Kevin Bryan reviews the latest music releases.
The Best of Ash ***
A PREDICTABLY radio friendly and easy on the ear anthology from alternative rockers Ash, including infectious teenage anthems from the 90s such as Girl From Mars, Goldfinger and Shining Light.
Much of the youthful enthusiasm which fuelled the Northern Irish band's output during those heady days has understandably dissipated as they've drifted into musical middle age, but the hook laden potency of those early offerings should help to ensure the success of this new Rhino collection, and Ash completists may also be tempted to invest in a copy by the inclusion of a 2011 re-recording of Jack Names The Planets.
Out now (Rhino Records: £8.75)
Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup: My Baby Left Me - The Definitive Collection ***
MISSISSIPPI born bluesman Crudup is best remembered these days as the man who penned three of Elvis Presley's finest recordings, That's All Right, My Baby Left Me, and So Glad You're Mine, but he was also a significant performer in his own right, and this 2-CD set brings together the cream of his musical output between 1941 and 1954.
His rudimentary yet utterly compelling approach to music-making is captured in all its rough hewn glory in a package which boasts a string of highly individualistic gems including Mean Old 'Frisco Blues, Rock Me Mama and Death Valley Blues.
Out now (Fantastic Voyage FVDD 133: £7.99)
ASMIF/Marriner: Handel - Music for the Royal Fireworks, Water Music, Concerti Grossi op.3 ****
GEORGE Frideric Handel may have been born in the German city of Halle in 1685 but much of his adult life was spent in London, where these fine examples of the Baroque composer's art were penned.
His two great orchestral suites, the Music for the Royal Fireworks and Water Music are expertly revived here by Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St.Martin in the Fields, with violinist Iona Brown joining their ranks for the Italianate and equally appealing Concerti Grossi.
Out now (Hanssler Classic CD 94 601 : £13.99)
Seasick Steve: Walkin' Man - The Best of ****
NO-ONE should ever approach a Seasick Steve album in the hope of being regaled with a technically pristine exercise in musical perfection, but if you're prepared to roll with the flow and immerse yourself in this engaging character's distinctively homespun version of the blues his work can be well nigh irresistible.
This two record set couples an audio anthology of his finest studio recordings with a live DVD of one of Steve's gigs at Brixton's 02 Academy, and a very good time was obviously had by all concerned.
Out now (Rhino Records : £9.99)
The Walkabouts: Travels in the Dustland ****
THIS eagerly awaited album marks The Walkabouts' return to the fray after a self-imposed six year hiatus following the release of 2005's Acetylene.
The band's creative mainstay Chris Eckman has been busying himself with a variety of interesting solo projects in the interim, and he's in peerless form once again with this ambitious song cycle, set in a parched and desolate America with a glittering past and a decidedly uncertain future.
The finished product is unlikely to win over too many new converts to The Walkabouts' cause but is well worth investigating nonetheless.
Out now (Glitterhouse GRCD 731 : £8.99)