The latest reviews from Kevin Bryan.

Darden Smith, "Darden Smith & Trouble No More" (Retroworld)- The Lone Star State of Texas has spawned a whole host of distinctive singer-songwriters over the years, and Austin based  Darden Smith  surely  ranks right up there with the best of them . This splendid CD re-issue couples the two albums that this talented tunesmith  recorded for the Columbia/CBS  organisation  at the height of the "New Country" boom in the mid-eighties, showcasing the refreshingly uncliched  approach to music-making which has  always made his work so richly rewarding. Fellow Texans  Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith chip in on harmony vocals  on 1988's "Darden Smith,"  a  particularly memorable offering boasting affecting ditties such as "Two Dollar Novels," "Little Maggie" and "Driving Rain."

"Rock'n'Roll Road Trip" (Union Square)- The contents of this  2 CD set  may  have been anthologised  on umpteen occasions  since the onset of the CD revolution three decades or so ago but they still possess  a power and immediacy which you rarely come across these days.  The powers that be at Union Square Music have roped in all the usual suspects to populate this vibrant package for your listening pleasure, including legendary figures such as Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly  and Link Wray, whose menacing 1958 instrumental , "Rumble,"  made a profound impact on luminaries such as  Pete Townshend and Neil Young during their formative years.

"Carolanne Pegg" (Esoteric / Cherry Red)- This welcome CD re-issue serves up a newly remastered version of the only solo album that singer and fiddle player Carolanne Pegg recorded  after the sad demise of folk-rock innovators Mr. Fox in 1972. Demon guitarist Albert Lee and bassist Dave Peacock of Chas and Dave fame joined forces with Carolanne as she applied her eerily sensual vocals  to  gloriously  gothic gems  such as "Wycoller" and "The Lady and the Well," and the finished product must rank as one of the early seventies most original roots music creations.

Labelle, "The Anthology" (SoulMusic Records / Cherry Red)- This impressive anthology couples the cream of the four critically acclaimed albums that this larger than life soul outfit recorded for RCA and Epic between 1973 and their sad demise in 1976  with the pick of the three ladies' subsequent solo output.  Their 1975 chart-topper, "Lady Marmalade," is an obvious highpoint, sharing top billing with fine album tracks such as "Who's Watching The Watcher," "Are You Lonely" and an ambitious medley  of Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air" and Gil Scott-Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."