Kevin Bryan record reviews

Our musical maestro’s top tunes.

John Oates Band, “The Bluesville Sessions” (WBA 1201)- This impressive “back to the roots” exercise was recorded live in the studios of an American radio station a couple of years ago and found John Oates revisiting many of the songs which had influenced the singer and guitarist during his youth in the early sixties. John’s finely honed backing band provide the perfect musical backdrop for soulful covers of much loved golden oldies such as “Something You Got,” “It’s Alright” and “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” and the proceedings draw to a close with an updated version of Hall and Oates’ 1982 chart-topper,”Maneater.”

Barbara Dickson,”To Each and Everyone” (Greentrax CDTRAX 378)-Barbara’s second Greentrax album takes the form of a heartfelt tribute to the musical legacy of the late great Gerry Rafferty,drawing on thirteen fine extracts from her old friend’s illustrious but often sadly under-valued back catalogue. Troy Donockley’s arrangements take a few liberties with Rafferty’s original creative vision along the way ,including the replacement of the iconic sax solo on “Baker Street” with a burst of stylish fiddle work, but the overall mood of the set is one of quiet reflection,with “Mary Skeffington” and “Family Tree” emerging as the best of the bunch.

Cyril Neville,”Magic Honey” (Ruf RUF 1192)- The soulful Mr. Neville has been hailed as the last great voice in New Orleans music,and his latest Ruf long-player boasts guest appearances from Crescent City luminaries Allen Toussaint and Dr.John,who also penned the eminently danceable “Swamp Funk.” Cyril’s work with The Meters and the Neville Brothers has influenced a whole host of aspiring young funk musicans over the years and the richly organic sound of “Magic Honey” should win a sizeable coterie of new converts over to the veteran vocalist’s cause too.

“Teenage Blues” (Fantastic Voyage FVTD 174)- This new 3 CD set explores the fascinating world of the “custom” single,which was apparently all the rage in America during the late fifties and early sixties. Aspiring young performers from the country’s rural hinterlands who might otherwise have found it impossible to secure regular record deals could finance their own limited pressings of 300 or so flexidiscs via Texas labels such as Starday,giving them an opportunity to publicise their work via local radio stations and juke box operators. Compiler Dave Penny has brought together the best of these extremely rare vanity recordings to create a vibrant celebration of vintage rockabilly at its most obscure and entertaining.

Rod Picott.”Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail” (Welding Rod Records )-Rod Picott’s work occupies a compelling musical niche midway between Bruce Springsteen and the under-rated John Hiatt , and his latest album showcases more of the heartfelt vignettes of life in blue-collar America which have earned this resilient singer-songwriter the respect of many of his contemporaries in the Americana genre. “Dreams,” “Mobile Home” and “Where No One Knows My Name” capture the essence of this darkly humourous character’s enduring appeal.