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Genre pick of the week Cover of Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone by Lucinda Williams.

Lucinda Williams

Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone

As a rule, you can divide music into three categories - the kind that aims for the head, the kind that aims for the heart and the kind that aims for the hips. Forging two of those connections at once is pretty impressive, but connecting on all three? That’s a rare accomplishment indeed, one that Lucinda Williams manages on her 11th studio album, 'Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone'.

'Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone', the first release on Lucinda Williams’ own Highway 20 Records label, is easily the most ambitious creation in a body of work that’s long on ambition. Williams leaves no emotional crevice left unexplored, drinking deeply from a well of inspiration that culminates with an offering that overflows with delta-infused country soul.

Williams wrings every drop of affirmation from uplifting tracks like the empowering “Walk On” (a loping paean to life’s most sustaining aspects, the fleeting and the permanent) and every whit of dark beauty from songs such as “This Old Heartache” (a stark reminder that churning psychic waters can lurk beneath a placid surface).

Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, an excerpt from a poem written by her father, Miller Williams

Musicans playing on the album include: Tony Joe White, Greg Leisz, Bill Frisell, Pete Thomas & Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello), Val McCallum (Jackson Brown), Stuart Mathis (Wallflowers), Ian Mclagan (Small Faces), Doug Pettibone and Jakob Dylan


3xLP Info: 3xLP pressing in deluxe tri-fold sleeve.


Skeleton Soul

    Jack Sandham and Wednesday Lyle have been playing together as Cowbell since late 2009 when they got together for a late night jam session and things took off from there. Three 7” singles followed over the next 18 months and they signed to Damaged Goods in 2012. Two years on from their debut album Beat Stampede, the rockin’ duo branch out into a more spooky atmospheric sound across the 11 tracks on the new album. There's a definite dark, New Orleans R&B vibe to Skeleton Soul. Kicking off with the spaghetti western intro of the album's opening track, ‘Cry Wolf’ the duo cover plenty of new ground while retaining the urgency and excitement of their earlier work. Though what makes this new album so special is the evocative mood the band created with Ed Deegan at Gizzard Studio.

    Imagine Dr. John meets the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The sound is still a stripped down affair, though this time round the drum 'n' guitar bones are fleshed out with a few enhancing overdubs such as the Doors-esque spiky psychedelic organ on 'She's All Over You', and some soulful saxophone on the funky, strutting 'Dirt'. The band show they're equally adept at intimate ballads with 'Darkness In Your Heart', perhaps the best song Richard Hawley never wrote. Wednesday takes the lead vocal on 'Heart On The Line' a track which recalls the cream of '60s girl singers such as Sandie, Dusty et al. Fans of the group's earlier sound will not be disappointed either, there's still the bone-shaking garage blues numbers such as 'Oh Yolande' and 'Baby It's Your Love' along with the swampy mambo-blues groove of 'The Fear'. Imagine a band with the guitar twang of The Cramps over jungle-tribal drums, covering The Zombies and you're somewhere close.

    Perhaps still most widely recognised for ‘Dreaming With Alice’, his 1972 psych-folk debut for RCA Italy as a 19-year-old art student-troubadour, Mark Fry has been turning his creative gaze on the world, and alchemising its elements into shimmering, quietly visionary works of art, ever since.

    A series of concerts in Japan and Scandinavia, and a widely reported 'supergroup' London showcase, featuring members of Mercury Rev, Super Furry Animals, Tunng and Lemon Jelly, further evinced the subtle but inexorable diffusion of the Mark Fry legend, something abetted by BBC Radio 4's Today programme airing an interview with Mark.

    All of which brings us to Mark Fry's latest, most exquisitely realised musical offering to date, South Wind, Clear Sky. Sung with that now familiar alloy of cool restraint and wondering innocence, and passingly reminiscent of the kind of English pastoralism associated with the likes of Kevin Ayers or Bill Fay, the album's leanly arranged yet immersive songs are propelled by Mark's glinting, plangent guitars and deliciously embroidered by John Parker's double bass, Angèle David-Guillou's piano and backing vocals and Katie Lang's French horn, all bound together by producer Guy Fixsen (My Bloody Valentine, Stereolab) into a delightfully iridescent whole.

