"If people thought it was a bit strange, then they didn't say," says Bill Wells of the stellar cast of collaborators who played and sung on his new album, Nursery Rhymes. "I made it all clear pretty early on in proceedings and everyone seemed up for it." Well, actually, it is a bit strange, but then think of Wells' trademark combination of spare, melodic compositions with adventurous arrangements for the National Jazz Trio Of Scotland, particularly his adaptions of Christmas songs on their Christmas Album - and he's a perfect fit for the job. In fact, it works precisely because it's such an unusual undertaking, although the material provided common ground for the 18 musicians on the album. The songs are like musical archetypes embedded in the mind from the playground, but listening to the album you soon forget that context, as it reveals itself as a series of odd, cryptic and disquieting tunes. Aby Vulliamy, vocalist with NJTOS, had suggested the idea to Wells, but he was initially unsure as to how it would work. "No one's going to say that 'Humpty Dumpty' or 'Three Blind Mice' is one of their favourite tunes," he laughs. "But if I could do something that made me like the end result, then it was justified." Nursery Rhymes is a unique record in that it recasts these funny, violent, coded, centuries-old sentiments as fresh, new creations. Wells is a brilliant arranger and does wonders in finding new ways of looking at the songs, and drawing more out of their strong but spare melodic material. And he positively relishes the juxtaposition of a simple tune with dark lyrics." They should be quite disturbing," he observes. "Because ultimately part of the remit of a nursery rhyme was to give your child some of the harsh realties of life, while sugar-coating them with a catchy little melody. But I'm losing that coating and going straight to the nub of the thing."" (label info) feat. Karen Mantler, Yo La Tengo, Annette Peacock, Bridget St John, members of Deerhoof and Teenage Fanclub and more. vinyl version comes with bonus 7"