an admirer. We're also told that I Should Be Blue is his eighth album - so where the hell's he been all these years that he's never figured on NetRhythms radar until now?Sid's the real deal, a light-textured and supple vocalist with the strongest Memphis influences all brought to bear on his slowburning singing style: soul, folk and pop are all seamlessly woven into a characteristic yet surprisingly unique personal statement. That amazing voice, so effortlessly idiomatic and brilliantly controlled, stops you dead from the opening cover of Tom T. Hall's That's How I Got To Memphis (shades of Eric Bibb here maybe), and keeps you hooked right on through personalised treatments of songs by Tim Hardin, Donovan, Townes Van Zandt and Fred Neil along with a small contingent of his own well-crafted compositions tucked into the centre of the record for good measure. His songwriting feels as fresh as his singing, although its lazy, laid-back mode on the likes of Dimestore Angel and Fine Hotel still references classic soul and Americana all down the line. As an interpreter, Sid convinces both on the thoughtful material (the majority of the cuts) and also on the falsetto moves required for the comic quirkiness of You're Gonna Look Like A Monkey (When You Get Old). It's hard to escape occasional reminiscences of Phil Ochs in his delivery too (no bad thing tho'), and his high-register shifts are coolly impressive too. What's more, his voice blends really well with that of Amy Speace, whose own song Two provides a tender disc highlight towards the end of the set; in fact, Amy gets to join Sid on four out of the dozen tracks, and their duet on Donovan's Catch The Wind is seriously good too.Sid's gathered round him a small but effective crew of support musicians that includes his son Steve on various electric guitars, Al Gamble on organ, Don Dixon on bass and Paul ""Snowflake" Taylor on drums; together this crew makes an ideal foil for the persuasive tones of Sid's voice, moving with him from subtle chordings to languid, almost Latin-jazzy ambience to soulful discretion. It's all surprisingly easy listening, considering the intense delicacy and hinted-at depths within, and although there's a slight tail-off towards the end of the album the whole set still manages to score highly on sheer entertainment value.David Kidman August 2010Sid Selvidge - A Little Bit Of Rain (Archer Records)Sid Selvidge could hardly be classed as a prodigious source of material - he releases one album per decade - but if they are all as good as this then he's worth waiting on. He's a bit of a Memphis institution and has been around since the 60s when he was signed to, of all labels, Stax as a white folk singer.The title track, and opener, is a gentle introduction to the world of Sid Selvidge. It's a world of Folk, Blues and classic Americana. Hobo Bill has the feeling of a children's song, much akin to Puff The Magic Dragon but he's back in adult land with the bluesy Mama You Don't Mean Me No Good, Long Tall Mama and Every Natural Thing. Although there's only one original song on the album the covers are pure Selvidge. His voice has a warble to it and is as sweet as syrup on the country style Do I Ever Cross Your Mind? and one of the highlights of the album, John Hiatt's, The River.Blues and country are mixed in together for Real Thing and we hear another level to Sid's voice, there's a bit of grit in here for this one. Folk blues for the excellent Swannanoa Tunnel will have the hairs on your neck standing to attention and the straightforward folk offering Long Black Veil is a lovely song. The album finishes with Pickin' Petals and Arkansas Girl. The former has one of my pet hates, yodelling, although I can forgive him because of what has gone before and the latter takes us out in the gentle manner that we began with. Both of these songs remind me, vocally, of Leon Redbone. Take a few listens of this album because Sid Selvidge will grow on you.David BlueThe Sensational Alex Harvey Band - Zalvation (Jerkin Crocus)

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Born in Winnipeg and currently living in Ireland, Spence began singing at an early age but after studying theatre she moved to Vancouver and took up acting. Eight years later, in 2003, she'd become disillusioned and, encouraged by Chris Isaak's band after regularly working on his TV show, decided to return to her first love. Acting's loss is music's gain. With a colourful background that includes a folk singer mother, a grifter father, fiddler grandfather and bank robber first boy friend, she's not short of inspiration for her downbeat autobiographical folksy songs for the lost and the lonely and their tales of lovers, drunks, rogues and losers. The sound of a lonesome train whistle that precedes Town Called Hell sets the melancholic tone that seeps through her reflections on the past, her voice variously summoning thoughts of Gillian Welch, the early Emmylou and Buffy Sainte Marie. There's two covers here, chirping crickets framing a tremendous world-wearied old school country version of Mary Gauthier's I Drink, and