[The Mail On Sunday, 2005]
THERE ISN'T A moody, besuited contemporary crooner who doesn't owe a debt of gratitude to Mick Harvey, discreet pilot and effective musical director of Nick Cave's band, The Bad Seeds. Harvey's forthcoming solo LP, One Man's Treasure (Mute**, ) is a creditable work of curatorship - a collection of favourites that doesn't quite match his memorable Serge Gainsbourg interpretations. But it deserves a mention in the context of Coles Corner (Mute***, ), a striking album from Harvey's new labelmate Richard Hawley.
Although the rich and sombre romanticism of Scott Walker's early solo work is very much the keynote here (Hank Williams and Lee Hazelwood also get a look in), it's hard to imagine an artist such as Hawley having a platform or a market for his splendid songs without Harvey's groundwork. These dark, contemplative tracks merit the luxurious orchestrations so often used to lend false gravitas to flimsy material.
The re-emergence of folk has propelled its adherents onto markedly divergent paths. In The Girl Who Couldn't Fly (Pure**, ), English traditionalist Kate Rusby has provided another album of unimpeachable sweetness for the floating-candle contingent. Clear and pretty, it sounds a touch twee next to the remarkable new release from Fife's King Creosote - “Kenny” to his parents, Mr and Mrs Anderson. KC Rules OK (Names****, ), recorded with The Earlies, is as inventive, rum and captivating a record as any British act has made this year. While post-punk copyists wearisomely retread not so-old ground, King Creosote has delved into a much more distant past to create something marvellously fresh and entertaining.
Atlantic Records are cranking up the hype over young soul singer Trey Songz, invoking their glorious history on his behalf, and wheeling on Aretha Franklin to preface his album with empyrean platitudes reminiscent of Mufasa from The Lion King. The lad certainly has talent. I Gotta Make It (Atlantic**, ) is slick, accomplished and modern; and in the bouncy, exhilarating Ooo, it contains both a bona fide pop-soul gem and a sign of what Songz is capable of. But the ratio of spit to polish is much too low. For now, Songz is another soul performer invoking the music's 60s/70s heyday, but failing to consistently summon either its joie de vivre or its sensuous depths.
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