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Floor, largely infectious, yet slightly disappointing, with vocals that tend to pull on one’s ears for want of trying to hear them more clearly—however, all three highlights on the track list. The varied collection is brought to a close with the mid-beat and rather simplistically composed Coming Up For Air—utterly stunning. Pleasantly surprised from first listen and a collection of such diversity and integrity, the album poses worldwide appeal and holds promise to be played throughout the years to come. You won’t be disappointed. Emily Saxton

Jeff Larson THE WORLD OVER Red Bell Recordings HHHH Mainly gentle and exquisite modernised West Coast country-rock singer-songwriter fare Californian singer-songwriter Jeff Larson

has absorbed all of the finest elements of classic West Coast country-rock and re-interprets it in his own unique way through a series of thoughtful, well-written sings brimming over with familiar melodic lines, jaw-dropping vocal harmonies and the lyrics that capture the pure essence of the diverse human emotions. This is music from an artist who has loved, lost and learned some life lessons along the way. From the opening easy-going soulful vibe of Your Way Back Home to the closing rootsy acoustic styled Reason to be Near You, this album delivers a series of intensely personal, yet accessible songs that offer insight into the essence and inspiration of a gifted musician. Larson’s vocals are rhythmical and

laid-back and have a fashionable flair of Americana blended with that carefree West Coast vibe. Intrigue and romance are very much to the fore, most powerfully in Monday Clouds Tuesday Rain, which features beautiful, swelling background vocals from America’s Dewey Bunnell; in One Good Lie, with Jeddrah Schmit’s breathy voice pairing with Larson; and in Point Of Rising a more dramatic song with Jeddrah and Jeff’s stunning vocals woven into Bob Brozman’s resophonic guitar patterns. Definitely one to seek out. Alan Cackett

Kathy Mattea CALLING ME HOME Sugar Hill Records SUG-4085 HHHHI Kathy Mattea’s album of her life … it doesn’t get much better than this Kathy Mattea has quietly, yet resolutely

evolved from being a mainstream country hit-making machine into a highly-respected country music treasure. Throughout her recording career, which stretches back almost 30 years, she has always infiltrated her commercial recordings with more rootsy material from the likes of Laurie Lewis, Tim O’Brien, Julie Gold and Dave Mallett. For many years she’s delved into the Celtic roots of country music and more recently it’s been the Appalachian mountain music of West Virginia, where she was born and grew up, that Kathy has been singing and writing about. Following the artistic success of her previous album, COAL, comes this more personal collection. Co-produced with the acclaimed but often underrated Gary Paczosa, the album is deeply personal, yet at the same time the songs and the themes are universal in their deeply felt emotions. She maintains the ‘coal’ connection

through such songs as West Virginia Mine Disaster and Hello, My Name Is Coal. This is inevitable as the coal mining industry touches almost everyone who lives or has lived in West Virginia. I’m sure that many people will place this album and the music therein within the folk music category, and they would probably be right, but to me this is traditional country music … pure and simple. A direct link to the music of the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Karl & Harty, the Blue Sky Boys, Bill Monroe and Hank Williams. Kathy has brought together a talented group of singers and musicians including Bryan Sutton, Stuart Duncan, Bill Cooley, Byron House and Tim and Mollie O’Brien to create a traditional mountain stringband sound with a contemporary edge. It’s nigh on impossible to pick out any one song or performance over another as each track and song is of a uniformly high quality. So it comes down in the end to personal taste and for me I was both enthralled and knocked off my feet by the sheer beauty of The Woodthrush’s Song. Kathy completely owns this, as she does with the evocative West Virginia, My

Home, a song that must surely resonate with anyone who has been uprooted from their homeplace to live not just many miles away, but in a completely different environment. Kathy has described CALLING ME HOME as ‘the album of her life’ … that’s a bold statement, considering the excellent albums that she’s released over the years, but I certainly wouldn’t disagree with her. Whatever your musical preferences, you need to own this album, and I guarantee it will grow and grow in stature with each repeated playing. Alan Cackett

Larkin Poe THICK AS THIEVES Edvin Records: EDVIN0011 HHHH Wonderful change of pace and direction from the Larkin Poe two-piece I was a big fan of Larkin Poe’s 2010

collection of seasonal EPs: WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER and FALL, and subsequently went to see them play live twice that year. So, with the release of their latest record, a 7-track CD and DVD combination, I was expecting more of the same. Even before I’d got the chance to actually take in the new songs, I was taken aback by the album’s much fuller sound, differing significantly from their previous records; the sound at times occasionally bordering on the dinner jazz feel of Adele’s records. THICK AS THIEVES therefore is by no means the sequel to what was some of the finest folk music I’d heard in years. After repeated listening, the new sound

really begins to suit the songs, especially the opening track, Fox which is very radio friendly and has the potential to bring in a whole new legion of fans. Love Or Money has a real soulful feel to it and the girls’ crystal clear voices soar to new levels throughout, leaving you with goosebumps and the need to put the metaphorical needle back to the beginning, it really is that good. Make It Hurt on the other hand, sounds

more like the old Larkin Poe stuff, but still fits seamlessly with the new sound. The Lovell sisters appear to be trading lines as they tell a tale of yet another broken heart. The short album ends with the beautiful tearjerker, Russian Roulette, and then it’s back to the beginning to hear it all over

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