Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats - A New Music City (Sony Music): This hugely entertaining 2-CD set explores the invaluable contribution that Nashville’s session musicians made to some classic albums during the late 60s and early 70s. The consumate artistry of largely unsung musical heroes such as harmonica ace Charlie McCoy and pedal steel guitarist Lloyd Green embellished landmark recordings from the likes of Simon and Garfunkel, The Byrds and Bob Dylan.All of them are revisited here alongside gems such as Neil Young’s plaintive Heart of Gold, Steve Goodman’s infectious train song, City of New Orleans and a hitherto unreleased 1970 version of Dylan’s If Not For You.
Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham - The Complete Duo Recordings (Proper Records): Their names probably won’t mean too much to the average record buyer, but this low-key duo were responsible for crafting a string of beautifully emotive soul ballads during the genre’s 60s heyday, including I’m Your Puppet, Do Right Woman and James Carr’s Dark End of the Street. Messrs. Penn and Oldham have rarely ventured in front of the microphones themselves, but this fine audio-visual package presents the cream of their illustrious back catalogue for your delectation, drawing on recordings made during their visits to the British Isles in 1998 and 2006.
The Albion Band - Under The Rose (Talking Elephant): This long unavailable offering from the 1984 incarnation of the Albion Band finds the excellent Cathy Lesurf handling the bulk of the vocal duties, aided and abetted by founder member Ashley Hutchings and Phil Beer of Show of Hands fame. The musical content is the usual majestic fare which has become this British folk-rock institution’s trademark over the years, with Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Dancing Under The Rose and Woodlands of England emerging as the cream of a uniformly excellent crop.
Asleep at the Wheel - Live in Pennsylvania (Wienerworld): Asleep at the Wheel’s sublime fusion of Texas country and Western swing may never have been a particularly commercial proposition but Ray Benson and his gifted cohorts have soldiered on regardless, and this enjoyable live DVD serves up the highlights of a recording career which began long long ago in 1973 with the release of their well-received debut set, Comin’ Right At Ya. The band have been through quite a few line-up changes since those days but Philadelphia-born Benson is still their creative driving force, and the laconic singer and guitarist is in particularly fine fettle here as Asleep at the Wheel regale their Pennsylvania audience with perennial crowd-pleasers such as House of Blue Lights, Take Me Back To Tulsa and The Letter That Johnny Walker Read.