Sophie Bancroft with Louis Durra, Songs (Lisaleo)

IT is always a sound policy for a singer-songwriter to have a good pair of outside ears on hand when making a recording, and in Herald Angel-winning US pianist Louis Durra, Sophie Bancroft has chosen particularly well. He joins her bassist partner Tom Lyne and drummer Stu Brown on this collection of 14 mostly self-penned tunes, and contributes his arrangement and production skills as well. It is a partnership that was featured in the Made in Scotland showcase at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has benefitted from further Creative Scotland support towards the work at Castlesound Studios. The result is Bancroft's best album by some distance.

Opening with a radical rethink of Dolly Parton's Jolene and closing with Burns' John Anderson my Jo, the other cover is Killing the Blues, perhaps too recently familiar from the Plant/Krauss collaboration Raising Sand, but entirely redeemed by Durra's glorious country piano soloing. Elsewhere the focus is almost always entirely on Bancroft, her voice as beautifully recorded as I've heard it and the music covering her songwriting career, with only four bearing last year's date and HearingYour Tears dating back to 1997. The wordless Friday Morning in Ardkinglas is a highlight, as is the version of Field of Poppies, a song that wittily acknowledges its antecedents in the lyrics.

Keith Bruce