REVIEW

 

KEVIN COYNE
The Andy Kershaw Sessions 1999 - 2004 [no label 1CD]
BBC sessions with Andy Kershaw on Apr 1 1999, Apr 5 2002? and Nov 7 2004.

Kevin Coyne's health was fading fast when he made his final appearance on DJ Andy Kershaw's BBC show in November 2004, and less than a month later, he'd be gone. But the performance is such classic Coyne, with that old corncrake voice neither changed nor ravaged by the years, that it could have been recorded at any point in the past 30 years, and there's probably no greater tribute one could pay than that.

Preserving both the music and Kershaw's thoughtful links between the songs, this final broadcast is one of the loveliest performances in Coyne's entire latter day catalog, not only for the emotions that it necessarily arouses, but for the sheer passion with which he performs. Five songs, "Smile Right Back," "Locked Out,"

"I Hear Voices," "Dark Dancehall" and "Weirdo" are delivered on acoustic guitar alone, and touching, too, are the few words he delivers in praise of the recently deceased John Peel, a crucial figure throughout much of Coyne's career.

The earliest, 1999, session is equally startling, with Coyne backed by a full band, a guitar (courtesy of his son Robert) that sounds like a roomful of angry insects, and a raw, roaring sound that justifies every last song of praise sung by Kershaw by way of introduction. "Bird Brain" and "My Wife's Best Friend" precede Coyne's confession that he's "more restless now than I've ever been"; the Carter Family's "Lonesome Valley," "Lunatic" and a dynamic "Happy Little Fat Man" follow it.

Finally, the 2002 outing captures Coyne and Brendan Croker side by side, and includes "Looking from My Window" and "I Want To Sit With The Girls," among others… it's not quite as revelatory as the performances that surround it (a fate that also consumed the album they cut together), but it wraps things up nicely and, quite frankly, no Coyne fan should be without this collection. - Dave Thompson

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May 4, 2007