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Reviews Written by
M. G. Wilson (Eastbourne)

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The Sacred Shakers
The Sacred Shakers
Price: £13.88

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tasteful but bland, 26 Sep 2008
This review is from: The Sacred Shakers (Audio CD)
The marketplace for neo-traditionalist recordings of old-timey hymns and gospel songs is nearing saturation point. So it takes something special to stand out, which sadly the Sacred Shakers do not. It's perfectly tasteful acoustic music with plenty of banjo, but a bit bland and lacking in energy.

For UK readers there's something here that reminds me of long ago (recently reformed) before their time skiffle revivalists The Wobegone Brothers. But without the passion.

Rock N Roll
Rock N Roll
Price: £8.38

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brash, cocky, ironic and insecure, 26 Sep 2008
This review is from: Rock N Roll (Audio CD)
Hearing this album for the first time five years after its release leads to the conclusion that its poor reception at the time had more to do with its failure to be Heartbreaker 2 and critics getting fed up with Adams relentless opinionated self-promotion. In fact Rock n Roll does exactly what it says on the can. Recorded in two weeks when Lost Highway refused to release Love Is Hell (not commercially viable) this is the sound of Adams sticking up two fingers to his label. That it is an ironic pastiche doesn't mean that it's not good, and in some cases better than the source of inspiration. Neither does it mean that it's not recognisably, characteristically Ryan Adams. 'This Is It' opens the album a response to The Strokes, muscling in on their territory, and like every other song here says: look at me, I can do this too and I can do it better than you'. It's brash, cocky and insecure but criticising it for a lack of sincerity surely misses the point. Rock N Roll may fall short of the classic status that Adams so craves, but it's still a great listen.

Tooth Of Crime
Tooth Of Crime
Price: £17.14

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Angular, dark and challenging, 24 Sep 2008
This review is from: Tooth Of Crime (Audio CD)
Tooth of Crime is a series of songs for a Sam Shepard play of the same name. Shepard originally wrote the play in 1972 and subsequently produced a revised version in the nineties. Burnett likewise has been working on these songs for many years. The story concerns an aging washed up rock singer battling with a rival in `The Game'- a world of violent rock music(?!?) If the plot is opaque, it could hardly be said that the lyrics clarify matters. Nonetheless the bitter sardonic mood and dystopian futuristic setting are clear enough.

Although using many of the same players featured on the Burnett produced Krauss / Plant album `Raising Sand', `Tooth of Crime; could not be further from that album stylistically or in atmosphere. Where `Raising Sand' is warm and organic, `Tooth of Crime' is cold, dark and alienated. In many ways this sounds more like a Sam Phillips album than a T Bone Burnett album. Taking that as a reference point, imagine a Tom Waits soundtrack for Bladerunner and you won't be too far off. This is not easy listening: the songs are built for musical theatre of the art-house variety, rather than radio or dancehall, and as such often do not really stand alone. As a producer and arranger, Burnett is second to none, but here he assembles and deploys his musical forces to create a soundtrack that is nothing like a soundtrack in the conventional sense, being too angular and challenging to be the background for anything. Darkness pervades the songs from first to last. `People tell me I look like hell. Well I am hell...You're my friend, but I'm going to kill you.' Burnett intones on the opener, `Anything I say can and will be used against you'. And `Sweet Lullaby' which closes out the album is anything but: `Time is quit, look it in the eye. In blood we sit, in dark we die. Fare thee well, sweet lullaby'.

For fans it's good to have any new music from Burnett, but while interesting, it's hard to see this becoming a favourite.

The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem
The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus's Final Days in Jerusalem
by Marcus J. Borg
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.33

28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Confronting authority, 20 Sep 2008
Borg and Crossan's book follows Mark's account of the days from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday and takes a straightforward expository approach to the text. Their focus is on what Mark is telling us and why, placing the account firmly in its historical context, and drawing out Jesus' confrontation with the authority of Caesar and the compromised and corrupted temple authorities of the time. By taking this approach the authors have produced a highly accessible book which has an appeal beyond the liberal community of which they are part. At least until their account of Easter Sunday, and their treatment of the resurrection as metaphorical and labelling of Jesus' appearances as `apparitions'. A further weakness comes in their attempted application. Ironically their approach is critical of the imbalance they perceive between those who emphasise personal transformation and those who emphasise political transformation. In so doing they miss the crucial dimensions of God's transformation of the whole creation and the central role of community in Christian living.

This is a good book for all of that and recommended reading for Christians across the spectrum.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 7, 2010 7:50 PM GMT

by Marilynne Robinson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wintry landscape, icy lake, 19 Sep 2008
This review is from: Housekeeping (Paperback)
Housekeeping is a serious book with important things to say about the impact of loss and loneliness on a family and the way that, unchecked, these can lead to a gradual loosening of the bonds with human community. And for Ruth and her aunt Sylvie, a loosening of their grip on reality. Robinson also highlights the repeating patterns across generations, the inevitability of consequences - the sins of the fathers (and mothers) being revisited on generation after generation. This is also a book in which several of the main characters have died, but whose absence is as real, or more real to Ruth and Sylvie than the presence of the living.

