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Chris Smither: Time Stands Still (Shock)

Chris Smither: Time Stands Still (Shock)

As on his earlier Leave The Light On, this grizzled singer-songwriter now in his mid 60s, covers a Bob Dylan song, this time It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes a Train To Cry. He also adds in Mark Knopfler's Madame Geneva's and that's a more useful reference, because Knopfler explores roots music -- but Smither lives it. His low grumble isn't...

Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed: Me and Jerry, Me and Chet (Raven/EMI)

Chet Atkins and Jerry Reed: Me and Jerry, Me and Chet (Raven/EMI)

Doubtless one for guitarists (of the country pickin' persuasion too perhaps), this two-fer pulls the '70 and '72 Grammy-grabbing duet albums by Atkins and Reed onto one disc and adds eight bonus tracks. There is a small band (which includes pianist Floyd Cramer) on the Me and Chet album. With Chet on the right and Jerry on the left you can...

John Hiatt: The Open Road (New West)

John Hiatt: The Open Road (New West)

For my money John Hiatt never sounds better than when he gets a rocking band behind and sounds a little venomous or angry. The back-porch Hiatt never much appealed to me -- so this, his 19th album, suits me just fine. With his tight little touring band and at age 57, he (mostly) writes about hitting the highway and some of the songs seem...

Marc Cohn: Listening Booth; 1970 (Sony)

Marc Cohn: Listening Booth; 1970 (Sony)

The way singer-songwriter Cohn remembers it, 1970 was when the Beatles, and Simon and Garfunkel, broke up. It was classic singles, the dawn of the singer-songwriter era (James Taylor, Neil Young and others), great albums by various solo Beatles, Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, Creedence . . . So he goes back to that year for this collection...

Ben Ottewell:Shapes and Shadows (Shock)

Ben Ottewell:Shapes and Shadows (Shock)

The name might not be familiar but from the first bar the voice certainly is. It belongs to that rusty balladeer in Gomez who here steps out with a classy, soulful solo debut of originals co-written with Sam Genders of the rather bent UK alt.folk outfit Tuung who have barely raised a ripple in this country. With a sound as distinctive...

John Hiatt: She Loves the Jerk (1983)

John Hiatt: She Loves the Jerk (1983)

Songs of spousal abuse or domestic violence are never going to be pretty or common, in fact on a countback the most outstanding one prior to this by Hiatt was probably the gloomy and dark He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King in the early Sixties. They'd heard from Little Eva (who'd had a chart hit with...

Gomez: Whatever's On Your Mind (Shock)

Gomez: Whatever's On Your Mind (Shock)

Split between the UK and USA, seven studio albums into their career and with songwriters Ian Ball and Ben Ottewell having released solo albums (rusty voiced Ottewell's being the excellent alt.folk Shapes and Shadows) hardly seems to have damaged Gomez, who started on a career high when they won the '98 Mercury Prize for their Bring It On...

J.J. CALE REMEMBERED (2014): Old slowhands together

J.J. CALE REMEMBERED (2014): Old slowhands together

I came to the late J.J. Cale rather late. Sure, I heard those Seventies albums, but they were mostly just aural wallpaper to whatever else was going on. Cale didn't shove his music at you, he was like a hoarse whisper in the background. So it wasn't until the late Nineties when, leaving for Australia, I stopped at the letterbox, grabbed...

Eric Clapton and Friends: The Breeze; An Appreciation of J.J. Cale (Universal)

Eric Clapton and Friends: The Breeze; An Appreciation of J.J. Cale (Universal)

Eric Clapton frequently speaks of himself as a messenger, originally passing on the blues then in the Seventies discovering the music of Bob Marley and J.J. Cale whose songs he covered to great success. Although not a close friend of the late Tulsa-based Cale until they collaborated on the Grammy-winning Road to Escondido in 2006,...

Mark Knopfler: Why the long face, son?

Mark Knopfler: Why the long face, son?

When former Dire Straits man Mark Knopfler came to New Zealand to play in 2005 I read the interview in the Herald about his terrible motorcycle accident . . . and burst out laughing. Not because of his injuries but about how he was described. He sounded like he was still the same miserable, awkward cuss I had met a few years previous....

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