Kevin Bryan’s record reviews

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Skinny Molly,”Haywire Riot” (RUF 1184)- Skinny Molly began life in 2004 as a rather superior Lynyrd Skynyrd/Molly Hatchet covers band, providing a welcome outlet for the talents of guitarists Mike Estes and Dave Hlubek. This initially temporary project has now acquired an air of permanence as European audiences have been eager to respond to the quartet’s muscular brand of music-making, which represents a compelling throwback to the golden era of Southern Rock in the early seventies. Founder member Hlubek was recently replaced by former Blackfoot guitarist Jay Johnson and Skinny Molly continue to go from strength to strength,with Estes’ latest batch of self-penned songs including gems such as “After You,” “Judge Parker” and the rousing “Shut Up And Rock.”

Jack Downing,”A Force That Cannot Be Named-The Jack Downing Anthology” (Cherry Red / RPM RETRO D 917)- Mr. Downing’s name may not be familiar to the average British punter, but this hirsute Arkansas gentleman was apparently once a prime purveyor of American roots music to the good people of Sweden, where this gifted anarchic character enjoyed megastar status for a few years during the late sixties and early seventies. RPM’s latest anthology draws on the cream of Downing’s vinyl output during this period,including a mildly shambolic cover of Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” and interesting versions of Hoyt Axton’s “Greenback Dollar” and Tom Paxton’s “The Last Thing On My Mind.”

Percy Sledge, “The Collection” (Rhino Records)- This emotionally charged performer is best remembered these days for his debut offering, “When A Man Loves A Woman,” the classic tear-jerker which soared into the higher reaches of the singles charts on both sides of the Atlantic on its release on 1966. It’s also the highlight of this affecting collection of peerless soul ballads from Percy’s days with Atlantic Records, sharing the limelight with lesser hits such as “It Tears Me Up,” “Take Time To Know Her” and “Warm and Tender Love,” all of them laid down for posterity at the famed Muscle Shoals studios in deepest Alabama .

“Christmas in Albion-A Festive Compilation” (Talking Elephant TECD 213)- This wintry anthology boasts beguiling contributions from many of the brightest stars in the folk firmament,including Fairport Convention, Andy Steele and The Albion Band,who dominate the proceedings with their rustic versions of old Yuletide favourites such as “Once In Royal David’s City” and Christina Rossetti’s “In The Bleak Midwinter.” The inclusion of Alan Hull’s “Wintersong” and Phil Beer’s live version of “Rebel Jesus” lends a slightly more contemporary flavour to a Christmas collection which would command your attention at any time of the year.

Steve Adey,”The Tower of Silence” (Grand Harmonium Records)-The eagerly awaited follow up to Adey’s critically acclaimed 2006 album “All Things Real” was seriously delayed when the Edinburgh based musician contracted a couple of life threatening illnesses and was also involved in a car crash. These near death experiences have obviously influenced the sombre lyrical content of “The Tower of Silence,” which meanders atmospherically along with few notable highs or lows and requires repeated listenings to make its eerily memorable presence felt.