VARIOUS ARTISTS – Transatlantic Sessions 5: Volume One (Whirlie Records Whirlie CD25)

The great thing about receiving the latest Transatlantic Sessions CD is that you know all is right with world. In company with twenty-six of the best vocalists/musicians in the field of ‘folk’ music you don’t even need to get the accompanying DVD (although of course you could) to soak up the electric atmosphere of being locked away in an old hunting lodge in the Perthshire Highlands…for emanating within the stone walls comes forth possibly the most joyous sound you are ever likely to hear. The empathy created by everyone being so closely involved in the project must be the dream of any producer and capturing the whole experience is recording, mix and mastering maestro Iain Hutchinson. If I credited everyone it would take until the next session to list them but just to whet your appetite the line-up includes the staggering dobro performances of Jerry Douglas, Aly Bain on fiddle, Donald Shaw (accordion), Danny Thompson (double bass), Eddi Reader, Sarah Jarosz and Alison Krauss vocals. The feeling of bonhomie that is in evidence throughout the whole recording would provide scientists with enough energy to power the Large Hadron Collider and even Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic poem “Annabel Lee” set to an Appalachian sounding minor key melody by Jarosz can do nothing to mute the immeasurably good time everybody had in each others company. On a final note, what a pleasure it is to hear Eric Bibb’s interpretation of “Goin’ Down The Road Feelin’ Bad” as, for me (and I’m sure many others) it brings back many happy memories of Scotland’s JSD Band in full flight and just goes to show you can’t put a good song down!

PETE FYFE

THE WEBB SISTERS – Savages (PRPCD079)

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive!”…so said Sir Walter Scott. And indeed, the web that sisters Charley and Hattie use to spread their wordy songs can indeed tangle their audience in knots but in such a refreshing way that we can easily dismiss any minor transgressions. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon the opening track “Baroque Thoughts” with its harp and vocal sounds as if it was lifted straight from a Kate Bush track (although I can’t quite put my finger on it as to which one it was) and emerges delicately to flutter away without a care in the world. This is ‘proper’ grown up music and under the watchful eye of producer Peter Asher it has to be said it will more than likely wind up being my album of the year. OK, I know I can get caught up in the beauty of it all but the combination of engrossing lyrics wrapped tastefully in strategically placed musical arrangements I defy anyone not to get emotionally involved. Crossing genres into the ‘country’ flavoured “Burn” broadens the girls appeal even further and as for using the introduction by “Mr Thirty-Stories” himself (Leonard Cohen) on the girls cover of “If It Be Your Will” is a master stroke. By the way, that little transgression I mentioned…why do you have to come across as being all “Essex” when you’re obviously not (they’re in fact from Kent) if you get my drift? In many ways the lyrics wind up sounding somewhat sleazy or at best a little ‘cheap’ and I suppose if that’s your thing, trying to be like Lily Allen might be a marketing man’s dream but could well bite you on the bum further down the line. That aside, this really is an outstanding recording and should be high on your list of ‘must haves’.

PETE FYFE

Artist Web link: www.thewebbsisters.com