Bill Frisell ‘Music Is’ 2LP/CD/DIG (OKeh/Music On Vinyl) 4/5

Guitarist Bill Frisell has been a major figure on the international jazz scene for the last thirty years or so and has recorded for labels as prestigious as ECM, Nonesuch and now OKeh/Sony. His own childhood and musical roots are in the American heartland of country and folk music, and it is the combination of these genres with improvised music that has made him one of the most distinctive and enjoyable guitarists around. In recent years, Frisell, moreover, has found the time to duet on some wonderful jazz meets world roots recording as well as covering the music of John Lennon among several other one-off projects. Here, on this new recording, however, he is very much on his own, acting as a multi-instrumentalist on electric and acoustic guitars, loop, bass, and even ukelele. The lovely opener, ‘Pretty Stars’ lays down the standard for the album as a whole with the emphasis firmly placed on musicality. A simple repetitive riff is added to with the overdubbed second guitar playing off one another. Frisell avoids the potential trap of becoming too technically detached from the music itself and instead lays down some deeply melodic lines. Folk music hues predominate with the gorgeous folk-tinged lyricism of, ‘Thankful’, a highlight as is the similarly themed, ‘The Pioneers’. One piece is dedicated to a musician that Bill Frisell has previously performed with on, ‘Ron Carter’, and this serves as the pretext for a duet between Frisell the guitarist and bassist, and in the process adopting the persona of a latter day George Benson, or say Wes Montgomery, and that adds some tasty soul-blues licks to proceedings.

Another dimension to this solo recording is the more experimental side that Frisell is eager to participate in. This is exemplified on a piece such as, ‘What Do You Want?’, where a simple folk-based theme is then added to with layered texture in the background, and then a metronomic ‘tick-tock’ sound is created on top of that. If the album departs at all, then it is surely on the rock-tinged, ‘Think About It’, where Frisell sounds as though he has been listening to Neil Young from his Crazy Horse period. Two versions of the piece, ‘Rambler’, receive contrasting interpretations. On the former, the more experimental side of Frisell is showcased, with the use of loops. This writer much prefers the second, pared down reading, where the guitarist is in gentle, reflective mood, and that better suits the album.

Post ECM, Bill Frisell’s work has been as inventive as ever and this album succeeds on at least two levels: offering challenging music on the one hand; still retaining a warm human touch on the other. Recording on his own seems to have freshened up the Frisell sound and now a veteran of the jazz scene. He is less interested in blowing you away with his virtuosity and far more focused on creating beautiful music, which he does here with customary aplomb.

Tim Stenhouse

Carmen McRae ‘Sings Lover Man and Other Billie Holiday Classics’ LP (Pure Pleasure) 5/5

Singer Carmen McRae had an intimate knowledge of Billie Holiday since they lived in the same block when the former was growing up in Harlem, New York, according to the authoritative biography of Holiday by Donald Clarke. In fact, being childhood friends was not the only thing they had in common since Carmen’s birthday came the day after Billie’s and they regularly celebrated together, invariably over-indulging. Thus, when it came to Carmen McRae interpreting songs that the late Billie Holiday had immortalised, the music was in good hands and this album, recorded in two sessions during 1961, and released in 1962, more than lives up to the billing. It certainly helped that McRae was surrounded by a crème de la crème billing of instrumentalists, and ones who were used to accompanying top calibre vocalists. These included Norman Simmons on piano, Bob Cranshaw (he of ‘Sidewinder’ fame with Lee Morgan) on the acoustic bass, and Walter Perkins on the drums, and with production duties courtesy of Teo Macero, who of course also produced Miles Davis among others. Guesting were the considerable talents of Nat Adderley on cornet and Eddie ‘Lockjaw’ Davis on tenor saxophone. Carmen McRae possessed a unique voice and one that, according to writer Keith Shadwick, was not just a singer’s singer; she was a musician’s singer as well. Carmen was adept to take more liberties with the material than Billie and in this respect, she was closer in affinity to both Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan, who were technically the most gifted. Furthermore, McRae, in her phrasings, dispensed with sentimentality whereas the emotive voice of Billie Holiday was the polar opposite and this was a major distinction between the two.

