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RECORD REVIEW: with Kevin Bryan

KEVIN Bryan with his latest Record Review instalment - featuring The Mavericks, Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale, McAuley Schenker Group, Crime & Punishment and The Greatest Show on Earth.

The Mavericks, “In Time” (Decca Records) - This Miami-based band’s curiously timeless sound seemed to have been silenced for good when the quintet decided to call it a day in 2003, but the Grammy award-winning outfit has now decided to put their various solo projects on the back burner for a while and perform once again as The Mavericks.

The contents of their comeback set adhere fairly rigidly to the musical formula which brought the group so much commercial success in the mid-90s, blending elements of Tex-Mex,rock and country to create easy on the ear ditties such as Born To Be Blues, Back In Your Arms Again and As Long As There’s Loving Tonight.

Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale, “Buddy & Jim” (New West NW 6268) - This engaging throwback to the harmonised country duets of 1950s America is the brainchild of Nashville songwriter Jim Lauderdale and guitarist Buddy Miller, who’s probably best known on this side of the Atlantic for his work with Robert Plant’s Band of Joy.

Some deliciously eclectic self-penned songs rub shoulders with covers of Joe Tex’s I Want To Do Everything For You and bluesman Jimmy McCracklin’s The Wobble, and the duo’s sinuously intertwining guitar work is a joy to behold throughout this excellent set.

McAuley Schenker Group, “Unplugged Live” (Cherry Red HNECD 004) - MSG’s fourth and final album was recorded live in California in 1992, and found notoriously erratic guitarist Michael Schenker regaling his Anaheim audience with acoustic versions of golden oldies from his days with UFO such as Doctor Doctor, Lights Out and Natural Thing.

Schenker and former Grand Prix vocalist Robin McAuley both seemed to be in particularly fine fettle at the time, but management problems would prompt the two men to go their separate ways a few months later, leaving this unpretentious package to serve as their impressive musical epitaph.

“Crime & Punishment” (Fantastic Voyage FVDD 139) - Compiler Kris Needs’ captivating new anthology explores the twin themes of crime and punishment via some carefully selected archive performances from many of America’s finest blues, folk and country artists, including Johnny Cash, Bukka White and John Lee Hooker.

Many of the participants had personally experienced the unrelenting hardship and prejudice which provided the lyrical backdrop for many of their songs, and this lends an added aura of authenticity to classic recordings such as Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, Lead Belly’s riveting John Hardy and the great Paul Robeson’s Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child.

The Greatest Show On Earth, “Horizons” (Esoteric ECLEC 2362) - This short-lived outfit recorded two albums for the legendary Harvest label in 1970 in a vain attempt to emulate the success of American brass-rock combos such as Chicago and Blood, Sweat and Tears.

Horizons provided an interesting vehicle for the eight-piece band’s distinctive horn laden sound, incorporating a diverse array of musical influences from prog-rock to acoustic music and jazz.

The project was sadly doomed to failure however, although propulsive bass player Norman Watt-Roy would later go on to find fame and fortune as one of the key members of Ian Dury’s Blockheads.


 

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