Bukka White's High Fever Blues stripped down to the grain of a front porch rocking chair. Her own material, though, is a match for anyone's. The title track with its dusty harmonica is a marvellous invitation to defy a dead end existence with a transistor radio, a bottle of wine, and a riverbank park bench while Those Were The Days is a reverie of childhood, Boys Like You And Girls Like Me a bittersweet brush off of a guy who's just not bad boy enough for a girl who never thinks she's good enough to be loved. Its instrumental fiddle and harmonica playout of You Are My Sunshine is steeped in a heartbreaking irony. Elsewhere, you'll be seduced by the chill in the late summer air moods of A Murder Of Crows with its distant trumpet ache and the thunderstorm introed, moss hung Losing You Again, co-written with mother Barbara. But she perhaps saves the best to last, Here's To You And Me a plaintive duet with Rob Bracken, a pledge of apology and devotion spoken by cheating lovers who know the words only hold true until they're found out again. Discover her today, tell someone else about her tomorrow.Mike Davies July 2008W.C. Spencer - Blues Explorer (Catscan Records)The self-styled 'Bluescat' is a rare breed these days - he's a one-man band! I don't mean someone who can play a number of instruments and record them individually but someone who can play them at the same time. On this, his third release for Catscan, he serves up a feast of blues styles with some well-known covers, some less well known and throws in a few of his own compositions for good measure.He opens with the first of his four self-penned songs, I Said The Blues, an upbeat start of jump blues with excellent guitar and harmonica interplay. Spencer achieves the feeling of a full band sound and this is exceptional considering this is one of eight live tracks. Fourty Four is not normally the first Howlin' Wolf track artists choose to cover but he turns in an accomplished vocal on this and he could easily fit into a top band on any of the instruments that he plays (guitar, harmonica and drums). His drums, incidentally, are a specially made Alectroset kit and he does not have the cymbals between his legs and the bass drum on his back!Tell Me Mama is one of Little Walter's most famous songs and it's given a funky drumbeat full of rim shots. However, Spencer only achieves a passable version and sadly he's not in Little Walters class. Then again, who is? His second song, So Long, is listed as his tribute to Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton. It's very reminiscent of Gary Moore and that's high praise. Not blues in the traditional sense, it is an excellent guitar instrumental that all three of the aforementioned gentlemen would have been proud of.I seem to be reviewing Kansas City with great regularity these days. It's a good job that I like the song and that I've not heard a bad version yet. W.C. keeps up the record with his swinging version. Down With The Blues provides grittier vocals and top harp playing. This Tommy Bankhead shuffle is played with feeling. A return to Howlin' Wolf follows with I'm Leavin' You and Spencer manages to impose his own style here with some nice slide guitar.Big Maceo's Worried Life Blues is given a bit of a treatment - no piano for what is essentially a piano blues. Played in the style of Freddie King, there is more excellent interplay between the guitar and harp. I seem to remember The Blues Band doing a rocking version of this as Someday Baby in the past. Mean Old Train provides some of the best harmonica work on the album. This plain and simple Papa Lightfoot song is one of the highlights. The final two own compositions, Call On Me & Fat Man Walking follow. On the former there is some more top harp and the slow blues shows that he can write as well as perform. The second of these is the only acoustic blues on the set but it is 30s style acoustic blues of the highest order.To finish the album Spencer has chosen the Big Bill Broonzy classic Key To The Highway. This is a strong finish and it's just the way he started - live. I've got to see this guy before too long and maybe, just maybe, one-man bands will last long enough for me to do so.David BlueAmilia K Spicer - Seamless (Free Range Records)Originally released in 2003 and getting a second wind repromotion in advance of the follow-up, this should deservedly help spread the word about this Pennsylvania rooted, LA based singer-songwriter.She's had a number of comparisons thrown at her, Neko Case, Jesse Sykes, Emmylou, Stevie Nicks and even Daniel Lanois and I daresay you'll find traces of all of them in around her vocals, delivery and arrangements. But she deserves to be heard as a her own voice, slipping comfortably between the ballsy country rocking (line dance friendly) Wasted, the swing 4.08 and the boogie woogie I Got Trouble and the more reflective, emotionally keen-edged moments of Route 15, Tangeray, the country hymnal Moving Mountains and a keening Safety In Numbers. She's called the title track a cross between Ravel's Bolero and Led Zep's Kashmir, and while you