Record Review with Kevin Bryan

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Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week’s alternative CD releases

Kathy Mattea - Pretty Bird (Thirty Tigers). Kathy Mattea has been inactive on the recording front since the release of 2012’s bluegrass orientated Calling Me Home, but the West Virginia-born country singer has now returned to the fray in rejuvenated form with the release of Pretty Bird, her finest album in many a long year. Roots music specialist Tim O’Brien handles the production duties with his customary expertise as Kathy breathes new life into captivating ditties such as He Moved Through The Fair, Joan Osborne’s St.Teresa and the enigmatic Bobbie Gentry’s sublime 1967 hit, Ode To Billie Joe.

The Searchers - The Farewell Album (BMG). Their effortlessly melodic sound may have enjoyed a relatively brief period of major chart success but the various incarnations of The Searchers have soldiered on for well over half a century now. The years have finally taken their toll on the band’s performing powers however, and the outfit fronted by Merseybeat veterans John McNally and Frank Allen have now decided that they’ll be calling it a day after completing their farewell tour in a few months time. The Farewell Album has been released to tie in with this final live jaunt, and this memorable exercise in musical nostalgia serves up trademark sixties hits such as Don’t Throw Your Love Away, Needles and Pins and When You Walk In The Room alongside a generous helping of rarities and quality album tracks.

Montana - Change in the Weather (Angel Air). Their name may not be too familiar to punters on this side of the Atlantic but this affable country-rock outfit were a musical force to be reckoned with in the area around their home state of Montana during the early 80s before the five band members perished in a tragic plane crash in July 1987. Tight vocal harmonies and polished musicianship are the order of the day throughout this easy on the ear package from 1981, with the title track and The Shoes On The Other Foot Tonight emerging as the best of a tuneful bunch.

Chet Baker - My Time With Chet (Sleepy Night Records). This affecting anthology draws on recordings made at various venues around the world by record producer and Chet Baker devotee Ernie Garside during the latter stages of the Jazz vocalist and trumpeter’s ultimately tragic career. Baker’s death in a fall from an Amsterdam hotel window in 1988 robbed the genre of one of its’ most distinctive talents at the age of just 59 and some fine examples of his work are gathered together here, including an eloquent 1987 interpretation of Elvis Costello’s Almost Blue.