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CD reviews

Wreckless Eric Presents The Len Bright Combo / Combo Time!

(Fire Records)

The epithet "garage" has of late been applied to a genre of "urban" r'n'b music but it once meant a sort of raw basic rock'n'roll that was famously anthologised on the Nuggets collection of lost sixties gems from mostly forgotten American bands compiled by Lenny Kaye.

Every so often a young beat combo rediscovers this sort of authentic sound and are hailed by aged rock critics as the Next Big Thing.

This did not happen to the Len Bright Combo, a trio who appeared and disappeared in the mid-eighties in the blink of an eye and whose real back-story is scarcely less interesting than the fiction they made up at the time. It teamed one-time Stiff label artist "Wreckless" Eric Goulden with the rhythm section from The Milkshakes, Russ Wilkins and Bruce Brand, and, on the first record at least, captured that garage sound on tracks like You're Gonna Screw My Head Off and The Golden Hour of Harry Secombe like few have done before or since. Follow-up Combo Time! sounds rather more akin to a Wreckless Eric album, but also has its share of gems and it is good to have both available again. As it happens, Eric plays a solo gig in Glasgow tomorrow.

Keith Bruce

Yvonne Lyon

These Small Rebellions

(Yvonne Lyon Music)

The ten songs that constitute Lyon's sixth album, or thereabouts, are those of a confident, distinctive, but ultimately rather baffling voice.

With a suspicious symmetry, four are solo efforts, four are co-written with husband David and one each see her paired with Andrew Howie and Boo Hewerdine.

Only on the most superficial level are these songs of love, although relationships are at their heart, but they often seem to be aiming for a sort of ethereal spirituality that they are too practical to reach, so that Lyon ends up sounding anxious more than anything else.

That mismatch seems particularly so on The Girl on the Flying Trapeze and the Beginning of Everything, from which the album title is taken. The boldness of her titles somehow never find complete expression.

That said, her lyrics are almost always musical, so that nothing jars against the construction of her melodies, which are often very strong indeed, and are well served here by an augmented cohort adding fiddle and flugelhorn to her usual team with Wet Wet Wet guitarist Graeme Duffin and Foundry Music Lab engineer Sandy Jones overseeing production. Perhaps someone adding a little uncertainty, spice or edge to proceedings might have helped make the collection.

Keith Bruce

Caravan Palace

Panic

(Dramatico)

French outfit Caravan Palace didn't make any new friends when they cancelled their Celtic Connections gig last year over a stooshie about securing on-board flight space for their instruments. Personally, I'm not convinced Glasgow audiences missed much, as their second album, being pushed for a UK re-release, only repeats the gypsy-jazz-with-hip-hop-beats formula set up on their self-titled debut from 2008.

When they hit that Django Reinhardt remix style on, say, Dramophone, the effect is, at best, something that might have soundtracked an old black-and-white cartoon in the early days of MTV or, at worst, become an excuse for breakdancing moves in a Strictly Come Dancing Charleston routine. And it doesn't matter how many Gauloises you smoke or Jean-Paul Sartre plays you read: vocoder scat will never be cool.

There is decent jazz here - particularly when Hugues Payen's violin, Arnaud Vial's guitar or Charles Delaporte's bass is given space to breathe beneath the beats. But the same rhythmic programming tricks are played over and over, and the vocals are weak. The album peaked at No 20 when released in its native France some 18 months ago, which suggest that even on home ground its Belleville Rendezvous vibe is wearing thin.

Alan Morrison

Sarah-Jame Summers & Juhani Silvola

(Dell Daisy Records)

During the summer, The Herald garlanded a new female fiddle foursome called Rant with a Herald Angel after the group launched its debut disc at the Edinburgh Fringe - and it is an album certain to be on many a traditional music fan's pick of the year list.

This new release from one quarter of that group, in partnership with her Norwegian guitarist husband, is a nice coda to that collection, and in fact includes the self-penned Ormiston Rant to cement the connection.

There is something very intimate about the disc, whether in Silvola's lovely Portobello Smile or Pipe Major Donald MacLeod's lovely elegaic The True Lover's Lament, and Summers' fine fiddling has found a lovely foil in Silvola's highly versatile strumming and picking, which extends the usual role of the six-stringed instrument in trad music in all sorts of direcions. Summers takes understandable pride in being one of the last pupils of the late Donald Riddell, who also taught Duncan Chisholm and Bruce MacGregor, and two tracks pay tribute to that relationship as well.

In fact the ten rtacks are a lovely personal mix of history and geography - and there is even a seasonal tune entitled Christmas Carousing.

Keith Bruce

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