Steve Hackett– Wuthering Nights: Live in Birmingham

Image result for wuthering nights hackettGiven that this live album partly celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Genesis album Wind and Wuthering, it’s hard to think of a better title than Wuthering Nights, but there’s much about this package that is hard to beat: band, set list, sound and vision are just a few.

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Beth Whitney – The Wild Unrest

Photo by Aaron Fishburn

Photo credit: Aaron Fishburn

There’s deep beauty coming out of pain in that cabin in the woods.

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Crackly Vinyl, Trump, The Smell of Poo and a Phantom Ivor Biggun – Music in 2017

Jackie Evancho

Jackie Evancho Source: Billboard

2017 started musically in defiant fashion, as stars boycotted President Trump’s inauguration concert. Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder and Beyoncé played for the incoming President Obama, but the list of those refusing to play for Trump is more stellar than those who did.

R Kelly, Ice T, Moby, Elton John, Charlotte Church, Kiss, Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli reportedly turned the gig down, while Rebecca Ferguson wrote an open letter stating that she’d only attend should she be able to perform the anti-racism song ‘Strange Fruit’.

Even the Bruce Springsteen tribute B Street Band cancelled their performance out of “respect and gratitude for Bruce.”

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Cockburn, Bruce – Bone on Bone

Bruce Cockburn(TrueNorth Records)

When songwriters get past 70, I tend to look at the final song on their latest albums to see what musical words they might intentionally be signing off with.

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Anouar Brahem – Blue Maqams

Anouar Brahem(ECM)

There is something tantalising about Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem’s restraint. The tentative playing on his previous release – the excellent double disc Souvenance – seemed to reflect the political uncertainty of his Tunisian homeland in the wake of the Arab spring.

Souvenance was on constant play for weeks in our home and this follow-up – released to celebrate Brahem’s 60th birthday – is similarly addictive.

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Jonny Lang – Signs

Jonny :Lang

(Concord Records /Provogue Records)

By any standard, Lang has had an extraordinary life. If the definition of making it big is being awarded a platinum disc, he made it big aged only 15.

I’ll leave a moment for that to sink in…

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Dave Walker: How to Avoid the Peace

Image result for dave walker, cartoon book, How to Avoid the Peace

Dave Walker’s latest cartoon collection (Canterbury Press) is sub-titled ‘Tips for Advanced Churchgoing,’  but although you don’t have to be an Anglican to enjoy the humour, it will help you to catch the subtleties. His understanding of the ordinary person in the pew pours out of these drawings.

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Frank Cottrell-Boyce: Wowed by the Wonder in Blue Planet 2

Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Frank Cottrell-Boyce (Source: BBC)

There is very little television to bring the nation together anymore. We access the news whenever we want, and even the water-cooler culture of reality TV has its separate tribes.

But if there is anything to galvanise the nation’s front rooms into simultaneous viewing over the next year – short of a highly unlikely World Cup final in Russia – one likely programme is halfway through being aired.

Sir David Attenborough, a man so treasured that he even gave his name to a polar research vessel ahead of the public’s choice of Boaty McBoatface, has been fronting another flagship BBC production: Blue Planet 2.

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Wildwood Kin – Turning Tides

Wildwood Kin(Silvertone / Sony)

While a female family trio that features flowing, flawless harmonies might suggest Haim, this band is completely different. Wildwood Kin are less poppy and more atmospheric. Opener “The Author” would have slotted seamlessly onto a Note for the Child album, and they come across very much as a female Fleet Foxes, with touches of Simon and Garfunkel sprinkled in.

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Mark Heard: A Treasure of the Broken Land

That Mark Heard turned down the offer of touring with Dylan and T-Bone Burnett speaks both of his talent and his humility. He may not have had the chance to make a big splash from that tour, but the ripples of his artistic impact have rolled outwards for years, and the latest example is the tribute album released this autumn to mark 25 years since he died at the stomach-churningly young age of 40.

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