Colin Hay “Fierce Mercy” (Compass Records, 2017)

The latest solo album from prolific Men at Work frontman Colin Hay is a lesson in how deceptive appearances can be. The kitschy cover design looks like a collage of stock photos and clip art, and could suggest equally unpolished contents (to those unfamiliar with Hay’s oeuvre, anyway). Nothing could be further from the truth. Top-notch production values are on display from the opening bars of Come Tumblin’ Down. Satisfying Americana flavours of banjo, accordion, and a twangy Telecaster feature prominently in a rich and masterful arrangement. Continue reading “Colin Hay “Fierce Mercy” (Compass Records, 2017)”

Eric Ambel “Lakeside” (Last Chance Records / At The Helm Records, 2017)

Serial collaborator and producer Eric Ambel returns with his first solo record in over a decade. “Lakeside”, supposedly named after Ambel’s favourite former boozer, delivers ten tracks that would feel right at home in any dive where the floorboards are seasoned with spilled beer and the pool tables’ resale value ruined by cigarette damage. Continue reading “Eric Ambel “Lakeside” (Last Chance Records / At The Helm Records, 2017)”

Aaron Lee Tasjan “Silver Tears” (New West, 2016)

The cover image for Aaron Lee Tasjan’s latest release shows him sporting a two-piece suit entirely bejeweled with 10p-coin-sized silver sequins (or quarter-sized, in US coinage). Looking at this scaly, Stetson-wearing disco ball of a merman glisten in the sun, one can’t help but think “OK, this is going to be quirky. And not necessarily in a good way”. Fortunately, any suspicions of empty showmanship are dismissed from the very first moments of playback. The opener Hard Life is air-tight, with a 70s funky groove rolling slowly but assuredly forward, carrying playfully witty lyrics along with it. It sets the tone for the rest of the record nicely, “tight” and “70s” being keywords here. Continue reading “Aaron Lee Tasjan “Silver Tears” (New West, 2016)”

The Most Ugly Child “Copper and Lace” (Independent, 2017)

The first adjective that comes to mind when listening to The Most Ugly Child’s debut LP is simply “big”. The group is nominally a six-piece but with guest appearances that include a whole freaking brass band, they can make much more noise than their promo shots would suggest. And quite enjoyable noise it is too. Firstly, you have the songwriting, singing style, and nostalgic pedal steel tones that evoke the classic country of Buck Owens and George Jones. Adding to the controlled chaos is the earthy acoustic grit of dobro, banjo, and smashing fiddle breaks. Of course, one singer would not be enough for a band so clearly bent on laying more tracks, so leads and harmonies are traded by Daniel Wright and Stevie-Leigh Goodison.  Continue reading “The Most Ugly Child “Copper and Lace” (Independent, 2017)”

Adrian + Meredith “More Than A Little” (Vertigo Productions, 2016)

Rarely does “Americana” feel like a more appropriate classification than it does for Adrian + Meredith’s “More Than A Little”. After 40-odd minutes of playing time, the sheer list of traditional American genres discernible makes one wonder how exactly does the Krygowski power couple manage to maintain a consistent and recognisable sound throughout. Between the album’s monochrome artwork, Adrian Krygowski’s punk upbringing, and the head-bobbing swagger of the opening Take A Boat, you’d expect you’re in for the nihilist-chic marriage of rockabilly and punk rock that makes you want to put Día de Muertos skull decals on your hot rod (should you own one). But there is so much more. Continue reading “Adrian + Meredith “More Than A Little” (Vertigo Productions, 2016)”

Martin Harley and Daniel Kimbro “Static in the Wires” (Del Mundo Records, 2017)

Martin Harley, globally established badass of lap steel guitar, and Daniel Kimbro, upright bass player whose gig, venue, and collaboration credits read like a folk fanboy’s bucket list, are back with a new album. “Static in the Wires” is mostly a bluesy affair, well balanced between electric and acoustic textures, with occasional spaced-out echoes thrown into the mix. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Harley record without some upbeat folky finger picking. Continue reading “Martin Harley and Daniel Kimbro “Static in the Wires” (Del Mundo Records, 2017)”

Greg Halpin “Notes from a Bedroom” (Independent, 2016)

Greg-Halpin-2016The debut solo album from Montreal-based Greg Halpin delivers exactly what its title suggests: slice of life observational songs recorded in a makeshift bedroom studio. The 13 tracks are arranged almost exclusively for acoustic guitar, alternating between heart-felt strumming and lively finger-picking. This instrumental austerity does get tedious at times. The odd harmonica or whistling solos aren’t enough to keep listeners engaged all the way through the longer compositions. Continue reading “Greg Halpin “Notes from a Bedroom” (Independent, 2016)”