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ALBUMS OF THE WEEK ; reviews: Reviews by Paul Cole, Shereen Low, Polly Weeks, Simon Harker, Steve Crancher [Birmingham Mail (UK)]

August 16, 2013


JOHN MAYER: Paradise Valley KATY PERRY'S on-off squeeze is back in action after recovering from a vocal cord granuloma, which forced him to cancel his tour in 2011. He got back into the studio for Paradise Valley as soon as he could. The result is a pretty impressive return to form. Opening track Wildfire is a countrytinged tune, followed by the pensive Dear Marie. Every track here is likeable, from the blues-influenced Waitin' On The Day and Call Me The Breeze, to the closing track On The Way Home. Perry duets with Mayer on the aptly titled Who You Love.

LAURA VEIRS: Warp and Weft A RESIDENT of Portland, Veirs returns with her ninth offering - an album she recorded while eight months pregnant with her second child. She has said: "I'm haunted by the idea that something terrible could happen to my kids but that fear pushes me to embrace the moment. This record is an exploration of extremes - deep, dark suffering and intense, compassionate love." That may be so, but with relaxing guitar riffs and her trademark beautifully, laid-back vocals, it's also an album to soothe even the most angst-filled listener.

ZOLA JESUS: Versions IN an intimate performance at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2012, the experimentally inclined chanteuse Nika Roza Danilova, better known as Zola Jesus, performed reworked versions of her music with arrangements by avant garde composer JG Thirlwell. The results were so successful that those reinterpretations are being presented here. There are few artists whose oeuvre could be effectively stripped back with the help of a classical makeover, but it works here, with her incredible voice, unvarnished by studio trickery, and sounding dazzling.

THE BAD SHEPHERDS: Mud, Blood and Beer ALBUM number three from The Bad Shepherds, after a 12-month hiatus, continues in the same vein as the previous two. Adrian "Ade" Edmondson, Troy Donockley and Andy Dinan have again selected some of their favourite punk/ new wave songs from their youth, scaled them back to chords and lyrics and rebuilt them as folk songs. Mud, Blood & Beer starts with a staccato guitar on a great take of Madness's Our House. All the songs stand out because they are known and loved, including The Stranglers' No More Heroes.

TRAVIS: Where You Stand TRAVIS have faced an uphill battle ever since 1999 sophomore set The Man Who yielded so many memorable hit singles.

Since then they've been lacklustre and after their sixth album five years ago, they shut up shop. Clearly, the rest has done them good because this is their best outing since their heyday, full of barbed pop hooks and musical ambition. Best are Moving, despite its similarity to Killers anthem All These Things That I've Done, and Mother in which Fran Healy aptly sings: "Why did we wait so long?" TIERRA BLANCA: Shadowlands SOMEWHERE over the pond Robert Rodriguez is soundtracking his latest movie. He need look no further than Shadowlands, an album packed with moody wild western rock and stroll but made by Brits. John McKeown's band serves up a Tex-Mex tapas of self-penned songs that recalls Tito& Tarantula, highlighted by the title track. Unlikely covers include Prince's When Doves Cry, Patti Smith's Dancing Barefoot, Neil Young's Only Love Can Break Your Heart and a surprisingly good take on David Essex hit Rock On.

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