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The Rough Guide To The Best Arabic Music You’ve Never HeardWorld Music Network RGNET1339CD

For me the Rough Guide ‘Best Of…’ series has always had a whiff of what Edward Said described as “orientalism” about it. They are records that seem to lack any depth of knowl- edge about music beyond the UK and US, and often lump disparate artists together under some vague grouping as ‘Arabic Music’.

The Best Arabic Music You’ve Never

Heard, while good in places, seems to contin- ue in this tradition. While there are some interesting tracks on the record, such as the jazz infused S’ayda, elsewhere the record slips into the familiar territory of Café Del Mar easy-listening style exotica. Ya Mo’s Dozan is a good example.

Other choice contributions including the Eurovision balladry of Abdelillah and the somewhat noisy and ill-conceived Mijwiz by the Arabic Rock Orchestra. Overall this record left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied. Liam Thompson

MIKE DOWLING Tracks Wind River Guitar WRG-08


A Tribute To The Reverend Acoustic Music Recordings 319.1530.2

There’s no doubting that Mike Dowling is a premier acoustic guitarist (he’s made a good dozen instructional videos for Happy Traum’s Homespun imprint) and with his latest CD (his tenth) he again underlines that he’s also a fine singer, arranger and composer. There are four original instrumentals pieces which blend seamlessly with songs like Bobby Charles’ Tennessee Blues and the bluesy theme song written for the 1957 film A Face In The Crowd. All the material that Mike chooses to play, be it a traditional piece like The Cuckoo, a Fred McDowell blues, or an Irv- ing Berlin ditty such as My Walking Stick, he chooses with impeccable taste, and plays everything with such finesse that many other guitarists, in comparison, sound quite clumsy. Mike chooses to play resophonic guitars from which he draws warm rich tones on both fin- ger-picked items or when using a glass slide, and his guitar sounds meld beautifully with his warm vocal delivery.

In contrast Woody Mann’s A Tribute to

The Reverend requires you to sit up, focus, and pay attention to his very intricate guitar technique, which he utilises here to pay a per- sonal tribute to Reverend Gary Davis. Woody Mann is one of Rev Davis’s guitar students, who have continued the tradition of passing along musical knowledge as a guitar instruc- tor (Woody, like Mike Dowling, has also released instructional material on Home- spun). As a performer Woody encompasses a wide range of musical influences. The open- ing track Church Hill employs chording and runs that you could have heard from classical guitarist John Williams, then on New Buck Dance he switches to the kind of jazzy riffs that Davy Graham employed on several tracks of his seminal album Folk, Blues, And Beyond.

Woody Mann constructs this all-instru- mental album in three sections. The first five tracks, and the last three (all featuring the bass) are split by a ‘solo suite’ of five more pieces. It’s not until Trying To Get Home, track four, that Woody actually plays a fully recog- nisable passage of Davis’s guitar music. But, throughout this fluid, inventive, brilliantly played album, Woody Mann continuously mixes musical modes while interpolating

recognisable riffs, runs, and quotes from the great man who helped open the ears and minds of many a musician.

www. www.

Dave Peabody

GORDON GUNN Wick To Wickham Greentrax CDTRAX 381




A Tribute In Music And Song To John Bellany CBE, RA Greentrax CDTRAX 386

A founder member of Session A9, Gordon Gunn is widely held – and justly so – to be a tremendous fiddler and tunesmith, but living up in the farthest northern reaches of the British mainland, he’s probably not as widely known as he ought to be. Inspired by (or per- haps in memory of) a mammoth and eventful journey to play with Session A9 at a festival on the south coast of England, Wick To Wick- ham is a great collection of tunes, superbly played and presented. Gunn gets a lovely tone from his fiddle, and accompanied by The Gordon Gunn Band (Brian McAlpine on key- boards and Phil Anderson on guitar), plus a handful of extras such as Marc Duff and Tim Edey, there’s a richness and variety to the music that goes way beyond a ‘standard’ Scottish fiddle album.

