Record reviews

By Kevin Bryan

Gretchen Peters, Blackbirds (Proper Records)- Acclaimed Nashville tunesmith Gretchen Peters describes the lyrical content of Blackbirds as stories of lost souls, people trapped in the darkness, or fighting their way out of it. Sweetness and light is certainly in short supply during this compelling singer-songwriter package , but Gretchen’s endless fascination with some of the more disturbing aspects of human nature underpins many of her finest creations here, including When All You Got Is A Hammer, The House On Auburn Street and her classic Lousiana murder ballad, Blackbirds.

Hideko Udagawa,Baroque Inspirations (Nimbus Records)- The latest vehicle for the virtuosic talents of London based classical pianist Udagawa finds her collaborating with Nicholas Kraemer in a sparkling celebration of all things Baroque. World premiere recordings of works by Tartini, Vivaldi and Stamitz are given an airing in the process, and she also breathes new life into the great Fritz Kreisler’s Violin Concerto in C major, which the composer had erroneously attributed to Antonio Vivaldi himself when it was first published in 1927.

Northern Soul (Union Square Music)- This fine addition to Union Square’s Essential Collection series explores the enduring appeal of this fascinating genre via a rich blend of audio and visual content. Two highly informative films, Function at the Junction and Way of the Crowd rub shoulders with some of the recordings by lesser known sixties soul artists which were the mainstay of the musical content enjoyed by the denizens of legendary Northern Soul venues such as the Wigan Casino and Manchester’s Twisted Wheel.

Climax Blues, Broke Heart Blues (Angel Air Records)-Pete Haycock was the creative driving forces behind the run of chart successes that the Climax Blues Band enjoyed during the mid-seventies. and the guitarist decided to revive the brand in 2013 as he joined forces with fellow axeman Robin George and a coterie of top notch rock session men,including saxist Mel Collins of King Crimson fame. The venture sadly proved to be a short lived one however, as Haycock succumbed to a heart attack in October of the same year, leaving Broke Heart Blues behind as his musical epitaph. The results are a little less than earth shattering , but devotees of mature bluesy rock should try to lend an ear to superior album tracks such as Lonely Avenue and Gotta Get It Right.