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Brian Cullman Brian Cullman
Album: The Opposite of Time
Label: Sunnyside
Tracks: 12

The name may not mean anything to you, but New York-born Cullman's been immersed in the music business for a good number of years. He's written for such seminal magazines as Creem, Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy and The Village Voice, played with Robert Quine and Mark Knopfler, been part of the same London clique as Nick Drake (for whom he opened on several shows), Sandy Denny (he sang back up on some of her sessions) and John Martyn (from whom learned percussive style fingerpicking), travelled to Morocco with Bill Laswell to record "The Master Musicians Of Jajouka", fronted 80s CBGB'; 80s regulars OK Savant and produced Lucinda Williams' breakthrough self-titled third album.

In 2008 he released his debut album, "All Fires The Fire", and now, eight years later, he's finally come up with another. Befitting someone who's been involved in a broad spectrum of styles, it's a diverse sounding affair, the songs frequently concerned with lost relationships, opening with the breathily sung moody, bluesy smoulder of "Times Are Tight" , a sort of meld between Knopfler and Steely Dan. He then switches things around for "All She Said", a driving slice of jangling pop featuring Jimi Zhivago on slide guitar before the achingy lovely wearied country balladry of "Time If There Is Time" gives way to "Hands of the Rain" with its echoes of a slower paced "Sweet Jane".

He's bluesy on the riff driven, percussive clank of "Walk the Dog Before I Sleep" with its swampy groove, but then "Memphis Madeline" heads down to some TexMex cantina where Bob Dylan's the resident troubadour, backed up on harmonies by Leni Morrison and Byron Isaacs, only to vocally evoke Al Stewart on the languid, pedal steel shimmering folk-country "After All The Gifts".

With harmonies by Jenni Muldaur (who, daughter of Maria, also sings on several of the other tracks), "Tender Wheels" country waltzes into the organ-backed, reflective, Ray Charles referencing and surely Smokey Robinson influenced "Nothing", a broken relationship number where he wryly sings "God made the world out of nothing and nothing's always waiting in the wings."

It's back to the Reed walking rhythm influence for the penultimate "Beneath The Coliseum" with its plangent guitar, a song essentially about history repeating itself and how lessons are never learned that contains the terrific line "she said we're the money that God forgot to spend", before ending on the brief piano, lap steel and melodica instrumental "Unspoiled".

For all the diversity of the individual parts, the album hangs together perfectly as a whole, Cullman's relaxed delivery and sharp sense of melody making for a hugely enjoyable listening experience and, for these ears at least, one of the most rewarding discoveries of the year. Make time for it.

Mike Davies