Kevin Bryan delivers his verdict on some of this week’s CD releases Steve Ashley,”Steve Ashley’s Family Album-Remastered” (Talking Elephant)- Ashley’s subtle,sensitive and witty approach to the art of music-making graced several critically acclaimed albums during the seventies but the London born singer-songwriter remained a fairly shadowy figure as far as the mass of the general public were concerned and difficulties with obtaining releases for his work meant that this 1979 recording didn’t actually see the light of day on record until 1982. “Family Album” was actually one of the first offerings on Fairport Convention’s Woodworm label and several members of this venerable folk-rock institution help to underpin Steve’s efforts musically here,including Simon Nicol, Bruce Rowland and bassist Dave Pegg. The finished product has now been remastered and expanded a little with the inclusion of two excellent bonus tracks, and newcomers to his sound would be well advised to lend an ear to classic Ashley creations such as “Once In A While” and “Feeling Lazy.”

Joanna Serrat,”Hardcore FromThe Heart” (Loose Music)- The atmospheric aural landscapes which Joanna Serrat seems to create with such effortless ease have prompted comparisons with the likes of Mazzy Star, Slowdive and Daniel Lanois’ production work on Emmylou Harris’ “Wrecking Ball” in the past, and “Hardcore From The Heart” must rank as the Catalan singer-songwriter’s most accomplished offering to date. This multi-textured musical tour de force was captured for posterity at Redwood Studio in Denton,Texas with an instrumental line-up including Midlake guitarist Joey McClellan and Mercury Rev keyboards ace Jesse Chandler providing the ideal backdrop for a batch of wonderfully evocative ditties led by “Easy,” “Pictures” and “Hotel Room 609.”

Stripmall Ballads,”Distant” (Self Released)- Sparse,understated balladry is the order of the day as Phillips Saylor Wisor unveils the latest album released via his alter ego of Stripmall Ballads. Treading a path once followed by the likes of Cisco Houston and Woody Guthrie, Wilsor chronicles the flipside of the much vaunted “American Dream” as he peoples his deeply affecting creations with a parade of doomed characters whose fate seemed to have been determined long before they reached adulthood. “Susan at the Crossroads,” “Pull Over Johnny” and “Don’t Mind Me” are the best of an excellent bunch.