may find yourself hard-pressed to quite hear those connections, the fact remains this gently swelling is unquestionably her defining classic. One suspects she's certainly got more in store.Mike Davies Emily Spiers - The Half Moon Lovers (Bonna Musica)Emily, originally from Oxford - where by all accounts she was a regular (singer) at the city's Half Moon pub session - has recently decamped to Germany; there she met, and "clicked" musically with, bouzouki player Tobias Kurig, whistle player Till Storz and an assortment of other talented musicians (most of whom augment her on this album).According to Emily herself, this meeting enabled her to find a different kind of expression in the songs than she had been accustomed to while singing in the unaccompanied style. I'd like to have heard this phase of Emily's singing career, which she describes as being very much influenced by the singing of Graham Metcalfe and the group Folly Bridge, but I've not come across any recordings But on the evidence of the CD The Half Moon Lovers, Emily's a persuasive singer with a good grasp of the expressive potential of a song; just occasionally (as on One Morning In May), Emily's swooping, maybe slightly eccentric phrasing seems to be more at the service of the rhythms of her accompanists, but this is probably relative and/or a reactive swing from the freer nature of her earlier style (I can only guess) and is never a serious problem while she clearly responds directly to the songs themselves. Traces of sean nós styling and decoration surface in slower items like The Emigrant's Farewell (although I feel Emily could have made more emotional capital of this broadside by holding back the tempo even further), and The Banks Of The Lee, where the only accompaniment is the responsive harp playing of Steph West. Emily's take on Mary And The Soldier also benefits from a sparer setting, with rippling percussion offsetting the keening fiddle line.The musical settings Emily employs are very much acoustic-Celtic (predominantly Irish-inflected) in flavour, mostly scored for the small but perfectly formed ensemble of whistle, bouzouki and fiddle with sprightly bodhrán and sometimes accordion or bass to thicken the texture but always recorded with plenty of presence and separation. There's a couple of wholly instrumental tracks (The Broken Bed and The Funeral Waltz, both penned by Till), which form pleasing enough interludes between the exclusively traditional menu of the songs. The tracklist betrays Emily's penchant for songs about love in all its forms, and includes companionable - if sometimes undersold - treatments of Searching For Lambs, The Banks Of The Lee, My Johnny Was A Shoemaker and the like.The Half Moon Lovers is a pleasant and committed record, even if I'm left with the feeling that sometimes the accompaniments are a shade all-purpose in nature and a little more imagination could be deployed therein to make Emily's own presentation of the songs more distinguished and individual.David Kidman December 2010Spiers & Boden - The Works (Navigator) The vibrant, eternally award-winning duo celebrates its tenth anniversarywith a special release on which they revisit eleven of what might be termedtheir most significant tracks, their "greatest hits", all of whichoriginally appeared on one or other of their five duo albums to date.

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Todd writes the songs - apart from a couple of covers, including Magic Sam's '' - plays guitar and sings, and clearly wants to be Gary Moore. However, although this is billed as a solo record it sounds much more like a band effort. With no fewer than than four guest vocalists, plus some C-list musical celebrities thrown in, there's no real feel of it being the work of one person. Those guests include Mick Taylor on slide guitar, Eugene Bridges (Hideaway Blues Band), Snowy White, Paul Lamb and even Leo Sayer doing the microphone duties on one track, and showing what a good, ballsy singer he still is. It's a fine array of musicians but, with such strong talent vying for attention, Sharpville himself too often disappears into the background, behind a sound that's got everything butthe kitchen sink. When he does step up and flex his fretboard fingers, it's fine if rather anonymous stuff. In fact, this album is more memorable for the work of veteran blues vocalist and harp man Keith Dunn, who has workedwith the likes of Joe Louis Walker, Jimmie Vaughan and brother Stevie Ray, and here appears on no less than seven tracks. Nice album, Keith. Not sure about the lead guitarist, though...Phil WiddowsAmanda Shaw - Pretty Runs Out (Rounder)It's hard to think that the unbelievably young-looking face staring out from behind the fiddle on the booklet photo portrait belongs to the voice you hear singing on the record, but it's true! Not only does seventeen-year-old Amanda sound more mature than her years, but her fiddle playing is pretty special too. There's a spiky gutsiness about her musical personality that's most attractive, and she probably owes much of that to her New Orleans background and the