Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards “California Calling” (Compass Records 2017)

Laura Cortese, a force already as a solo singer, has gathered around her, in Boston, other alumni from Berklee College of Music: Cellist, Valerie Thompson, fiddler, Jenna Moynihan and bass player, Natalie Bohrn. Together, they are a foursome to be reckoned with. Laura has written or has had a part in writing nine of the songs on this remarkable album. It doesn’t take long to become immersed in the music that the quartet provides. The first two tracks capture you. Continue reading “Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards “California Calling” (Compass Records 2017)”

Andy Griffiths “Big Red Monster” (Musician Records 2017)

Here is a thoughtful album that deserves your attention. Andy tells stories in his songs that are “beyond anywhere,” which are words from the first track. Rather, they present a carefully collected and memorable array of events and places. The cover and pictures on the album, and its title give some clues here. There is Andy playing his guitar, sitting above Worbarrow Bay on the Dorset coast, and on the back is the big red tractor, the monster itself. Track 7 tells of the families, who, on a mere moment’s notice were forced to leave their village of Tyneham which was then required as part of the Lulworth Range as gun and fighting practice for the Normandy landings. Continue reading “Andy Griffiths “Big Red Monster” (Musician Records 2017)”

Great Willow “Find Yourself in Los Angeles” (Sedan Zero Records 2017)

In their debut album Great Willow have managed to recreate and update the sound of the California canyons in the sixties. The reference is there to the 60’s sounds of (amongst others) the Byrds and the singing of Gene Clark. Great Willow are James Coombs and Erin Hawkins, with their exquisite harmony singing and with them are Rich McCulley playing guitar, and Ed Barguirena on drums. And, throughout, the mariachi horns, providing what is, at times, almost a “Tex-Mex” feel. Continue reading “Great Willow “Find Yourself in Los Angeles” (Sedan Zero Records 2017)”

Matt Woods “How to Survive” (Lonely Ones Records 2017)

Matt Woods hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where this CD was recorded in Shed 55. Here is an album to linger with and learn from. Matt accepts the reality of modern life. In Love in a Nuclear Age he sings, “No one’s been smart enough /To write a book on how to survive.” Maybe not, but here is a collection of songs that attempts very successfully to do just that thing. Continue reading “Matt Woods “How to Survive” (Lonely Ones Records 2017)”

The Young‘uns “Strangers” (Heretu Records 2017)

Here is an astonishing album, musically and harmoniously spot on, that sweeps you up and teaches you a thing or two about people, places and events, leaving you with a sense of wonder. To encourage you, to listen to and buy the CD, to make every effort to see the Young’uns perform, here is, hopefully, a tempting glance into the appeal of the collection and the captivating nature of Sean Cooney, David Eagle and Michael Hughes, called The Young’uns as this was what they were called by older singers as a term of endearment in their early days of performing in the North East. Now, of course, they are established and holders of outstanding Folk awards. Continue reading “The Young‘uns “Strangers” (Heretu Records 2017)”

Martin Simpson “Trails & Tribulations” (Topic Records 2017)

Martin Simpson’s latest album rates as his best yet. As one of the foremost singers and inventive players on the folk circuit here, he has gained his reputation not only through hard work but through a deep understanding of what English and American music amounts to, and where its roots are. Consider the thirteen tracks and gleam the stories that linger behind them. The first track is Blues Run the Game: “Catch a boat to England…” Martin’s soft, distinctive and confiding voice and his finger style playing catch and hold their audience effortlessly. Continue reading “Martin Simpson “Trails & Tribulations” (Topic Records 2017)”

Alex Rex “Vermillion” (Tin Angel Records 2017)

Alex Rex (as Alex Neilson) is the singer, songwriter and drummer from Tumbling Bells. And that is just the start. In musical circles and beyond, this musician from Glasgow, has a huge reputation. Rhythmically, he appears unexpectedly, for instance, in Shirley Collins’ “Lodestar” where, on the first track he is playing cymbals, and, in “Pretty Polly,” the drum beats from half way through, are his!  But “Vermillion” is his debut solo album, and as such, should be taken note of, and applauded. The title itself is a clue to the colourful and often challenging nature of the songs Alex has written. His voice bears testimony to the value of his lyrics. Continue reading “Alex Rex “Vermillion” (Tin Angel Records 2017)”

Jinder “Kingsize Blackfoot” (Din of Ecstasy 2017)

This is Phil Dewhurst (Jinder)’s 10th album. He lives and works in Dorset, and by his own words has played, sung, recorded, engineered, produced and mastered this album himself at a studio in that county. The name of the album “Kingsize Blackfoot” has been adopted for this project to honour Jinder’s / Phil’s direct connection to Native American Blackfoot Sioux Roots, and also as a comment on his stature (6’7’’). Note also the classic album cover: a buffalo on the plains, with the sun rising.  Continue reading “Jinder “Kingsize Blackfoot” (Din of Ecstasy 2017)”

Red Moon Joe “Time & Life” (DBS Recordings, 2017)

Here is up to date, relevant, British, Liverpool-produced Americana at its best. The songs are confiding, forceful sometimes. As it says in the first track, “Every page and chorus sweet refrain/ Filled with joy and some… filled with pain.” All you need really! Red Moon Joe are: Mark Wilkinson, who is the founder member (originally forming the band in 1985), producer, singer, electric and acoustic guitars; Steve Conway, pedal steel, dobro, acoustic guitar; David A Smith, bass; Dave Fitzpatrick, harmonica, banjo; and Paul Casey, drums. Continue reading “Red Moon Joe “Time & Life” (DBS Recordings, 2017)”

The Gage Brothers “The Gage Brothers” (Independent 2017)

Here is a new Bluegrass band of great note. The Gage Brothers are brothers, Ben (harmonica, Cajon beat box) and Zach (lead vocal and guitar), now with Brendan O’Malley (mandolin) and Chris Volpe (banjo and pedal steel). The album was recorded in Cleveland where it was produced by Jim Stewart. These four musicians work together in a special way. The first track beds that thought. A confident and short a capella introduction, “Feed my desires with all you are.” It’s all here: banjo, mandolin, harmonica, with an infectious rhythm.   Continue reading “The Gage Brothers “The Gage Brothers” (Independent 2017)”