Kevin Bryan Record reviews

Our resident music expert brings you his latest recommendations

Jules Carter Trio,”Done Misbehaving” - The second album from Knebworth based guitarist Carter and his bluesy cohorts marks the trio’s transition from capable covers band to stylish original performers as they tackle some interesting self-penned material which draws on influences as diverse as Gary Moore,Eric Johnson and Steely Dan along the way. The latter’s demon axeman Elliott Randall also makes a telling guest appearance on one of the stand-out tracks, a tribute to his former bandmate Bernard Purdie entitled “The Purdie Shuffle.”

Sassafras,”Expecting Company” (Esoteric ECLEC 2442)- This digitally re-mastered re-issue revives the highly sought after 1973 debut album from Welsh rockers Sassafras,expanded a little with the inclusion of two bonus tracks culled from an equally rare single which was released by Polydor the following year.The twin lead guitars of Ralph Evans and Dai Shell gave Sassafras an instantly identifiable sound but lasting success sadly never came their way despite the undoubted quality of expertly crafted melodic ditties such as “Busted Country Blues” and “Across The Sea of Stars.”

Malcolm Holcombe,”Pitiful Blues”-Devotees of authentic Americana revere North Carolina born Malcolm Holcombe as one of the finest practitioners of this beguiling genre,and the acoustic balladeer’s tenth album,”Pitiful Blues,” must surely rank as one of his finest offerings to date. Holcombe’s stripped-down and unadorned approach to music-making has prompted comparisons with everyone from J.J.Cale to Tom Waits and he’s certainly one of the most spontaneous and compelling singer-songwriters that you could ever wish to hear.Newcomers to his emotionally charged sound would be well advised to lend an ear to the unique delights of “Sign For A Sally,” “The Music Plays On” or the haunting “Savannah Blues.”

`”American Music Library - The Hits of 1960” (Fantastic Voyage FVTD 196)-This is the second volume in an interesting new series of anthologies which explores the American singles charts year by year,bringing together all the tracks which captured the hearts of record buyers on the other side of the pond but made no impact at all over here. The contents are understandably patchy to say the least but a few genuine gems do emerge from 1960’s batch of golden oldies,including The Coasters’ “Shoppin’ For Clothes,” Charlie Rich’s “Lonely Weekends” and an early Ike and Tina Turner offering,”A Fool in Love.”

Esther Phillips,”From A Whisper To A Scream” (Cherry Red / Soul Music SMCR 5120)- This 1972 offering was the first of seven albums that Esther Phillips recorded for the Kudu label and was arguably the creative highpoint of her long and often troubled career.Esther was in particularly gritty and uncompromsing form on fine tracks such as Gil Scott-Heron’s “Home Is Where The Hatred Is” and the Allen Toussaint penned title tune, underpinned by some inspired contributions from top notch New York session men such as guitarist Cornell Dupree and pianist Richard Tee.