Kimberley Rew Essex Hideaway

This fourth solo effort by Kimberley Rew is the closest thing to a conceptual album the former Soft Boys guitarist and Katrina and the Waves songwriter has issued to date. Book ended by tongue-in-cheek liturgical hymns, Essex Hideaway takes listeners on a Village Green-style retrospective tour of simpler times in jolly old England with Rew as trusty guide and narrator. Unfortunately, Rew shifts from trusty to crusty on tracks like "Short Smart Haircut” and "Even Shorter Haircut,” as he shows his age by taking petty pot shots at today’s crop of cropped college students. Those curious numbers aside, Rew remains in remarkable form here, both as guitarist extraordinaire (most of these arrangements factor in tasteful showcases of his sometimes overlooked six-string talents) and as a gifted lyricist. Rew doesn’t shy away from personal territory, either, as he reflects on aspects of his family and his colleagues of yore. Tasty, stick-in-your-head musical moments abound, too, like the Soft Boys-esque guit-pop number "Jerome K Jerome,” the disc’s sing-songy title track, and the psyched-out "Ballad of the Lone Guitarist,” which owes at least a small debt of inspirational gratitude to Barrett-era Pink Floyd. An exhaustive guest players list includes prog-rock keyboardist Don Airey, long-time Kinks sideman Ian Gibbons and legendary UK session drummer Dave Mattacks. (Bongo Beat)