British folk-punk singer Frank Turner is gunning for the mantle occupied by the late, revered Joe Strummer, and the restless elder statesman Billy Bragg.
While his first four albums show a rapid ascendancy that suggests he could definitely get there, Turner's prolific recording hits a number of other areas. With homage to Bob Dylan in song and Black Flag in album art and concept, The Second Three Years collects B-sides, compilation tracks, live recordings and previously unreleased songs, including a dozen covers.
Coming on the heels of last year's excellent England Keep My Bones, the album is a compendium of folk, punk and pub-rock, though a bit scattered at 22 songs and more than a bit long at 77 minutes.
His best covers are "Song to Bob" (a take on Bob Dylan's "Song to Woody"), "Thunder Road" and a live, a cappella rendition of the 17th-century English ballad "Barbara Allen."
But the nonfolk covers are spotty. Turner performs with sincerity and reverence, but the results can sound a bit indulgent. "Build Me Up Buttercup" loses the exuberance of the Foundations' original. The acoustic Nirvana, NOFX and Bad Religion are fun reinventions, if a bit slight. Yet when Turner's strengths are on full display ("To Absent Friends," "Balthazar, Impresario" and "Wanderlust"), he's one of his country's most-invigorating songwriters and performers.