As the excellent back cover sleeve notes from noted San Francisco based jazz journalist, Ralph J. Gleason, one of her greatest admirers, attest, Carmen McRae imbued the songs with her own inimitable style. That meant a cool character reading of both ‘Strange Fruit’ and a dispassionate take on ‘Lover Man’, while she excelled with ad-libs on the more uptempo material such as, ‘Yesterdays’ (a favourite song of a future lady of jazz, Dianne Reeves, who emerged in the mid-late 1980s). Subsequently, Carmen McRae would record in a variety of contexts during the 1960s and 1970s, from reworking the then new standard, ‘Take Five’, with the Dave Brubeck quartet as part of the Jazz Ambassadors line-up for Columbia through to covering the new sounds of soul with string accompaniment on ‘For Once In My Life’, for Atlantic records. The album contained within represents a high point in her career and is on a par arguably with her greatest live recording, ‘The Great American Songbook’, from an intimate 1971 double album at a Los Angeles’ club, and the end of career opus, ‘Carmen Sings Monk’. Carmen McRae would go on to record for Blue Note, Concord (especially with George Shearing) and its Latin-Jazz off-shoot Concord Picante on the memorable ‘Heatwave’ album from 1982, with the latter recording especially recommended and again it was her ability to distance herself from the emotional lyrics that impresses.

Tim Stenhouse

Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’ LP/CD/DIG (Sony) 5/5

Van Morrison is in a rich vein of form at present, recording regularly and focusing on blues, folk and country in previous albums. This rates alongside his best of recent years and is firmly in the soul-jazz bag, which is ideally suited to the multi-instrumental talents of both Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco, Van Morrison expertly walking the tightrope of rhythm and blues meets jazz. Throughout his career, Van Morrison has incorporated jazz elements, whether that be deploying all-time great jazz musicians as on, ‘Astral Weeks’, or composing songs that have subsequently become jazz standards, such as, ‘Moondance’. What comes across here is the sheer joy of recording in this context, and an engineer from the old school of recording has been enlisted to give the music that has an infinitely more dynamic live feel. That they have succeeded all round in this endeavour is beyond dispute, and the listener comes out the undoubted winner. The album is a combination of older Van Morrison songs that have been revisited and some of his personal favourite standards. Opening up the album is a laid back and smoky atmospheric flavour to ‘Miss Otis Regrets’, with DeFrancecsco here doubling up on trumpet. A real favourite to these ears is the waltz-like groove of ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’ with Hammond, guitar and the soprano saxophone of Troy Roberts operating wonderfully in tandem. The music harks back to the classic soul-jazz recordings on Blue Note and Prestige. Blues shouters such as the late and great Big Joe Turner were a seminal influence on the young Van and on the mid-tempo soul-blues groove of, ‘The Way Young Lovers Do’, he gives something back in the most personalised way possible to that singing tradition, with some deft guitar licks from Dan Wilson. Of note are the excellent background vocals from daughter, Shana Morrison. The latter distinguished herself further on ‘Hold It Right There’, and it is clear to all and sundry that Van Morrison is having a ball. Meanwhile, Van’s love of standards is illustrated on, ‘You’re Driving Me Crazy’, and the blues is not forgotten with, ‘Gold Fish Bowl’. A prime candidate for the album’s most immediate and compelling track, ‘Close Enough For Jazz’, features the tightest of rhythm sections and swings from start to finish. In a more relaxed swing, ‘The Things I Used To’ impresses also. In summary, a terrific album and one that lingers long in the mind and soul.

Tim Stenhouse

Léo Ferré ‘Mai ’68’ 3CD (Barclay/Universal France) 5/5

Here is an artist who has previously been reviewed in these columns with a separate box set of his early career. For the uninitiated, Léo Ferré was a committed singer with strongly held views, but was also possessing deeply melodic singer-songwriter credentials, and with a strong nod towards French poets. Indeed, he has at least devoted three albums in the 1960’s to poets as diverse as Aragon, Baudelaire and Rimbaud, with Verlaine another key reference. However, this box set has been released to coincide with a commemoration of the events of May 1968, when a cross-section of the French population, from discontented workers, to students and film industry personnel (including both Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut) demonstrated throughout that month their opposition to everything from the form of government (regarded as repressive by those opposed to it) to the perceived consumerist society they were living in.

