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NEW RELEASES This seven-track (I wish there were more)

release begins with her own personal anthem, Let The Music Deliver Me—a Bruce Springsteen-inspired country-rock number, that emphasises her obvious love for the craft—with the dreamy Alice In Wonder—clearly a tip of the hat to Walt Disney—follows on, with whimsical lyrics of drifting off to a heavenly, carefree world. This idea of freedom and escape seems to resonate throughout the album, and no more so than on the explosive title track and already released single, Little Big Sky—an upbeat, guitar-driven song (co-written with fellow Berklee professor and former Warner staff writer, Scarlet Keys) celebrating leaving the disillusioned confines of the big city for the wide-open countryside of clear blue skies and ‘…miles and miles of nothing but miles…’ —a widely shared sentiment across the world. The beautifully sung Better Day which closes the album couldn’t possibly escape without a mention here. Gently consisting of Susan’s emotively-delivered vocals against a mid-temp, piano-led arrangement, the song is inspired by Dehbora Rocha and Chris Tagatac—two of Susan’s friends whom have overcome difficult times in their lives, and the belief that tomorrow will be a better day, bringing strength and hope with it. Glen Duncan, Jim ‘Moose’ Brown and

Kevin Grant—some of Nashville’s finest musicians—appear here amongst the album’s list of musical contributors, adding their own sparkle and magic to the songs. Steeped in beauty and flourishing potential, Susan Cattaneo’s LITTLE BIG SKY showcases a timeless quality, which only really comes when an album is both thoughtfully written and cleverly arranged. It’ll probably remain a sure favourite of mine for the rest of this year and for many more years to come. Emily Saxton

Bridie Jackson and the Arbour BITTER LULLABIES Self Release/ Bandcamp HHHH Astonishing debut

album of exquisite choral folk music If I’d played BITTER LULLABIES for the

first time the day before or the day after I

actually did, I’m pretty sure I would have had a completely different opinion to the one I’m going to tell you about. As it was, I’d just had a marvellous day walking across some Northern hills in the Winter sunshine when I slid the CD into the car stereo as I began my journey home, as the sun was setting. The sound that came out of the speakers for the next hour or so was more relaxing than a Radox bath and the perfect soundtrack to a trip through the English countryside as the sky turned every hue of orange until darkness took over For what it’s worth Bridie Jackson and the Arbour have created a sound that, for once in my life I can genuinely describe as unique. I’ve never heard anything like it or anything that comes close. It is most certainly Folk Music, of the quintessentially English variety but Bridie’s voice is as individual as Bjork’s and together with the Arbour manages to float effortlessly through elements of Chamber music, the finest Cathedral choirs and even Barbershop harmonies with an occasional glockenspiel, mandolin, Cello, violin or guitar providing beautiful support in the background. The individual songs barely need describing as this is an album that needs to be listened to as a complete ‘set- piece’ and not as downloaded chunks. Trust me; the effort is well worth making. Alan Harrison

Sharon Shannon & The RTE Concert Orchestra FLYING CIRCUS Self-Release: CACD2415 HHHH Impressive Irish, orchestral fusion Following her own yellow brick road,

Sharon Shannon has chosen yet another obscure bedfellow in utilising the services of the RTE Concert Orchestra. This possibly may not seem so odd if any of you have heard either of the two 1980s James Last In Ireland recordings or Vladimir Cosma’s KIDNAPPED (my favourite record of all time!) where combining traditional instrumentation such as accordion with the lush sounds of a full orchestra projects the much maligned squeeze box to be the star attraction. Of course, in the hands of one as dextrous as Ms Shannon, it

goes without saying that she makes the recording come to life with sparkling arrangements wringing every last drop of soul from those much used reeds. The passion and enjoyment of performing with such august company is obvious and whether it’s the effervescent opening track Top Dog Gaffo or the sumptuous April Magnolia (composed by long time guitarist and collaborator Jim Murray) you cannot help but be impressed by a folk musician conquering the classical market without the likes of Bryn Terfel or Leslie Garrett to muck everything up. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to listen to Wallace & Gromit at the Proms! Pete Fyfe

Various Artists JOYFUL NOISE: ORIGINAL MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK Sony Music: CD 88691936592 HHHH Mainly new contemporary songs, as featured in the movie The album opens with a song written

by Dolly Parton, Not Enough where she is strongly featured with Queen Latifah. Queen Latifah’s on-screen daughter, Keke Palmer utterly shines on the catchy Man In The Mirror (not the Jim Glaser country song of years ago!) On the album I didn’t think Kirk Franklin’s studio recording of In Love was anything like as effective as in the film. Fix Me Jesus sung by Queen Latifah with just piano accompaniment is in my opinion superb. Dolly, Kris Kristofferson and Jeremy Jordan perform the only country track on the album, From Here To The Moon And Back and very nice it is too. Mighty High is a rousing track, really well sung by Karen Peck. The choir are let loose on several of the songs and everybody gets to join in on the other song Dolly wrote for the film, the very atmospheric and perceptive He’s Everything. This is a really fine album of good and modern contemporary gospel music. Even if the film wasn’t your cup of tea, you’d be hard pressed not to find this an excellent musical experience, as it does exactly what it sets out to do and gives you a really joyful noise! David Brassington

Maverick 97

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