Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week's alternative CD releases.

Martin Carthy, "Shearwater" (Talking Elephant)- English folk luminary Martin Carthy captured the contents of "Shearwater" for posterity shortly after ending his brief stint as a member of Steeleye Span, and the latter's Maddy Prior chips in on vocals on the closing cut, a stunning version of "Betsy Bell and Mary Gray." The overall mood of this impressive 1972 album is a little more sparse and unadorned than many of Martin's solo offerings , with several acapella tracks vying for the limelight alongside some fine vehicles for Carthy's unique interplay between voice and guitar such as "Lord Randall," "John Blunt" and "Famous Flower of Serving Men."

Turnpike Troubadours, "A Long Way From Your Heart"(Bossier City / Thirty Tigers)- The latest album from Oklahoma roots rockers the Turnpike Troubadours recently topped Billboard's Americana / Folk Album chart, and this vivid vehicle for the talents of acclaimed songwriter Evan Felker is certainly one of the most life enhancing collections that you could ever wish to hear. Felker's catchy blue collar narratives are expertly underpinned by the sterling efforts of his virtuosic bandmates, with "Unrung," "A Tornado Warning" and "Pay No Rent" emerging as the best of the bunch.

Buffy Sainte-Marie, "Medicine Songs" (True North Records)- Buffy Sainte-Marie has been railing against the twin evils of injustice and oppression for well over half a century now, and this unique performer seems unlikely to opt for growing old gracefully on the evidence presented so eloquently by "Medicine Songs." The contents offer up a blend of politically charged new material and re-recordings of the cream of Buffy's distinctive back catalogue, including her 1971 hit, "Soldier Blue," "Little Wheel Spin and Spin" and the classic anti-war anthem, "Universal Soldier." Splendid stuff.

Rare Bird, "Somebody's Watching" (Talking Elephant)- Rare Bird outfit were in many ways the archetypal "one-hit wonders," capturing the hearts of record buyers across Europe with their 1970 single, "Sympathy," before slipping back into undeserved obscurity and finally giving up the ghost for good a few years later. They recorded several fine albums in the interim however, and 1973's "Somebody's Watching" found the previously keyboard dominated prog rockers fleshing out their sound a little with the inclusion in their ranks of guitarist Andy Curtis. The new recruit excels on the closing cut, a memorable re-vamp of Ennio Morricone's theme for "A Fistful of Dollars."