A trio of music aficionados, including Matthieu Ferré, son of Léo, music industry aficionados Xavier Perrot and Alain Raemackers, have together assembled this splendid box set that rightly places Ferré’s own work within the wider framework of popular discontent and not solely related to the events of 1968. The first two CDs focus more generally on Ferré’s work with socio-political themes, while the final CD is the jewel in the crown, a first ever release of a non-professional recording of a concert performance given by Léo Ferré, along with pianist Paul Castanier, on 10 May, 1968 at the Bobino theatre in Paris, in other words during the conflict itself. As such, it is a priceless historical document and that includes his own, ‘La révolution’. The sound quality, although not pristine, is perfectly acceptable, and that is beside the point here because it is the message contained within the songs that is all important. Stylistically, the concert was classic pared down Ferré, although two songs feature orchestral accompaniment, and elsewhere the accordionist Marcel Piazzola and his band lend a helping hand.

As far as the other two CD’s are concerned, they provide an overview of Ferré’s career, though are not a general ‘Best of’. For those in search of a beginner’s guide to the work of Ferré. Universal France issued a fine 3 CD set in the 1990’s (including the lyrical, ‘Jolie Môme’ and, ‘La langue française’, which is a gentle and humorous dig at the increasing usage of English in modern-day French expression – that being in the early 1960’s) which fits that bill to perfection. However, for general French history scholars, this new box set offers innumerable treasures, and the superb inner sleeve notes (only in French and requiring an intermediate level of understanding) explain individual songs in some detail. These range chronologically from 1948 through to 1972. Early in his career, Ferré espoused the cause of exiled Spanish Republicans, with, ‘Le flamenco de Paris’ (1948), and later derided General Franco, with, ‘Franco, la muerte’ (1964). That said, Ferré was philosophical enough to see the wider picture of a French society in transition as illustrated with, ‘La vie moderne’ (1958), which in some respects is a precursor to Jacques Tati’s film, ‘Playtime’ (1967). In fact, the lyrics within the song foresaw such classic lines as, ‘Miss Robot dances the polka’. Ferré’s own utopian vision is the subject of, ‘L’âge d’or’, but by 1961, he had had enough of politics in particular and there was a personal call to insurrection on, ‘Y’en a marre’ (‘Fed up’). What comes across in all these songs is the continuity of political commitment in the lyrics, and he joins the likes of Boris Vian who, in 1954, wrote and performed, ‘Le déserteur’, in the middle of war with Indochina. Of interest is the song, ‘Les anarchistes’ (1967), which Ferré wanted to place on an album of that same year, but was first aired at the Bobino concert.

The illustrative booklet contains a black and white photo of Léo Ferré and Paul Castanier on stage during the performance and the original flyer promoting the concert and looks the part in red and black like the outer box.

Tim Stenhouse

Luciano ‘In The Name of Love’ (Mountain Peak) 4/5

Roots reggae singer Luciano Messenjah returns with a diverse selection of sounds that is nonetheless tightly bound together by a common message in the lyrics of the nefarious consequences of war. He branches out into blues and gospel on the infectious opener, a reworking of the Ramsey Lewis 1965 smash soul-pop hit, ‘Wade in the water’, now adopted by northern soul fans as a definitive instrumental, and this is followed later by the folk-influenced acoustic guitar plus vocals of, ‘Serve Jah’.

Underpinning everything is the omnipresent twin influence of Dennis Brown in the vocals and Bob Marley in the message. The former can be heard especially on songs such as, ‘Hear oh Lord’, and, ‘The prophet rides again’, while Marley is all over the joyful, ‘Jah send your blessings’, an album highlight and arguably the strongest tune on offer, while the message only departs briefly on the distinctly nu-soul inflected instrumentation of, ‘Don’t walk away’, which is something of a surprise. Is Luciano making a pitch to attract a wider audience and demonstrate his ability to deliver outside of the reggae idiom? Even if that is the case, he still sounds authentic as a roots reggae singer and succeeds in simultaneously conveying a serious message on the theme of war while delivering the catchiest of chorus over an infectious keyboard vamp on, ‘Ooh la la la’. The music of Luciano is accessible, but still manages to communicate thought-provoking lyrics.

Tim Stenhouse

Sly and Robbie Meet Nils Petter Molvær Feat. Eivind Aarset And Vladislav Delay ‘Nordub’ (OKeh) 2/5

A potentially interesting fusion of the twin pillars of reggae ‘riddim’ in Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare and Norwegian trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær that largely does not come off and leaves any fan of reggae distinctly cold. Had a fiery sounding trumpeter or instrumentalist been paired with the mighty two of reggae rhythm sections, then this might have been a different story altogether. As it is, the layered synths and measured trumpet tones are far too preoccupied with creating atmosphere and that, sadly, means bass and drum are muffled and lost in translation.