Robinson can write beautifully, but in this her first novel I had a sense that sometimes she was too much in thrall to that beauty of expression, that poetry, and that less would have been more. Despite that the evocation of wintry landscapes, the seductive pull of the icy lake, the inevitability of decay and decline are powerfully expressed.

Bring Me Your Love
Bring Me Your Love
Price: £14.52

3.0 out of 5 stars Stripped back, 19 Sep 2008
This review is from: Bring Me Your Love (Audio CD)
This is the second solo album of Dallas Green, trading under the name City and Color. In contrast to Green's day job fronting a 'post-hardcore' band (whatever that might be) 'Bring Me Your Love' is spare, stripped back acoustic folk. The sparse instrumentation, often just banjo and acoustic guitar, support a surprisingly accessible set of songs in the singer songwriter tradition, ethereal, delicate, full of introspective melancholy, and yet hopeful. Vocally, comparisons might be made with Iron and Wine or Bon Iver, but the arrangements are less developed than on those artist's recent albums and partly as a result, 'Bring Me Your Love' is a less distinctive offering.

The Good Life
The Good Life
Price: £10.72

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly enjoyable start, 16 Sep 2008
This review is from: The Good Life (Audio CD)
Justin Townes Earle may be following in his illustrious father's footsteps in becoming a country troubadour, but a copyist he is not. Opening this record, 'Hard Living' rather harks back to an earlier simpler era in country music history. The same might be said of 'The Good Life' 'What Do You Do When You're Lonesome' and 'Ain't Glad I'm Leaving'. Country the way Hank done it. Elsewhere, on 'Who Am I To Say' 'Lone Pine Hill' and Turn Out My Lights' for example, JTE adopts a more modern, Americana approach: lonesome, melancholy, plaintive. More in the vein of Jeffrey Foucault. He may not yet be the finished article, with a truly distinctive vision yet to emerge, but with 'The Good Life' Earle has made a thoroughly enjoyable start.

Once Upon a Time in the North (His Dark Materials)
Once Upon a Time in the North (His Dark Materials)
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Inessential but fun, 9 Sep 2008
This prequel is the story of how Lee Scoresby met Iorek Byrnison (characters in the His Dark Materials trilogy, and if you haven't read that, better to start there than here). It might fairly be classed as a ripping yarn. It's a tale well told, charmingly illustrated with engravings by John Lawrence: inessential but fun.

The Trumpet Child
The Trumpet Child
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £13.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Career High, 8 Sep 2008
This review is from: The Trumpet Child (Audio CD)
Eighteen years in is a little late to expect a commercial breakthrough. And it's rare for artists to be reaching a career high this far in. OTR have achieved the latter and deserve the former. 'The Trumpet Child' continues the decisive move away from the country tinged approach of 'Ohio' that began on 'Drunkard's Prayer'. In its place a whole fistful of classic American music stylings, with a large helping of New Orleans jazz that give Karin the space to stretch out vocally and show what she can do. In the past there has sometimes been a coolness to OTR's music. Not here - this is warm, sexy, up close and personal, especially on 'Trouble' and the one two punch of 'Let's Spend The Day In Bed' and 'Desperate For Love'. The band have a lot of fun with an affectionate tribute to Tom Waits on 'Don't Wait For Tom' and close out the album in timely fashion with the impossibly naive and yet desperately hopeful 'If A Song Could Be President'. Special mention must go to Brad Jones whose production (and bass) makes such a big contribution to the sound of this album.

If you've waited 18 years to make the acquaintance of this band, you've waited too long, and yet still not missed the opportunity to catch them at the height of their powers.

Slow Train Coming
Slow Train Coming
Price: £8.04

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Forget the received wisdom and the dogma. Listen for yourself., 5 Sep 2008
This review is from: Slow Train Coming (Audio CD)
Recorded and largely played by the team that had earlier recorded Dire Straits' 'Communique' 'Slow Train Coming' benefits from the production sheen of Beckett and Wexler, and seems today a natural step on from 'Street Legal'. Except that Bob's conversion and explicitly christian lyrics completely threw the critics at the time. I guess if Bob had embraced Buddhism or Sufism it would have been different. Anyway, the result is an uneven and patchy album, but with moments of brilliance that make it well worth the listen. Opening track 'Gotta Serve Somebody' is a classic musically and lyrically, and 'Shine Your Light' a rousing, soul tinged gospel song. 'When You Gonna Wake Up' hits a groove and won't let go. 'Man Gave Names...' is a charming nursery rhyme and 'When He Returns' an older blues style of gospel.

Forget the received wisdom and the dogma. Listen for yourself. What truth do you find here?

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