Judith Owen - rediscCOVERed (Twanky Records). Judith Owen has always seemed content to march to the beat of a markedly different drummer from many of her contemporaries in the singer-songwriter field, and the Welsh chanteuse’s latest offering on her own Twanky label is populated by the most eccentric collection of cover versions that you could ever wish to hear. Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water is given a thorough going over alongside radical re-imaginings of everything from Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun to the Grease anthem Summer Nights, and the finished product is a thoughtful, jazz inflected delight.
Matthew Byrne - Horizon Lines (available from www.matthewbyrne.net). Newfoundland-born Matthew Byrne is now firmly established as one of Canada’s finest folk talents, and his eagerly anticipated third album serves up a by now familiar blend of self-penned songs and traditional material from both sides of the Atlantic. Compelling lyrical narratives and haunting melodies interweave beautifully as Matthew unveils a memorable acoustic package featuring fine songs from the Irish folk tradition such as The Woods of Truagh and Sarah Jane alongside the classic Scottish whaling ballad, Farewell to Tarwathie.
Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (Domino). No-one could ever accuse Alex Turner and his cohorts of choosing to play safe and rest on their laurels, and the Arctic Monkeys’ restless musical explorations continue with Tranquility Base. The contents are certainly a far cry from the energised indie rock which became their trademark when their chart-topping debut album, Whatever People Say I Am... catapulted the Sheffield outfit into the limelight a decade or so ago, drawing on influences as diverse as Pet Sounds era Beach Boys and noted French maverick Serge Gainsbourg to create freshly minted gems such as American Sports, Four Out of Five and The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip.
Manfred Mann - The Five Faces Of(Umbrella Music). As the sixties progressed Manfred Mann’s name would become synonymous with infectious chart successes such as Do Wah Diddy Diddy and Pretty Flamingo but the group’s repertoire was still dominated by driving rhythm and blues when their splendid debut album, The Five Faces Of, first saw the light of day in 1964. This mono CD re-issue features their raw and urgent covers of songs made famous by the likes of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Willie Dixon to name but a few, with vocalist and harmonica ace Paul Jones in sparkling form throughout.