The music works best when the reggae rhythms predominate as on, ‘How Long’, ‘Strange Bright Crowd’, and even, ‘War in the Blues’. However, it is only at the very end of the album that we even begin to hear what might resemble dub on, ‘Politically KKKorrrekkkttt’, but by then the battle has been lost. The cultural distance between this cerebral and laid back form of jazz and reggae is simply too great for any common ground to be possible.

Reggae and jazz can certainly come together in perfect harmony. One only needs to hear the music of Tommy McCook, Bobby Ellis, the piano genius of Monty Alexander paired with Ernest Ranglin, or even the instrumental delicacy of melodica legend Augustus Pablo to realize that. However, Molvaer makes no attempt whatsoever to accommodate reggae into his own repertoire and plods on with his own style, which is frankly anathema to a hot and spicy musical fusion. There is no doubting the virtuosity of Sly and Robbie, or their willingness to divert from norms, and they can and indeed have operated outside of the reggae vernacular (Grace Jones being a spectacular success in all respects). On this occasion, though, it is one experiment too many and more to the point one that emphatically does not function.

Tim Stenhouse

Hugh Masekela ’66-’76’ 3CD (Wrasse/Chisa) 4/5

One of the most interesting of jazz musicians, South African trumpeter High Masekela left his native land during the Apartheid era and, after marrying his first wife singer Miriam Makeba, started learning how to play the trumpet thanks to a scholarship in New York, with his wife being the major financial contributor. This excellent box set provides a fine overview of his career over the decade from the early recordings in the United States through to his Afro-Beat recordings with a crack West African band and frequent collaborations with members of the Crusaders, not to mention his long-term musical relationship with producer Stewart Levine.

What emerges is the portrait of a musician and human being who is very open to new influences and not content to reproduce former music even when he hit big on the pop charts, and in this endeavour, he should be commended for his unwavering artistic integrity. An early ode to Brazilian music, and by extension a personal interest in the wider African diaspora, is to be found in the ten minute plus cover of a Jobim/Vinicius de Moraes classic, ‘Felicidade’, here performed in an Afro-Latin vein by a quintet featuring Big Black on congas. The original version of, ‘What is wrong with groovin’?’, is much slower than the later, and definitive reading, by Letta Mbulu, and quite frankly, at this early stage of his career, his vocals were not the strongest, though he stuck at it and eventually became a melodic vocal accompanist. A club classic in, ‘Son of ice bag,’ has received numerous covers over the years and was the start of his most successful period commercially, culminating in, ‘Grazing in the grass’, that catapulted him to fame and went all the way into the top five of the Billboard pop charts at the time.

Interestingly, in his American quintet were to be found a young pianist called William Henderson, later to be an integral part of the Pharaoh Sanders quartet, bassist Henry Franklin (of Black Jazz recordings) and guitarist Arthur Adams. Manu Dibango would repeat the African presence in the mid-1970’s, while Miriam Makeba, had already crossed over at the beginning of the 1960’s with the memorable, ‘Click song’, that so enthralled American audiences and fascinated African-Americans who heard for the first time a bona fide language of their ancestors being sung. Perhaps, some of this early period could have been truncated to allow more coverage of the 1970’s period.

