Record reviews by Kevin Bryan
The High Bar Gang, Lost & Undone (True North TND 583)-This impressive bluegrass outfit hail from the Canadian province of British Columbia,and no less a luminary than Ry Cooder was responsible for selecting the material for their True North debut set,Lost & Undone. The contents were recorded live in glorious mono in singer-guitarist Barney Bentall’s living room, featuring skilfully harmonised versions of gospel tinged ditties made famous by giants of the genre such as Bill Monroe and the excellent Stanley Brothers,including Walking In Jerusalem, Daniel Prayed and Angel Band. Splendid stuff.
New Gold Dreams-Post Punk & New Romantic ‘79-’83 (Virgin Records)- The latest in the series of 3 CD anthologies released to celebrate Virgin Records’ 40th anniversary focusses attention on some of the most refreshingly original outfits to emerge in the immediate aftermath of the punk phenomenon. Several of the tracks featured here made a significant impact on the British singles charts during the late seventies and early eighties,including OMD’s Enola Gay, Martha and the Muffins’ Echo Beach and Human League’s Love Action, and they share the limelight here with some rather more esoteric offerings from the likes of Magazine, Essential Logic and Japan to name but a few.
A Celtic Christmas (Saydisc CD-SDl 417)- This wide-ranging Saydisc CD dates from 1996 and explores the winter ritual songs and traditions of the Celtic nations,drawing on material from Cornwall, Brittany,Ireland, Scotland,Wales and the Isle of Man. A Celtic Christmas offers a refreshing alternative to the cliche ridden Yuletide fare that’s normally foisted upon us as at this time of year, and folk enthusiasts in particular should find it a very worthwhile investment.
New Model Army, Between Dog and Wolf (Attack Attack Records)- Between Dog and Wolf was apparently a phrase which was coined in medieval France to describe the atmosphere at dusk, when the singular quality of the light made it unusually difficult to differentiate between friend or foe,dog or wolf etc. It’s also the title of the eagerly awaited new album from great alternative rock survivors New Model Army, a typically eery and intense affair which the band captured for posterity in Los Angeles earlier this year. March in September, Lean Back and Fall and the drum laden Ghosts are the pick of an absorbing package.
Rafal Blechacz, Chopin:Polonaises (D.G. 479 0928)- This sparkling new recital from the young Polish pianist Rafal Blechacz breathes new life into some vibrant compositions from his illustrious 19th century compatriot Frederic Chopin.The Polonaises origins lie in the rustic sung dances which were often performed at rural weddings, but in Chopin’s hands they were transformed into passionate expressions of Polish national fervour, and seven of his finest creations are gathered together here.