Here is Kevin Bryan with his weekly look at some of the latest music releases.
John Otway - Montserrat (Red Bowler Records). The British music scene’s most irrepressible eccentric is best remembered these days for his briefly successful collaboration with the hirsute Wild Willy Barrett, which yielded an unexpected singles success in 1977 with Really Free. The duo were woefully ill-equipped to cope with this new found fame and fortune however, and gave up the ghost a few years later, leaving Otway to pursue a solo career which has been liberally peppered with heroic failures for the past three decades or so. His latest project found John travelling to the devastated Caribbean island of Montserrat to record a crowd-funded album in the soundproofed basement of the late Sir George Martin’s home, with predictably surreal and heart-warming results.
Paul Downes & Phil Beer - Life Ain’t Worth Living in the Old Fashioned Way (Talking Elephant). Multi-instrumentalist Phil Beer has been a member of award winning acoustic roots duo Show Of Hands since first joining forces with the equally gifted Steve Knightly in 1987, but his earlier musical partnership with Paul Downes also repays closer investigation. Their newly re-mastered debut album , Life Ain’t Living..., first saw the light of day in 1973 and serves up enchanting renditions of much loved folk favourites such as The Banks of Newfoundland, The Snow It Melts The Soonest and Spanish Ladies.
Simply Country (Union Square Music). The powers-that-be at Union Square have rounded up many of the usual suspects to populate this easy on the ear celebration of all things country, with much anthologised performers such as Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell and Johnny Cash all making telling contributions to the proceedings. What sets this four-CD set apart from more run of the mill country compilations is the astute inclusion of some slightly less familiar gems from the likes of Justin Townes Earle, Jimmie Dale and The Flatlanders and former Chicago mailman John Prine, whose memorable saga of domestic disaffection, Angel From Montgomery is in many ways the pick of an excellent package.
Andreas Ottensamer - New Era (Decca). Andreas Ottensamer is the principal clarinetist with the Berlin Philharmonic and the masterly Austrian musician’s latest Decca recital finds him exploring some of his instrument’s early repertoire via a selection of works which emerged from the German city of Mannheim during the 18th century. The Mannheim Orchestra was the first to include the clarinet as an integral feature of its line-up, and Ottensamer tackles some of the colourful works which emerged during this period, including pieces by Johann and Carl Stamitz, Danzi and Mozart, who apparently heard the recently invented instrument there for the very first time.