Sunday, 29 July 2012

reviews: the big eyes family players, the lost brothers, the cathode ray

The Big Eyes Family Players & Friends - Folk Songs II (****)

After 2009’s Folk Songs collaboration, James Yorkston lets the Big Eyes Family Players take charge of the sequel, appearing on just a couple of tracks this time around. But canny to the wisdom of ‘many hands make light work’, James Green and company have introduced a variety of Friends to the fold as replacements, and consequently, there’s an increased diversity.

Each contributor brings a slightly different quality to the table and the Players respond accordingly: particularly effective are Heather Ditch’s soulful rendition of The Clyde Water, underpinned by acoustic arpeggios and a subtle synth buzz, and the Alasdair Roberts-sung Maureen from Gippursland, which hews closer to folk convention in vocal delivery, if not necessarily instrumentation (an ebbing, rippling array of organs, strings, cymbals and more). On Folk Songs II, The Big Eyes Family Players respect tradition without being enslaved by it, making a third entry highly desirable.

Out 6th August

  The Lost Brothers – So Long John Fante

 The Lost Brothers - So Long, John Fante (***)

With their debut released way back in 2008, it seemed The Lost Brothers might have taken their moniker literally and gone AWOL. But they’ve been busy: So Long John Fante was recorded two years ago in Sheffield (with studio musicians and producer Colin Elliot borrowed from fellow romantic troubadour Richard Hawley), while its successor has since been committed to tape in Nashville, slated for release on Brendan Benson’s Readymade label later this year.

Marrying mellifluous harmonising to conventional (but not staid) song-writing, the Brothers (Oisín Leech and Mark McCausland; not brothers) channel Fleet Foxes on a Bacharach tip. Lyrically love-locked, they’re not immune to generic imagery, but the duo's narrative skills are otherwise well-evinced; unfussy arrangements, meanwhile, make Simon & Garfunkel a definite touchstone. Other influences include slow-dance doo-wop (Only by the Light of the Moon) and alt-country (Bells They Won’t Ring), all adding up to an understatedly appealing listen.

Out Now

The Cathode Ray - The Cathode Ray (***)

While the particles in a cathode ray travel at lightning speed, Edinburgh’s The Cathode Ray are somewhat slower paced. A single in 2006, a second in 2009, and now finally an album three years later again – but as the animated opening track handily reminds those tut-tutting and tapping their wrists, Patience is a Virtue.
Part of the leisurely arrival is no doubt a consequence of founder member Paul Haig (formerly of Josef K) leaving to focus on solo material, his exit amicable but presumably impactful. His fingerprints remain, credited as co-author on eight of the eleven tracks, including album highlights like Monkees-pop nugget Train and the arch art-punk energy of Get A Way. In comparison, songwriting partner Jeremy Thoms’ sole-penned offerings are more variable, ranging from ace (Dispersal) to the record’s worst (the Santana-like Creature of Habit), casting doubt on the band’s more definitively Haig-less future. But for now, they're scintillating.
 Out Now

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