Craig John Davidson – The Last Laugh (Fat Hippy Records) [Release date: 29.04.13]
Being on Fat Hippy Records is somewhat appropriate in the case of this 4th solo album from acoustic troubadour Craig John Davidson. Not because he’s fat, because he isn’t. But because the album has a real psychedelic era feel to it.
With a unique acoustic style that’s been deployed supporting the like of The Pines, Thomas Traux, Terry Reid and I Am Kloot, The Last Laugh has a warm ambience with Davidson’s layered guitar work providing a real depth of sound. And while, perhaps not the most gifted of vocalists, plenty of double tracking adds another several more layers to the overall effect.
It’s quite easy to be transported back to the late sixties with the trippy sound, one that in those days would almost certainly have been acid induced. With nods to Barret, Bolan and Donovan and beyond to the American West Coast, it’s a far cry from the grunge bands Davidson started out playing in.
Impossible to dislike, but equally lacking in anything that really stirs the soul, The Last Laugh is a very pleasant adventure but ultimately one track tends to blur into the next. Some might politely describe it as café society music. **1/2
Kris Kristofferson – For The Good Times / The Best Of (Salvo)
Not the first and almost certainly not the last ‘best of’ collection we’ll see from the iconic songwriter, singer and movie star that is Kris Kristofferson. Whatever you may think of the man and his music, it’s a lavishly packaged deluxe 2-CD set containing 38 tracks culled from his Monument Records recordings between 1970 and 1981 and beefed up by an extensive 24 page booklet.
Of course, the 1970s was an era when the words ‘and western’ were firmly appended to the word ‘country’, and we were a long way away from the bluegrass roots revolution that would see country find mainstream appreciation with the rock audience.
But there’s no denying that Kristofferson wrote some classics – such as ‘Me & Bobby McGee’, ‘For The Good Times’, ‘Sunday Morning Coming Down’ and ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’. All are included here, but those more familiar with the worldwide hit covers by the likes of Janis Joplin and Gladys Knight may be a little underwhelmed simplistic weathered charm of the originals.
In all honesty it’s unlikely to appeal to those recently converted to ‘modern’ country. It’s more of the country that many will recall featuring on the likes of the Andy Williams Show. Nice package, though – for those who like that sort of thing. **1/2
Derrin Nauendorf – Distant Empires
A new name to me, but one whose two previous releases – ‘Rattling Wheel’ (2006) and ‘Skin Of The Earth’ (2008) – were both awarded 4 star or better reviews in the likes of The Sunday Express, Classic Rock and the like, backed up by live sessions on Radio 2 with Bob Harris and Paul Jones.
‘Distant Empires’ is the native Australian’s first release in 5 years and unless something has changed, I’m struggling to see what the fuss is about. To my ear it’s a distinctly lo-fi collection of what sounds like, admittedly polished, demos. And from the pics on the accompanying artwork it would appear that ‘Distant Empires’ – recorded with Rick Foot on bass and Christian Bohm on drums – was recorded in his lounge (or possibly someone else’s).
The result is a loose collection of mid-paced blues based rockers predominantly featuring Nauendorf’s distinctive acoustic playing with his soulful Paul Rodgers style vocals adding a soulful rasp to proceedings.
There’s occasional, but too infrequent, electric guitar breaks, and on the whole the set seems to wander without much focus. It was the urgency of ‘One Night In Jerusalem’ and the wah-wah infused outro of ‘History Repeating’ that made me pin my ears back and take serious notice.
There’s no denying the playing’s intelligent, and the laid back approach adds a neat retro authenticity to the overall ambience, but ultimately the material falls a long way short of any mark that’s going to set pulses racing. **1/2
Erica Nockalls – Imminent Room (IRL) [Release date: 13.05.13]
Sometimes, you just have to ask ‘why?’ And bargain bin destined British musician Erica Nockalls’ debut release is just such an occasion. ‘What the f*k?’ would be an equally appropriate response.
Acknowledged by the artist as the result of an aural diet of Pet Shop Boys, Vivaldi and Marilyn Manson, an angular, melodic and savage album is promised. And on that level Imminent Room lives up to its billing. Perhaps a little surprising from a professional violinist who’s worked with The Wonder Stuff, The Proclaimers and The Ting Tings.
But there’s no doubt about it, Imminent Room is barking. When I first played it I wasn’t sure whether my ears or my CD player was broken. There are moments of cohesion and pop playfulness, but for the most part the personal frustrations that gave rise to the album are all too evident as synths mash out of tune, Lena Lovich style vocals are squeezed between bizarre rhythms and everything including the kitchen sink is thrown into the mix. And violin, naturally.
There’s dark and disturbing undertones at play throughout and it could just be that Imminent Rooms achieves some alt-Bat For Lashes cult status. But for most it will simply be too discordant. Scary stuff. **
Review by Pete Whalley
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 23 August 2020.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 25 August 2020.
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