Gunn can play slow airs that wring the emotions (for example his own Rob Of The Strath) or party wildly and swing with the best (La Bottine Souriante’s Fleur De Madrag- onne will have you bouncing up and down while Máirtín O’Connor’s Shop Street will bring a grin to even the most dour visage – guaranteed). And when he plays more con- ventional dance tunes, they not only induce a desire to twirl around the floor, but they’re good to listen to as well. Perhaps more of the festivals in the deep South can twist his arm… this is an outstanding album.

Just twelve miles separate Scotland and Ireland, so the intertwining of their musical traditions is unsurprising (on both sides of the Atlantic and the global village as well). Beg & Borrow indeed. And although regarded as something of a Scottish institution, the cur-

Mike Dowling

rent Battlefield incarnation is similarly loosely connected (piper Mike Katz hails originally from Los Angeles, fiddler Alasdair White from the Isle of Lewis and Sean O’Donnell from Derry, while their long time mentor and producer Robin Morton is from Ireland).

The guests include the likes of Leo McCann (melodeon), Mike Whellans (mooth- ie), Christine Primrose (whose Gaelic closing vocals on The Blantyre Explosion bring a lump to the throat), John Martin (fiddle, whistle) and even Robin Morton himself (bodhran, vocals). And although the band’s line-up has evolved drastically over the years they’ve somehow managed seamlessly to maintain their musical identity. Pulling all the strands together with a noteworthy (but well inte- grated) guest list, Beg & Borrow is unmistak- ably a Battlefield album, and one of the best albums to come from them in a while: great listening (and comprehensively annotated too – a bonus).

Born to generations of Scottish fisher- folk, John Bellany instead became a interna- tionally acclaimed artist, but retained his con- nections to the community. He was also a good friend to and of the Scottish folk scene. Sitting happily alongside each other, the com- pilation has some favourite music of his (Cor- ries to Ceolbeg, Bain & Cunningham to Give Way covering Over The Border from Bellany’s early days as a member of The Blue Bonnet Dance Band), some specially recorded items (Simon Kempston singing Ian McCalman’s clever inclusion of 30 Bellany paintings in His Brush Across The Canvas, Hamish Moore’s John Bellany of Port Seton) and some from the local community he held dear. The late Calum Kennedy’s singing on Dark Lochnagar is astonishing and the album is topped and tailed by the blessed Siobhan Miller singing Moon River and his son Paul singing his own Rage Against The Dying Light respectively. A worthy compilation providing fascinating lis- tening from start to finish, with an informa- tive booklet to round things off. Proceeds go to the John Bellany Day Centre, too. Bob Walton

JULIAN DAWSON Living Good Fledg’ling Records FLED 3090

Twenty-third solo album by a singer-song- writer much better known in Germany than his native UK, whose previous collaborative credits include names like Gene Parsons, Lucinda Williams, Richard Thompson and Charlie Louvin.

Recorded at Dan Penn’s studio in Nashville, his songs are romantic and autobi- ographical with titles like Someone You Love, I’m Going To Miss You and When Hearts Col- lide. Like all good country songs, they’re melodic, well-crafted and concise.

Effective covers of Teenage Idol (a 1959 hit for Ricky Nelson) and Penn & Oldham’s I’m Living Good, reveal something of his roots while Brownie McGhee’s Sportin’ Life Blues (a song learned from the Lovin’ Spoonful that he’s been performing for decades) provides a welcome solo showcase for his signature har- monica playing.

Sparsely accompanied by Jim Hoke on clarinet and lap steel , Michael Henderson on guitar, Michael Rhodes on bass and Bill Livesy on keyboards, and with harmony vocals sup- plied by Dan Penn himself, this album is every bit as accomplished as long-term fans would expect from a musician of Dawson’s calibre and experience and one which could gain him many more admirers. Steve Hunt

Photo: Dave Peabody

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