King King - Live
Evidently, King King function best with their backs to the wall. The road to the Glaswegians’ debut live album was potholed by gremlins and glitches – a first attempt in Yorkshire was scrapped due to “random feedback” – and as they open up at their home city’s O2 ABC with Lose Control, you fear that song title could prove prophetic.
If the omens were bad, Live captures a night where it all went right, with King King’s performance setting out defiant, then settling into confident as they bat around songs taken mostly from last year’s excellent third album, Reaching For The Light. More Than I Can Take and Rush Hour are modern blues-rock anthems with hooks and flair, and it’s testament to King King’s inherent likeability that they can play a ballad as heartfelt as A Long History Of Love in Glasgow and escape without getting nutted. Also included is a DVD filmed at a separate, equally good show, sealing the deal on this thumping-good live package. (8⁄10)
James Leg - Blood On The Keys
On his third solo album, the semi-reformed Texas hellraiser is up to his old tricks, powering through manic gonk-blues with a voice like drain cleaner. Mostly, Blood On The Keys is rowdy and arsecleft-rough, which makes it both baffling and hilarious when Leg strikes up I’ll Take It: a breezy FM radio ballad, albeit one sung like Satan with catarrh. (7⁄10)
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Mark Harrison - Turpentine
Mark Harrison keeps getting better, and this solo return sees him apply his nimble, folksy fingerstyle and evocative voice to songs whose beauty belies their darkness. Witness Dirty Business, which rolls on a barrelhouse stomp and squeeze box, but explores the ‘desperate stuff’ we do to stay solvent. Just as strong is the instrumental Dog Rib, a haunted cousin of Bron-Y-Aur Stomp. (8⁄10)
Larry Miller - Larry Miller
With the much-loved guitarist convalescing after last year’s stroke, this career retrospective is a worthy cause and a potted reminder of his barn-burning catalogue. Five albums are represented, and while Miller’s raucous style is exemplified by Mississippi Mama, Bathsheba’s harpsichord ache reminds us that he’s far from one-dimensional. Buy it for the music, not the sympathy vote. (8⁄10)
Reverend KM Williams - The Real Deal Blues
The Rev is the latest link in an auspicious chain of Texan bluesmen, his Diddley bow and baritone plainly in thrall to Hopkins, Jefferson and the rest. On the best moments, like The Runaway Blues, that frayed rattle and moan prove hypnotic, disguising the fact these cyclical songs go on too long – as does the album. (7⁄10)