The summer's gone – and everything's suddenly coming back to life. Michael Bywater writes in praise of our most glorious time of year
The Grade I-listed One Mayfair was built in the early 19th century as St Mark's Church, to service the needs of an aristocratic clientele away from their country seats. Restored following its deconsecration in the Seventies, it makes the perfect venue for a secret gig by one of today's rock aristocracy, Robert Plant CBE, up in London from his Worcestershire home to launch his first album with his new group Band of Joy.
Ahead of the release of his new album, Band of Joy, Robert Plant talks to Andy Gill about the move from fronting the biggest band in the world to his success in exploring a diverse range of styles, from vocal harmony and country to North African and Arabic
Her 'Sweet About Me' was the most-played song in the UK in 2009. But now Gabriella Cilmi has ditched the bluesy image and reinvented herself as a sexy electro-pop siren. Gillian Orr finds out what's behind the transformation
United's long-overlooked playmaker tells Ian Herbert why he is finally in the spotlight
Garlanded with praise from the likes of Emmylou Harris and Don Was ("This might be the best record I've ever heard"), Written in Chalk has the nobility of old-time country music, but with a post-modern appreciation of blues, jazz and the innovations of artists such as Tom Waits and Robert Plant.
Led Zeppelin frontman strikes gold with his bluegrass collaboration
Perhaps the purest exponents of desert blues are Tinariwen. The band’s backstory is the stuff of legend – members of the loose collective fought in the Mali Civil War during the Nineties, and tales of the Tuareg musicians going into battle with both Kalashnikovs and guitars slung over their backs are legion. Their sound is unique – layered guitars interweaving with call and response vocals, handclaps and female throat singers.
Despite the competing claims of such as Mark Ronson and Brian (Danger Mouse) Burton, T Bone Burnett may be the most interesting producer working in popular music at the moment. Equally comfortable helming award-winning soundtracks for Cold Mountain, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Walk the Line, and reacquainting singers like Tony Bennett, Roy Orbison, Cassandra Wilson and kd lang with their roots, his manifold talents combined to powerful effect on last year's peerless Raising Sand collaboration between Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. But until 2006's The True False Identity, his packed diary left Burnett little time to pursue his own muse.