The second CD focuses on the consolidation of the Chisa label as fully autonomous from Motown and collaborative work with both the Crusaders and other American musicians such as bassist Monk Montgomery, brother of guitarist Wes, and pianist Larry Willis (later of the Fort Apaché Band with Jerry Gonzalez, as well as Cuban musicians such as Francesco Aguabella (percussionist with Santana among others). Fellow South African Caiphus Semenya is a regular musician during this period. The strongest of the albums in the early 1970’s is the double vinyl, ‘Home is where the music is’, readily available on CD (re-issued on Universal), and just one example is illustrated here, ‘Minawa’. Definitely an album to be heard in its entirety. In contrast, when Masekela started delving into West African music, he enlisted the support of a young group of musicians from neighbouring countries in the region, and ‘Masekela introducing Hedzoleh sounds’, was thus born. This was in part inspired by frequenting Fela Kuti and his pioneering Afro-Beat sound and the album in its entirety is re-issued here. In the US Blue Thumb records, the label for whom Masekela was now recording, were very supportive of this new sound and an American tour in 1974 took in both the capital of Washington D.C. and the famed singer-songwriter venue, the Troubadour, in Los Angeles. A second album with this band plus two Crusaders, ‘I am not afraid’, was released and contains an all-time classic Masekela composition in, ‘Stimela’, that recounts life back in South Africa, and was an important contribution to the anti-Apartheid struggle that was gathering momentum in Europe and North America. In the UK at the time, virtually every student union had its very own Steve Biko room, in homage to the black South African civil rights activist who lost his life during riots. Levine and Masekela were instrumental in the parallel creation of a musical festival to accompany the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight in Kinshasa, Zaire, between Mohammed Ali and George Foreman in 1974. Some of America’s greatest musicians of the time (B.B. King, Santana, Ike and Tina Turner, Sister Sledge, Bill Withers and the considerable talents of the Fania All Stars) combined with local talent such as the big bands of Franco and Tabu Ley Rochereau, and the daddy of them all, a certain James Brown who was massively popular with the Zairean population as a whole. Afro-Beat was the flavour of the day on, ‘Boys doin’ it’ for Casablanca records, and the terrific, Ashiko’, is a fine example of Masekela adapting his new band sound to the king of  Afro-Beat, and a kindred spirit in terms of confronting authority and the establishment in Nigeria. More explicit in intent, ‘Colonial man’, repeats the musical beat, but adds some serious socio-political content, which Casablanca (the home of Parliament, but also Kiss, and soon to be the label of predilection for disco diva, Donna Summer). Masekela once again sees the panoramic vision with Brazilian accordionist/vocalist Sivuca accompanying on, ‘A song for Brazil’, while both the title track and, ‘Whitch doctor’ [correct spelling editor] were too much for the label to stomach and seemingly commercial suicide committed by such blatant references to the effects of slavery.

A few caveats. First of all, given Masekela’s regular change of label throughout his career, it would be impossible for any anthology to be truly comprehensive. This one misses out on the later success of the mid-1980’s onwards when his participation with Paul Simon on the seminal, ‘Graceland’, attracted a whole new audience and at a time when the ‘world music’ genre had come into vogue. Thus, ‘Bush doctor’ and other songs from the era are not included here. Secondly, there are a few surprising omissions from the recordings that are covered here. In particular, from 1971, why leave out the terrific ‘Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive’, as well as half of the excellent, ‘Boys doin’ it’ album. Some of these are available on a single CD, ‘Hugh Masekela. The Collection’ (Spectrum, 2003).  Thirdly, ‘Afro Beat Blues-Ojah’, from the Chisa years is missing and there are no examples of his productions with other artists (covered for example on the Hugh Masekela ‘Presents the Chisa years 1965-1975 (rare and unreleased)’ on BBE (2005), which is a pity. Arguably, all of the aforementioned could have been rectified by not including so much of the earlier material, but then that does include some fine covers and recordings that in the UK at least are now hard to find so a difficult balancing act for any compiler, and three CD’s worth of material does provide a more extensive picture of Masekela. Otherwise, this is a praiseworthy offering and one that attempts to take the story from his career in the United States and the major pop success of, ‘Grazing in the grass’, through to the non-commercial projects with his African band while exploring new African and Latin sounds. Full marks for the outstanding presentation with a hardback gatefold sleeve and comprehensive inner sleeve notes courtesy of producer Stewart Levine.

* This anthology makes a good deal more sense when accompanied by the autobiography, ‘Still grazing. The musical journey of Hugh Masekela’, co-written by Masekela and MIchael Cheers (Three Rivers Press, New York, 2004)

Tim Stenhouse

Kekko Fornarelli ‘Abaton’ LP/CD/DIG (Eskape) 4/5

It is fitting that in the same year that EST’s “Live in London” is released, commemorating ten years since the untimely passing of Esbjörn Svensson, an album comes to the fore from an up-and-coming artist that conjures up fond memories of the late pianist.

