Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week’s alternative CD releases.
Marianne Faithfull - Negative Capability (BMG). The release of a new Marianne Faithfull album remains a significant cultural event amongst music lovers of a certain vintage, and I’m pleased to be able to report that Negative Capability represents a fine addition to the impressive body of work that she’s assembled during the course of a career which now spans well over half a century. The starkly memorable contents were recorded at La Frette studios in the Paris suburbs and boast a stunning version of Dylan’s It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue alongside a haunting Nick Cave co-composition, The Gypsy Fairie Queen alongside an affectingly world weary re-vamp of her 1964 hit, As Tears Go By.
Ben de la Cour - The High Cost of Living Strange (Flour Sack Cape Records). Brooklyn-born Ben de la Cour chronicles the darkly troubling flipside of the American dream with wit, empathy and perception, operating within a genre which he himself has dubbed “Americanoir.” The High Cost of Living Strange captures his honest and uncluttered approach to music-making at its most poetic and compelling during tenderly observed narratives such as Guy Clark’s Fiddle and Uncle Boudreaux Went To Texas, although the hypnotically menacing Tupelo is arguably the best of an excellent bunch.
David Crosby - Here If You Listen (BMG). The veteran countercultural icon may be in his late 70s now but his zest for innovative music-making thankfully remains intact, and his latest collaboration with the gifted Lighthouse Band is an understated joy from the first note to the last. The bulk of the set was penned by Crosby and his cohorts in the space of just a few short days, and the fruits of their labours include gems such as the Little Feat inspired Janet, the politically charged Other Half Rule and a poignant revival of Joni Mitchell’s anthem for a lost generation, Woodstock.
Steve Forbert - The Magic Tree (Blue Rose Music). Mississippi-born Steve Forbert first rose to prominence during the late 70s, enjoying the greatest commercial success of his career with the taut and evocative Americana of albums such as Alive On Arrival, Jackrabbit Slim and Little Stevie Orbit. Steve has inexplicably faded from the limelight since those heady days but he still delivers the goods on record like precious few of his contemporaries, and The Magic Tree should be required listening for anyone who’s ever been captivated by the sound of the great man’s distinctive voice and wheezing harmonica during the past four decades.