Jim Noir, "Finnish Line" (My Dad Recordings)
The almost criminally gifted Mr Noir penned this minor masterwork in the space of just three weeks, nurturing his creative muse in the distinctly unglamourous surroundings of an old decaying mill in the Ancoats area of inner city Manchester. Jim's enduring passion for the sound of all things analogue is reflected in a batch of snappily memorable ditties which channel the spirit of sixties Merseybeat in a flurry of jangling guitars and affecting vocal harmonies, with "Broadway Jets," "Out From Within" and the Lennonesque "Stone Cold Room" particularly worthy of attention.
"The Alt" (Under the Arch Records)
This enchanting vehicle for the talents of Irish folk trio The Alt was recorded in the space of just three days earlier this year, after the three experienced musicians had decamped to a lonely cabin in the quiet isolation of North Carolina's Appalachian mountains to commune with nature and perfect their ensemble playing . "The Alt" finds John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O'Leary delivering a finely judged blend of jigs,reels and evocative ballads with grace,subtlety and charm, excelling themselves with "Lovely Nancy," "Going For A Soldier Jenny" and a lovely Scottish Gaelic song entitled "Cha Tig Mor Mo Bhean Dhachaigh."
"Country Roads - The Heartbeat of America" (Arthaus 108 118)
German film director Marieke Schroeder's latest documentary takes viewers on a downbeat travelogue around America's Deep South in a quest to find the authentic beating heart of the nation, aided and abetted by music and comment from singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle. She discovers an uncertain population wedded to the traditions of the past but deeply fearful of the future as the musical soundtrack is supplied by luminaries such as Johnny Cash, Woody Guthrie,Johnny Cash and, rather surprisingly, film actor Kevin Costner, who apparently fronts a country-rock band in his spare time.
Sky,"2" (Esoteric ECLEC 22471)
Guitarists John Williams and Kevin Peek and their cross-genre cohorts enjoyed a good deal of commercial success during the late seventies and early eighties with a stylish and elegant instrumental sound which fused elements of rock,pop,classical music and jazz. This expanded version of their 1980 album features a live DVD recorded at the band's Hammersmith Odeon concert later the same year and is most notable for keyboardist Francis Monkman's ambitious rock suite "FIFO," and their supercharged version of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue in D minor," which soared into the higher reaches of the singles charts in April 1980.
Pete Seeger, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" (Talking Elephant TECD263)
Commercial success never seemed too figure too strongly in Pete Seeger's list of career priorities, but the indefatigable protest singer was actually something of a fixture in the American charts during the early fifties as a member of The Weavers. Seeger re-entered the public eye a decade or so later when the folk boom helped to create a musical climate which was much more receptive to his ecological and political concerns, and this 1967 offering captures him in particularly sprightly form on what were then highly topical ditties such as "My Name Is Liza Kalvelage" and "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" itself.