Kekko Fornarelli is an Italian pianist and composer. He began learning classical piano the age of three, first through private tuition and later at the Conservatorio Piccinni in Bari. With a love for jazz burning brightly since he turned 18, it’s easy to hear clear influences from both these worlds in his melodic and stylistic approach to making music. Fornarelli already has 4 albums under his belt, his luscious fusion of Romantic classical music, modern jazz and 21st century rhythms all combining to create a quite gorgeous swirl of emotive sound.

“Abaton” is a trio recording, featuring Federico Pecoraro on bass and Dario Congedo on drums. The threesome work their way with effortless grace through the 8 tunes on this album. In the main it’s Fornarelli’s beautiful acoustic piano playing at the fore, though he does employ synth sounds and a few subtle electronics along the way. The trio work very well together, with some skilful interplay and close-knit interaction. In addition to the trio, there are also strings featured on 2 of the tracks, featuring conductor Leo Gadaleta. And I have to say these 2 tracks feature very highly in my estimation, the combination of Fornarelli’s lyrical piano playing alongside the strings is a magical experience, way beyond the normal ‘trio with strings’ combinations one might expect.

There are some stunning pieces of music on this album. The 2 aforementioned strings tracks “Apnea” and the title track “Abaton” are both highly emotive pieces of music, wonderfully written and performed, leaving me longing to hear more. I feel a rush of emotion each time I listen to these wonderful tunes. “The Drop and The Rock”, the opening tune, is very ‘EST’ and can’t but help remind the listener of what once came before. There is also an incredible version of Beck’s “Lonesome Tears”, with Fornarelli managing to match the original’s strength and power with a magnificent lyrical quality that rises and falls between delicate and vibrant, bringing every fibre in my body into a kinetic and animated appreciation.

Occasionally one might argue that the pianist allows his trio to slip a little into the ‘slightly too familiar’ piano trio expected territory, but overall this is one of the finest trio albums to my mind this year.

The spirit of Esbjörn Svensson lives on, in his music and in the undoubted influence he made on the jazz world, blazing a trail that others now follow and reinvent.

Mike Gates

Kitty Wells ‘I Heard The Jukebox Playing’ 2CD (Jasmine) 4/5

If you ever wondered what else there was in soulful country singers such as Patsy Cline, who thankfully avoid the Nashville stereotype of whirling strings and mundane background vocals, then Kitty Wells should be your next port of call. Soul Jazz records in their excellent two-part ‘Country Sisters’ of a few years back included examples of Kitty Wells’ work and this two CD set, while not the definitive statement from her (no version of her anthem ‘It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels’, for example), is nonetheless a fine microcosm of her career, covering a period of roughly eight years in the 1950s. Jasmine have already issued a previous double CD of Wells, ‘The Queen Of Honky Tonk Angels’ (where the aforementioned single is available), and for those starting off that might be the first port of call. This new release takes the story a step further and is still an excellent entry point. Kitty scored no less than thirty-two top twenty hits on the various titled country music charts (‘country and western’, ‘hillbilly’ among them) and this release focuses attention on two Decca albums from the mid-late 1950s, ‘The Winner Of Your Heart’ (1956) and ‘Lonely Street’ (1958) plus some earlier EP and LP material on the second CD. Concept albums had not yet seen the light of day and country albums tended to be a string of disparate 45s strung together with filler sides. In this case, however, Kitty Wells could always be counted on to provide quality as well as quantity and the melancholic nature of the material coupled with the superlative and distinctive delivery make for great music. For the two Decca albums, a trio of winners includes, ‘Lonely Side Of Town’, ‘Lonely Street’ and ‘You Can’t Conceal A Broken Heart’.

If anything, it is the second side that impresses most of all with ‘One By One’, an outstanding single from 1954 that went all the way to number one in the country charts. A real bonus on this second CD is almost a half hour’s worth of duets with the likes of Red Foley, Webb Pierce and of course not forgetting the great Ray Acuff. In fact, the only duets missing are with Johnny and Jack with whom she recorded elsewhere. Country music has historically prided itself on its male-female duets and this is certainly no exception. Elected to the Country music hall of fame in 1975, Kitty Wells fully deserves her place as one of the all-time great country singers. While we are on the subject, how about some enterprising label putting a two CD anthology of Lefty Frizell’s work on Columbia. One of this writer’s favourite country albums is Lefty’s ‘The Sad Songs Of Love’, and that deserves to be re-issued along with other work from his fine period on Columbia.

Tim Stenhouse

Astral Travelling Since 1993