CD Reviews: February 23

The classically trained voice of Brisbane-born Kate Miller-Heidke is a beautiful thing, lifting her dark pop music to soaring heights in the more dramatic sections of this, her third studio album.

> Kate Miller-Heidke. Nightflight. Sony Music.

On first single Sarah, which recounts the disappearance of a friend, Miller-Heidke's trilling top notes capture much of the urgency and desperation of the moment, contrasting magically with the breathy, softer-voiced narrative verses.

If there were more such stunning moments, and if the second half of the album were as bold as the first, this would be a formidable album. As it stands, it's still a better pop record than most.

Single download: Sarah
For those who like: Sarah McLachlan, Missy Higgins, Kate Bush
3 stars (out of 5)

By Jeff Harford

> Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite. Get Up! Stax.

You can almost hear the Ben Harper kids going ''Who is that dude Charlie Musselwhite?''. Well, he is one of the coolest harp-jockeys in living memory, and also a fantastic influence on Harper.

It might sound like a rather odd pairing; led no doubt by Ben Harper's reverence for Musselwhite, but it just works.

Rocking, stomping and sweating through a gritty collection of blues, the pair take their audience to the Louisiana swamplands, stop at some urban juke joints, and end up on a porch just grooving.

Harper has crafted a career around his whiny roots-laden angst, but a 69-year-old blues legend has shown him the light.

Single download: Blood Side Out
For those who like: Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Paul Butterfield, Sonny Boy Williamson
4 stars (out of 5)
By Mark Orton

> Bad Religion. True North. Epitaph.

According to frontman Greg Graffin, the 16th album from Los Angeles punks Bad Religion will be their last before they ''all join the navy, do honest work''.

If this is their swansong, they leave with the familiar, angular sound they have been proponents of since their 1982 debut - stabbing guitars, tribal drums, and ''ooozin ahh'' harmonies.

While the lyricism covers old ground (big business gone bad, corrupt public officials, alienation), it's hard to deny the abrasive energy which crackles from Vanity and Robin Hood in Reverse, especially given that this is a band entering their fourth decade of existence.

Single download: Vanity
For those who like: Minor Threat, Fugazi, mohawks and thesauruses
3 stars (out of 5)
By John Hayden

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