    For all its finely honed arrangements, and the translucence of its recording, South Wind, Clear Sky is still very much the work of the man who made Dreaming With Alice; the mature Mark Fry's feeling for wonderment and magic, for the dreamlike and the innocently surreal, is just as pervasive, and persuasive here, only more focused, and etched against a more luminous, even heavenly canvas.

    The return of a true legend: Together with Gary Louris he was the founder and frontman/singer/songwriter for The Jayhawks. Now he returns with perhaps his strongest string of songs ever. Americana meets Psychedelia, Joshua Tree as the new Laurel Canyon. A monument of an album by one the greatest musicians of the past three decades.

    Emotional Rescue and Woo once again come together, this time to reissue their masterpiece, the previously cassette-only album 'Into The Heart Of Love'. A joyous, uplifting ode to love in all its forms, the trials and tribulations and ultimately the triumphs are all encapsulted in Woo's unique soundscapes. Of all the myriad of released and unreleased Woo recordings, 'Into The Heart Of Love' is without a doubt their most complete and cohesive body of work. Full of Woo's quirky analogue dub electronics, there is also a very English sense of folk. With more vocals then their other albums, the structure and softness of mood quintessentially comes from the Mother Isle. Mark's guitar craft is at its most expressive, entwined with subtle bass, a breadth of clarinet and touches of piano. This is all mixed and merged beautifully with Clive's now recognisable desk and synthesiser mastery. As individual as anything you'd hear coming from the Black Ark. More peaceful and uplifting than 'Whichever Way You Are Going, You Are Going Wrong' and encompassing than 'It's Cosy Inside', the album presented as 'Into The Heart Of Love' is exactly that. Drawing you into its swirls and layers upon layers, slowly wrapping you in it's own special, spectral soundcape. It is love indeed that permeates throughout. Again and again the titles lead the way, but it's more than that. The lilting hopes, joy, optimism and peace expressed in songs like 'When Your Find Your Love', 'Sarah' and 'The Heart Of Love' show Woo in all their glory. Of all Woo's songs and craft, their best is all included. The simplicity but detailed interplay between the two brothers is as telepathic as imagined. Pushing and pulling together to represent a wondrous album. Of course, it had to be. It's Love.

    Various Artists

    Hoosier Daddy

      2LP vinyl collector’s edition featuring 32 of the most sought-after rockabilly cuts from the 105-track 3CD set.

      Features recordings from the pioneering Mar-Vel’ and Glenn labels, and other important Indiana rockabilly labels

      A must-have for collectors of rockabilly; cult favourites and rarities from the respected and the neglected

      Compiled and annotated by rock & roll authority Dave Penny, comes with illustrated insert

      Mar Vel’ & The Birth of Indiana Rockabilly

      The 2LP vinyl collector’s edition of Hoosier Daddy sees rock & roll authority Dave Penny select 32 prime rockabilly tracks from his massive 105-track 3CD set. This latest release from Fantastic Voyage provides yet another piece in the musical jigsaw that was the USA before the globalisation and homogenisation of the music industry. Hoosier Daddy tells the story of the pioneering and industrious Indiana record man, Harry Glenn, and his Mar-Vel’ and Glenn labels and his importance in bringing country rock ’n’ roll to the state of Indiana.

      Indiana, the Hoosier State, is not one that immediately springs to mind when considering the great centres of American musical excellence in the mid-20th century. The celebrated Vee-Jay Records was launched there in 1953, but within months had relocated to nearby Chicago. A host of jazz legends graduated from the clubs of the state capitol, Indianapolis, which also played host to a lively blues scene in the 1920s and 1930s, from which Leroy Carr and Scrapper Blackwell emerged, but musicians had to seek their fortunes elsewhere. By the mid-1940s, with the war effort in full swing, the influx of those leaving the southern states to colonise the north-western corner of Indiana, in pursuit of well-paid jobs was at an all-time high. While these migrants may have considered themselves neo-sophisticates with fat bank rolls in their pockets, they were homesick and pining for some down-home entertainment which was willingly supplied by other, musically-gifted migrants from Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama. Into this maelstrom of musical talent entered a man with the desire to supply this untapped market, but not another Southern migrant – Harry Glenn was a Hoosier born and bred…

      In addition to long-cherished cult rockabilly favourites such as Bobby Sisco, Herbie Duncan, Chuck Dallis and Harry Carter, Hoosier Daddy includes a host of rare tracks from other more obscure performers. In addition to the Harry Glenn story, we also look at the other important Indiana rockabilly labels from Indianapolis (Note, Nabor, Yolk, Tyme, Glee and Whispering Pines), Fort Wayne (Emerald), Marion (Claudra), Muncie (Poor Boy) and others...all gone but not forgotten. All in all, a must-have for collectors of rockabilly.

