New CD releases: River Whyless, Rab Noakes and Tom Bailey | Music | Entertainment
Album of the week
Kindness, A Rebel – 4/5 (Roll Call Records)
Not in the least difficult to listen to – their vocal harmonies alone are worth the price of the CD – River Whyless are gloriously tricky to categorise.
A quartet, based in Asheville, North Carolina, the theme of their second album is that now hoary musical chestnut Trump’s America but their approach is so subtle and elliptical, the instrumentation so sublime that the subject matter is overshadowed by the execution.
The opening All Of My Friends features soft, brooding synths, Born In The Right Country a nagging electronic rhythm and the brightest of melodies.
Motel 6 has the clanging reverb of a David Lynch soundtrack while Van Dyke Brown is a jaunty country strum.
African-style highlife guitar on various tracks introduces a Paul Simon-esque vibe.
Gloriously schizophrenic, there’s not a track here that doesn’t demand an instant repeat hearing.
Welcome to Anniversaryville – 4/5 (Neon Records)
Older readers will recall Noakes’s 1973 Red Pump Special album, his second after leaving an early incarnation of Stealers Wheel and, for a while, all over the trendier ends of 70s rock radio.
Now 71, always an inspired and enigmatic singer-songwriter, he returns with the band he used for a 50th anniversary gig at Glasgow’s Fruit Market in 2017, reworking some of his older songs and interpreting artists as diverse as Al Jolson and Doris Troy.
The result is a warm and absorbing gem of a record, Rab’s artfully slurred vocal sounding both committed and nonchalant at the same time.
London Town, Oh Me, Oh My and a grittily detailed reflection on an immigrant’s lot, The Handwash Feein Mairket, are all superb.
Science Fiction – 3/5 (Mikrokosmos Records)
Former leading light in chart-busting 80s trio The Thompson Twins, Bailey has experimented with dub beat and world music in the 25 years since that band released its last single.
Science Fiction is a return to the Twins’ intelligent pop territory but with a fresh wit and compactness, and some truly inspired electronic touches.
Starting and ending with a neat, XTC-style drum roll, Ship Of Fools is a pithy invitation to a more carefree life – “I reserved a place for you/Destination – not a clue” – while Bring Back Yesterday is a chunky slice of good-natured nostalgia as fine as anything he has recorded.