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MUSIC Album reviews with Kevin Bryan

Latest releases from Al Lewis, Ashley Hutchings and Martin Barre

Al Lewis
Te yn y Grug/Tea in the Heather
(Self-released)
★★★

I’VE never come across any of Al Lewis’s work before but I’m pleased to report that the new concept album from this acclaimed Welsh singer-songwriter supplies eloquent evidence of the underlying truth behind the old adage that music really is a universal language.

The lyrical content of Tea in the Heather will presumably be incomprehensible to the vast majority of listeners, but this collection of songs, inspired by the writing of iconic Welsh-language author Dr Kate Roberts, is nevertheless utterly compelling.

A series of short stories, they chronicle the lives of three young girls growing up in north-west Wales a century ago, and the evocative songs and spoken-word passages combine to sublime effect.

The haunting presence of a small volunteer choir lends added charm to the proceedings.

Ashley Hutchings
From Psychedelia  to Sonnets
(Talking Elephant)
★★★

Ashley Hutchings has never enjoyed a particularly high public profile as far as the average record-buyer is concerned.

But this multi-faceted artist has arguably been one of the most important and influential figures in the development  of the English folk-rock movement, having played a key role in the foundation of  roots-music institutions such as Fairport Convention, Steeleye  Span and the Albion Band during the course of a rich and varied career that now spans well over half a century.

Ashley’s contribution to the genre was recognised with the award of an MBE in 2015, and this fascinating live album captures his wide-ranging show at Wigan Parish Church  a year or so later, when he joined forces with the multi-talented Becky Mills and Ruth Angell to present a series of reflections on his long and varied musical journey.

Martin Barre
Live in NY
(Wienerworld)
★★★★

MARTIN BARRE’S fortunes have been inextricably linked with those of  Ian Anderson ever since he joined forces with the charismatic flute-playing frontman for the recording of Jethro Tull’s second album in 1969, after the acrimonious departure of their original  guitarist Mick Abrahams.

The Birmingham-born musician  was forced to step out of the shadows and embark on a rather belated solo career when Anderson decided to throw in the towel and end Tull’s existence as a band in 2012 and this excellent live offering captures Barre’s show at Daryl's House Club in New York four years later.

There he regaled his appreciative East Coast audience with a set list which drew heavily on familiar Tull crowd-pleasers such as Teacher, Sweet Dream and Locomotive Breath, alongside legendary bluesman Robert Johnson’s much recorded Crossroads and a rather unexpected revamp of Lennon & McCartney’s Eleanor Rigby.

 

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