Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week’s CD releases Declan O’Rourke, “Arrivals” (East West)- Declan O’Rourke’s latest offering is a typically rich and resonant affair which displays many of the qualities which have impressed so many discerning pundits over the years, with rock luminaries such as Ronnie Wood, Chris Rea and Paul Weller all happy to sing the Irish singer-songwriter’s praises. Weller also handled the production duties on “Arrivals,” which was captured for posterity at the former Jam frontman’s Black Barn Studios in Ripley,Surrey. Some beautifully subtle and spare string arrangements lend added charm to a poetic and thought provoking package which explores such diverse topics as unfulfilled artistic expression, the ultimate futility of armed conflict and the plight of the convicts who were transported to Australia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Weller himself also deserves a mention in dispatches for helping to shape the aural landscape of the jazz inspired closing track,”This Thing That We Share.”

“Circus” (Talking Elephant)- This fascinating period piece first saw the light of day in 1969 and provided an early vehicle for the talents of flute and sax virtuoso Mel Collins, who would later go on to find fame and fortune via his recorded exploits with outfits such as King Crimson,Camel and the Alan Parsons Project. The contents of Circus’ solitary vinyl long-player were divided equally between a selection of skilfully crafted Collins originals and jazz-rock inflected covers of such diverse ditties as Tim Hardin’s “Don’t Make Promises,” Charles Mingus’ “ Ii B.S..” and Lennon and McCartney’s “Norwegian Wood.”

Malcolm Holcombe,”Tricks of the Trade” (Need To Know Music)- Americana’s answer to Tom Waits may not be a household name just yet, but this grizzled North Carolina native can always be relied upon to reward his discerning coterie of listeners with some of the most poetic and thought provoking balladry that they could ever wish to hear. Malcolm Holcombe’s fractured baritone may not exactly be a thing of beauty but his musical output since the mid nineties has been little less than superlative, and “Tricks of the Trade” marks the latest addition to his impressive body of work as this troubadour of the troubled explores the vagaries of the American blue collar experience via compelling ditties such as “Your Kin,” “Money Train” and “Damn Rainy Day.” The finished product provides a compelling antidote to the demoralising diet of corporate blandness which seems to dominate the contemporary music scene these days.