Reviews roundup – Pat Metheny vs. Chris Norman vs. Deb Callahan vs. Tikahiri vs. Stick In The Wheel
The Unity Sessions
Well, if you’re into jazz guitar, then this is going to be an essential purchase. The 20 time Grammy winner was coming to the end of the 150 date world tour promoting the Unity band record and decided to film a show at an intimate New York theatre.
Rather than a straight ahead concert performance, this show saw the camera crew in stage interacting with the performers, giving a unique perspective of the show from their viewpoint. Thankfully, it didn’t interfere with the music, as the band give an exemplary performance, with saxophonist Chris Potter a particular standout.
Whether it’s down the middle jazz, a touch of fusion or a ballad, Metheny and his group can turn their hand to just about anything, with ‘This Belongs To You’, ‘Born’ and ‘Rise Up’, just about as good as this sort of thing gets.
The CVD / Blu Ray also comes with a bonus feature that includes interviews with Pat and the band.
The last album from Chris Norman, “There And Back”, was a real treat. It saw the former Smokie singer rocking things up a bit to great effect. This one sees him stripping things back a bit, and going for a rootsier, mid American sound, more redolent of other albums from his solo career.
it’s still good, mind, as he still has a great voice, and the pop-rock, soft rock, Americana sounds of songs like ‘Waiting’ and ‘Before The Morning Knows’ are a real treat. His voice has deepened and broadened over the years, so there is more to it than the seventies rasp people will remember him for.
There is a cracking ballad in the shape of ‘Fly Away’ and the closing ‘Love’s On Fire’ is a reminder that he can still rock out when he wants to. Hopefully, this might be the one to raise his profile back home, because as a singer and a songwriter he should be much more appreciated.
A new name to me, but Philadelphia singer, Deb Callahan, has been at this for quite a while, and it’s easy to hear why she’s made a bit of a name for herself, as this is a very strong release.
Even before you appreciate the quality of the songs, you can hear how good her band is, and with a pedigree that encompasses the likes of Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, BB King and Stevie Wonder, it’s no surprise that they can play.
Most of the material is original, although there is a great version of the Sonny Boy Williamson (II) tune, ‘Crazy ‘Bout You Baby’, that is an absolute treat. Elsewhere, there is a mixture of smooth blues, a touch of soul and even a hint of gospel, on an array of great songs like ‘Big Love’, Shackin’ Up’ and ‘I Am Family’. Although my favourite is the Candi Staton / Muscle Shoals number, ‘Sweet Feeling’, which is a joy to listen to.
Son Of Sun
Quart de Lune
And as if to prove that metal is the universal language, here come Tikahiri, all the way from Tahiti in the South Pacific with their new album “Son Of Sun”.
And it makes for an interesting listen. Part metal, part alt rock, part goth, and with some Polynesian rhythms thrown in for good measure, there is a rarely a song that doesn’t have something worth listening to in there.
They’ve been on the go since 2007, led by founders and brothers, Aroma and Mano Salmon, and have made a name for themselves since first appearing on French national television. For sure, not all the songs are winners, but with some interesting arrangements and powerful performances, it’s certainly worth a punt if you’re looking for something a wee bit different.
STICK IN THE WHEEL
Highly lauded and nominated for awards, Stick In The Wheel have got a lot of folky hopes riding on this debut album. And they mostly live up to them.
A rough edged folk outfit, although far from the punk folk tag that’s been appended to them, they certainly have a degree of grit about them, it’s the kind of thing that could easily appeal to people outside the folk idiom, whilst being rooted enough for traditionalists.
I must admit I’m not he biggest fan of Nicola Kearey’s vocals, but the overall band performance works and works well. Their version of the Shirley Collins song ‘The Blacksmith’ is a must listen, while ‘Hard Times Of Old England’ will appeal to people who’ve forgotten (or never knew) what hard times actually are.
It’s spirited and vital, and even if it’s not the classic that many were hoping for, with a tad too much noodling hither and thither, it’s still a damned fine debut.