A cracker from Polly
It seems like decades since Polly Harvey put out anything worthwhile, so the release of The Peel Sessions 1991-2004 (Island) - a single-disc collection of her stripped-down live recordings made during her five visits to the late John Peel's BBC radio show - is a welcome surprise.
Thankfully, the song selection is weighted toward her fantastic early work, before she lost the plot at the century's end and imagined she could sell more records by trying to sound like Patti Smith. A sobering chat with Smith's accountant could have saved her years of disappointment, but perhaps one day Harvey will return to her senses and her Telecaster. Until then, enjoy these thrillingly spontaneous blasts from the past.
Ola Belle's Epitaph
For some time now, I've been bugging the people at Smithsonian-Folkways to put out a proper CD compendium of the two albums that banjo-picking Appalachian soul queen Ola Belle Reed recorded for Folkways, 1976's My Epitaph and 1978's All In One Evening, both of which, I argued, would neatly fit onto one disc. Well, I'm happy to report that miracles do happen and Smithsonian-Folkways have finally remastered Reed's two stellar albums for the digital age - on separate discs - complete with liner notes in PDF form.
Those looking for an introduction to Reed's starkly stirring brand of heart music should start with My Epitaph, which includes her oft-covered classic High On A Mountain. You'll soon find out why bluegrass king Bill Monroe was one of Reed's biggest fans. Currently available online exclusively at www.smithsonianglobalsound.org.
Dingwalls' dance revolution
It was 20 years ago that UK DJs Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge helped return the dance component to jazz music while connecting hiphop fans to the sample sources of the music they loved, all for the sake of a good time at their weekly Talkin Loud sessions at Dingwalls.
The aptly titled Sunday Afternoon At Dingwalls (Ether) two-CD set conveniently compiles the floor-friendly Latin jazz, funky fusion and modal rarities that Peterson and Forge spun into cult notoriety back in the day - Byron Morris's Kitty Bey, Pharoah Sanders's Origin, Leroy Hutson's Cool Out, Roy Ayers's He's A Superstar, Patsy Gallant's Te Caliente, among others - are mixed with a few then-contemporary cookers just for kicks. This is timeless music that sounds as exciting now as it did back in the mid-80s.