vibrant Cajun spirit of that community which pervades this disc along with the region's steamy brand of funk and a seasoned pop sensibility. That mix can produce a mildly uneasy marriage, but it doesn't sound contrived and your final verdict on the record as a whole will depend on your personal taste within those categories. Me, I can really get off on Amanda's fiery fiddling, and the three rocked-up-trad sets work just fine (if unadventurous in the arrangement department), but I do find one or two of the pop-soul tracks (eg Woulda Coulda Shoulda) a mite routine, even tiresome on repeated listening. Amanda's own original songs tend to fare better, especially the slow-burner Wishing Me Away and the throwback-80s feel of the title track, and she makes a passable stab at jittery TH-style funk on the horn-drenched Brick Wall, while (but for the twisted fiddle solo) the heavy riff-laden Easy On Your Way Out could've been pinched from a '71-vintage Purple album. Perhaps the thrusting backbeat is a tad omnipresent at times, but generally speaking Amanda's singing overrides the show with abundant character and presence. Scott Billington's the man responsible for production, and he's done a good punchy, upfront job, also assembling a reliable backing crew (mostly consisting of Cranston Clements, Scott Thomas, Ronnie Falgout and Mike Barras), although the most noteworthy name amongst the sidemen will be Dirk Powell, who contributes fiddle and acoustic guitar, and Sarah Borges sings harmony vocal on a couple of tracks. David Kidman February 2008Angie Shaw - The Other Side Of Blue (Own Label) Cutting across styles to embrace airy pop, jazz and blues as well as folk and country not to mention sounding a little like Kate Bush on Sea Of Sky, I'm not 100% persuaded the Harrowgate confessional singer-songwriter's debut album is Net Rhythms material. On the other hand, echoes of Vashti Bunyan, Eddi Reader, Charlie Dore and maybe a little Loretta among the other comparisons that might include Beverley Craven, Julia Fordham and Martina Topley-Bird.Sligtly reminiscent of Gerry Rafferty, the title track is one of those tasteful, jazz tinged numbers with brushed drums and moody guitars that tend to find favour on late night mellow music radio stations. You Were Loving Me, the breathy voiced Angel From The Blue, Under The Sun and the eight minute Chapters with its sultry groove and congas all tend to slot into the same acoustic pigeonhole.It's easy listening and she handles it well, but she's more interesting when she leans towards the rootsier side of things, as with the countrified Sweet Little Dreamer and Waiting For The Day which blends trad English folk influence with Appalachian colours and lap steel accompaniment.I'd like to hear more of that and the unadorned tender beauty of Boy, a song from a mother's heart which features just her and acoustic guitar, but, even if I'm still not sure quite how I feel about the Smooth Radio side of things there's something about here that warrants keeping an eye out.Mike Davies July 2011Donald Shaw & Charlie McKerron - Soundtrack: Gruth Is Uachdar (Vertical)

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Stolie's a 25-year-old singer-songwriter from Chicago, tho' "rock-pop, 'cos I ain't folky" she sez! She also gets compared to Jewel, tho' her musical mentors had tended to be more Ani Di Franco and Tori Amos, apparently. Thankfully her own music, of which this is the current recorded example, doesn't bear that unwelcome tinge of self-indulgence that saddles Ani's work in particular. Stolie's also given a lift, no doubt, by her day-job as publicist for that estimable Chicago insurgent-country label Bloodshot. , Stolie's latest (and third) full-length CD, is a sparky effort, in its early stages at any rate often decidedly strange, that's uncompromising in its laid-back quirkiness. Perhaps surprisingly, you don't hear all that much of Stolie's guitar for the first half of the CD, where mostly the arrangements are characterised by the capable and always interesting production work of DJ Albino Red (who also plays keyboards, trumpet, bass and electric guitar). Stolie herself describes the album as lying "somewhere between the soulful sounds of Sade and the balls-out rock of the White Stripes", but in truth I don't hear much of the latter in there, although Sade's definitely been an inspiration to Stolie vocally. Whatever, I like this album a lot, not least for its mature embracing of a variety of influences from hip-hop/house through to drifting acoustic (. The title track, for instance, is probably more Portishead than Jewel, though it also comes again towards the end of the programme in an alternate (acoustic) take; also comes in two versions, one a dedicated Albino Red remix. All the songs are Stolie's own compositions, and her "free-spirit" temperament comes across loud and clear in her personal lyrics, whether on the delicate poetry of love-songs like or on more cryptic material like . Stolie's got a lot of good ideas, now she needs time to develop them more.David KidmanStömp - I Claim My Five Pounds (Osmosys)