Arts and Entertainment

A genuinely odd collaboration, this, between the classical pianist Dinnerstein and the country singer-songwriter Merritt.

Imelda May, Royal Albert Hall, London

“He’s a big bad boy,” lustily croons six-months pregnant Imelda May on “Johnny’s Got a Boom Boom”, the saucy rockabilly song that catapulted the singer to instant fame.

Black by Design: A 2-Tone Memoir, By Pauline Black

Pauline Black's earliest memory is of vomiting, at the age of four, on to a pile of sheets that had been cleaned, starched and ironed by her mother. "She was not amused but then again it was her own fault," says Black. "She shouldn't have told me I was adopted."

Leading article: Lost greatness

The news of her death was shocking, but sadly no one could say it was unexpected. That precocious, extravagant talent which brought Amy Winehouse success and critical acclaim was matched by her capacity for self-destruction. In an example of the enigma of human creativity, she was able to use the chaotic darkness of her addictions – drink, drugs and toxic relationships – to create music and lyrics which channelled her hurt and despair into great songs which immediately spoke to millions. And she delivered them in that astonishing voice, one of the greatest of modern times, as powerfully and immediately moving as those of Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf and Maria Callas.

Album: Madeleine Peyroux, Standing on the Rooftop (Emarcy / Decca)

Her last album introduced the concept of Peyroux the full-blown auteur.

Album: Billie Holiday, Four Classic Albums (Avid)

Pure gold: nearly three hours of classic 1950s Holiday (mostly recorded for Norman Granz on Clef), for about a fiver.

Encounters with legends: 'I was Douglas Adams's flatmate'

What was Dudley Moore like in bed? How would you feel if you were asked to stand in for Billie Holliday? What kind of man would share a flat with Douglas Adams? And what sort of girl would hit the road with Ernest Hemingway?

Warpaint, Scala, London

Warpaint walk on stage to a room full of expectation: it has been a big year for the all-girl quartet from Los Angeles. Despite forming six years ago, the past 12 months have seen the online music community put the band on the metaphorical pedestal that comes with being just that pretty and just that good.

Barclays Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Town Hall and other venues, Cheltenham

An annual festival rounds up some fab singing, and a great discovery

Album: Amira and Merima Kljuco, Zumra (World Village)

This album's roots lie deep in the Balkan tradition of sevdah, the urban folk music of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which touches on sadness, but is mostly about making love by moonlight.

Album: Carmen Souza, Protegid (Galileo Music)

The poetic voice is as original as the musical one.

Herb Ellis: Dextrous and distinctive guitarist who worked with Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday

Les Paul, doyen of guitarists everywhere, was in no doubt about Herb Ellis. "If you're not swinging, he's gonna make you swing. Of the whole bunch of guys who play hollow-body guitar I think Herb Ellis has got the most drive."

Album: Ljiljana Buttler, Frozen Roses, (Snail Records)

Whether her reputation as "the Billie Holiday of Gypsy music" proves useful or not (and she closes this set with a killer version of "Gloomy Sunday"), Bosnian singer Ljiljana Buttler is one of the great female vocalists of our time, with a deep voice full of woe. A legendary figure in Eastern Europe whose career suffered under the post-communist onslaught of vulgar "turbo-folk", she continues her recent resurgence with this superb acoustic album, backed by an excellent cast of musicians.

Album: Various artists, Sound of the World Presents: Beyond the Horizon (WCJ)

Never mind Womad or the Radio 3 awards, the highlight of any self-respecting world music enthusiast's year should be Charlie Gillett's annual compilation. As ever the 34 tracks from 28 different countries make for a compelling and cohesive listen thanks to the DJ's ear for a strong melody, a compelling vocalist, and a rhythm track which is far removed from the staple kit-drum labourings of most Western pop music. Only a few of the usual suspects are present, such as Orchestra Baobab and Manu Chao, but fear not, this is all quality merchandise and you'll enjoy the journey.

Album: Joan as Police Woman, To Survive (Reveal)

Just as Antony Hegarty first came to prominence as one of Lou Reed's backing singers, Joan Wasser started out as one of Antony and the Johnsons' backing singers before renaming herself Joan as Police Woman.

Album: Karen Dalton, Green Rocky Road (Megaphone)

Karen Dalton hated the tag "folk music’s answer to Billie Holiday". What she would have made of being labelled "the best singer you’ve never heard of" by a broadsheet last year will remain anyone’s guess, since Dalton died in 1993.

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