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The tunes come thick and fast, neatly linking Andy May’s Vankarin Polska with Amy Thatcher’s West Meets East as a feisty, trail- blazing opener, while later brilliantly melding a Québécois reel with Jay Ungar’s fiery Melt- down At Indian Point and Liz Carroll’s bub- bling Anne Lacey’s in a clear demonstration of the level of thought they put into their sets. Laura-Beth Salter’s subtle mandolin tune Room To Breathe is a study in moody atmo- spherics, while Shona Mooney’s fiddle play- ing in particular is insistently evocative.

They are bold, too, in their choice of songs, with lead vocals unusually shared between three singers – Salter, Rachel Newton and Olivia Ross. The last album included a dis- appointingly tame version of Tom Paine’s Bones but they do a much better job this time on some challenging material – notably an intimate Vandy Vandy, a rattling roaring Eppie Morrie (featuring the best vocal of the album by Olivia Ross) and Abigail Washburn’s disqui- eting modern morality tale Sugar And Pie.

The Shee

let) to tackle head on the snobbery of Peru’s cultural elite. But really the raw ingredients are pretty much as they were the first time round: a deceptively simple brew of Colom- bian cumbia, Peruvian roots rhythms and western beat group and psychedelic influ- ences (a ‘mash-up’ before such a term was coined). The urban emphasis means a little more rock flavouring is to the fore and Conan has also chosen tracks from the ‘70s when the music of Cuba was starting to exert a pull.

Highpoints include the opening instru-

mental Constelacion from chicha’s founding father Enrique Delgado and his band Los Destellos, which features both twangy and fuzztone guitars and Walter Leon & Los Illu- sionistas’ original version of the cumbia stan- dard Colegiala best known, in the UK at least, for its use in a 1980s coffee ad. – distributed in the UK by Proper Note.

Jamie Renton



10 Songs For The New Depression Proper PRPCD069

Two old troupers and occasional compadres who’ve survived the singer-songwriter cull and retain their sense of humour, humanity, relevance, durability, energy and songwriting skills. Thompson, particularly, is an amazing model of consistency: still a brilliant guitarist and a songwriter, constantly finding new bywaters of the world and the human condi- tion to highlight, while drawing on the best traditions of rock ’n’ roll and folk. These include decimating Sting on the cruel but very funny Here Comes Geordie (“Here comes Geordie in his private plane/ Got to save the planet once again/ Good old Geordie, righ- teous as can be/ Cut down the forest just to save a tree”), ripping into bankers on The Money Shuffle or evoking colourful images of the East End of London in the 1960s (Demons In Her Dancing Shoes).

Typically incorrigible, Wainwright brazenly relishes the world’s current econom- ic plight as an opportunity to exercise his writing hand in a contemporary project that aims to connect with the sort of songs pro- jected from an earlier crisis in the twenties and thirties. “I’m euphoric about the new depression,” he says with exaggerated glee, “I’d like to cash in.” His own concession to

the hard times is to make an entirely solo album (though he does run to some spooky sound effects on Halloween 2009), voicing the theory that ukes will save the world on Got A Ukulele and invoking the earlier depression with two vintage songs of the old era, The Panic Is On and On To Victory Mr Roosevelt (there’s that ukulele again) with a final verse adapted for Barry Obama. Wain- wright’s own quirky and mostly cheery view of it all is entertaining enough though only a couple of the songs – the poignant House and the doomy ‘tribute’ to a New York Times columnist on The Krugman Blues – are likely to rise above transient topicality to share house room with his best work.

Thompson pursues a harder course

entirely, taking the brave and unusual step of recording his brand new album in front of a live audience. The thinking is that the stage energy captured by a band featuring the likes of Pete Zorn, Michael Jerome and the excellent Joel Zifkin on electric violin will blast his new set of songs into instant vibran- cy in a way they mightn’t do in the studio. Mostly the theory holds up, too – the tech- nology maintains a decent sound quality and the occasional loss of precision is compensat- ed by the engaging fury they whip up on the rockers – the accompanying acoustic bonus disc of demos of the same songs sounds deadly dull in comparison. When RT and band really start to cook on Sidney Wells – the gruesome, wailing story of an unrepen- tant murderer – and the thumping Bad Again, you can feel the sweat dripping off the walls while, as he proves on A Brother Slips Away, he’s in his own league when it comes to singing about death.

Colin Irwin

THE SHEE Decadence Shee Records SHEE 2

Even The Shee them- selves may have been surprised by the inroads made by their pleasantly accom- plished debut album A Different Season, gar- nering award nominations and everything. Suitably empowered, they’ve clearly got the bit between their teeth on this much grittier, more adventurous and infinitely superior sec- ond album.

The dividing lines between their tradi- tional heart and contemporary songs like Olivia Ross’s Morning Star are acute enough to ring warning bells about a possible cross- roads ahead, but this album suggests they have the confidence, conviction, adeptness and raw talent to make the right turns.

Distributed by Proper/Highlander.

Colin Irwin

THE JOLLY BOYS Great ExpectationWall Of Sound WOS 79CD

Mento has provided pop music with many a hit over the years. Remember Boney M? Lady Gaga certainly does, and so should you. It’s not so bizarre, then, that Jamaica’s most widely known mento veterans should record a disc of covers of classic (mostly) rock songs. Novelty album? Hell yes! Successful? Partly.

The idea was spawned in early 2009, when former Island Records A & R man Jon Baker began recording a session of vintage material by the band, whose roots go back to the 1950s. With creative partner Mark Jones, Baker chose the songs, and they were arranged for banjo, ‘marumba box’ and per- cussion, with contributions from Jamaican saxophonist/ flautist Cedric Brooks and three younger players.

Once the initially comic effect of hearing mento-ised versions of songs made famous by Iggy Pop, Grace Jones, The Doors, Lou Reed, et al. wears thin, it becomes clear that some fit the concept better than others. It makes sense that material from a band as heavily influenced by reggae as The Clash should suit a mento setting, and I Fought The Law is a good example. More unexpected is the appeal of Johnny Cash smash Ring Of Fire, and how interesting The Stranglers’ Golden Brown sounds with a ‘marumba box’ plunk- ing away through it. Blondie’s Hanging On The Telephone also belts along satisfyingly. Albert Minott’s utterly bedraggled singing voice suggests a historic drug intake to rival the likes of Iggy Pop (Passenger) and Amy Winehouse (Rehab); both of these are also among the best adaptations.

On the downside, Steely Dan’s stunning

debut single Do It Again loses most of its sin- ister charm, Nightclubbing is one Iggy song too many, and New Order’s irredeemably naff Blue Monday, although not as rhythmi- cally challenged as the original, is not redeemed. Minott is often accompanied by moaning roots reggae interjections from the backing vocalists, which is amusing at first, but slightly overused. Not all of the songs are given a mento swing, but surprisingly, this turns out not to be the ‘x factor’ that deter- mines their merit.

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