It's time for another small selection of the many riches I have been sent via ReviewShine. And we start with a couple of real crackers from two well-established artists.
First up we have the excellent Ruthie Foster whose new album "Let It Burn" will be released on Blue Corn Records at the end of January. It features a fine mix of soul, blues and gospel with guest appearances from the great William Bell and the Blind Boys of Alabama. As always with Ruthie there are some very interesting cover versions - including a rare, decent version of "If I Had A Hammer", a reinvention of "Ring Of Fire" and a very nice rendition of The Band's "It Makes No Difference", which doesn't quite match the original but only because that is pretty much impossible. Here's a bit of good old-fashioned soul music.
"This Time" - Ruthie Foster
Next up we have Otis Taylor. Otis is what you might call a grizzled veteran, being as he is a mere 63 years young. I would call it blues but the blurb that I got about his new album - "Otis Taylor's Contraband", out on Valentine's Day on Telarc International - calls it "trance jam blues". I don't really know what that is, but I like it a lot. Having said that my favourite track is not representative at all. There is not very much blues about it, let alone trance jam blues. It is, however, really rather beautiful.
"Blind Piano Teacher" - Otis Taylor
Next up we have a couple of new names (or at least they are new to me). First we have Pony Boy, who confusingly is neither a boy nor a pony. She's a human woman, but none the worse for it. I am struggling to describe her sound. Musically it reminds me a bit of Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, but vocally Karen Dalton is perhaps a closer comparison. However you describe it, it's good stuff. She has a new self-titled EP that is not yet generally available, but you can find more details and some live recordings on her website.
"Nobody's Girl" - Pony Boy
"Selfless Portrait" is the debut album of one John Henry Olthoff. It came out in September but I overlooked it at the time, so want to make up for it now. It is a solid set of good old "proper" songs. I particularly like the twangy, melodic country pop of "Hard To Know". I have been trying for a while to work out who it was his voice reminded me off and earlier today it finally came to me. He sounds like a male Amy Allison, who of course does a nifty line in twangy, melodic country pop herself. Maybe they should team up.
"Hard To Know" - John Henry Olthoff
In the Ruthie Foster review I mentioned her very nice version of "It Makes No Difference". Here are The Band with their version from "The Last Waltz" - one of Rick Danko's finest moments.