      Following her highly successful explorations of the Motown and Chess catalogues, Lois Wilson (Mojo, Record Collector) turns her attention to the iconic Manhattan-based Atlantic Records with 'Right Now', an 86-track 3CD set or 32 track 2xLP. Atlantic Records was founded in 1947 by Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson. Other key participants in the company’s rise to success included studio engineer Tom Dowd, eminent record man Jerry Wexler, Ahmet’s brother Nesuhi, who developed the company’s substantial and highly successful jazz catalogue, and the dynamic songwriting / production team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Crucial early signings included Joe Turner, Ruth Brown, Ray Charles, Chuck Willis, Clyde McPhatter and LaVern Baker.

      All those names are represented here, alongside other performers who recorded for Atlantic and its subsidiary Atco (founded in 1955) in the forties, fifties and early sixties; years which saw the evolution of rhythm & blues into soul. The diversity of Atlantic’s roster is represented by the presence of early Atlantic hit-makers Stick McGhee and Joe Morris, consummate soul singers Solomon Burke, Ben E. King, Bettye LaVette and Barbara Lewis, a pre-Motown Isley Brothers, New Orleans piano man Professor Longhair, saxophonists Willis “Gator” Jackson and King Curtis, blues guitar pioneer T-Bone Walker, Louisiana rock ’n’ roller Dale Hawkins, jazz singer Mel Torme, and the vocal group sound of the Clovers, the Coasters and the Falcons (then including Wilson Pickett and Mack Rice in their ranks). Some of these recordings were acknowledged successes from their initial release; others have acquired popularity among collectors and on the club scene over the intervening decades.

      Atlantic’s highly-regarded jazz catalogue deserves a survey of its own, and 'Right Now' also eschews many of the labels’ very biggest hits, on the grounds that they are easily found elsewhere. Instead, 'Right Now' offers club-friendly and often-overlooked, deep catalogue selections drawn from the wealth of rhythm & rock released on the hallowed label. The big names mentioned so far are joined by key cuts from Jean DuShon, Jimmy Ricks, King Coleman, Richie Barrett, the Top Notes, Eunice Davis, Dean Beard, Choker Campbell, Johnny Jenkins, Billy Storm, the Tarantulas and the Van Dykes. Time for a deep delve into the depths of Atlantic.


      2xLP Info: 2LP vinyl collector’s edition featuring 32 of the most sought-after cuts from the 86-track 3CD set, drawing on 15 years of recordings for the iconic Atlantic label and its offshoot Atco.

      3xCD Info: An 86 track 3CD set with 20pp illustrated booklet, compiled and annotated by Lois Wilson (Mojo, Record Collector)

      Various Artists

      Soul City New Orleans - Big Easy Gems From The Dawn Of Soul Music

      'Soul City New Orleans' presents records which served to establish the musical direction of the city in the early 1960s, at the dawn of the soul era. Perhaps the most glowing testimony to the city came from songwriters Frank Guida and Joe Royster in their 1960 smash hit “New Orleans” for Gary ‘US’ Bonds: “Where the magnolia blossoms fill the air, you ain’t been to heaven if you ain’t been there.” New Orleans is also known as the Crescent City for its geographic shape, or the Big Easy for the city’s atmosphere and pace of life, largely driven by the high humidity and the general bonhomie endemic of South Louisiana.

      The music of New Orleans has tended to match the lifestyle, easy tempo with gently insistent rolling beat and a rhythm driven either by a thumping on-beat (Mardi Gras marching bands and second-line parades) or a laid-back off-beat. While the formative talent from the city’s rhythm & blues years was all signed to remote labels, by the end of the Fifties things were beginning to look up in the local industry, and there was a relative wealth of labels active in the city.

      Compiled and annotated by soul music authority and radio presenter Clive Richardson, 'Soul City New Orleans' features significant releases on local labels like Minit, Instant, Ric, Ron, Bandy and AFO, as well as NOLA-related recordings for other imprints both large and small. Here we have music from the formative period of the soul era in the Big Easy.


      2xLP Info: 60-track 2CD set, with colour illustrated booklet.

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