The Novel Ideas “The Novel Ideas” (Independent 2017)

The Novel Ideas are a country-folk four-piece from Brighton, Massachusetts and their self-titled album was released in the UK in November. Having been playing together for around six years and featuring three different song-writers in their ranks, the Novel Ideas certainly don’t lack experience or creativity and it shows in a mature album that demonstrates all that is good about the Americana genre. Continue reading “The Novel Ideas “The Novel Ideas” (Independent 2017)”

Langhorne Slim “Lost at Last Vol 1” (Dualtone Records 2017)

Langhorne Slim has taken a “step sideways” from 2015’s The Spirit Moves in order to move forward. The result is a more stripped-back offering that retains much of Slim’s defiant introspection albeit in a more lo-fi folk style than previously. Recorded at Stinson Beach, California where views of the ocean have inspired numerous artists, “Lost at Last” sees Slim channel his desire for individuality into thirteen tracks that may lack some polish but gain a raw authentic feel. It’s a collection of songs, recorded almost spontaneously with a backing cast of seasoned Slim veterans like bassist Paul Defiglia and drummer Malachi DeLorenzo who also takes producing credits alongside Mt Davidson of Twain who contributes pedal steel among other things. Continue reading “Langhorne Slim “Lost at Last Vol 1” (Dualtone Records 2017)”

Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Albert Hall, Manchester, 25th October 2017

The resplendent setting of a former Methodist hall in central Manchester was a suitable venue to welcome Jason Isbell back to these shores and an expectant congregation of devotees were not disappointed by an evening that showcased perfectly the strengths of one of America’s finest artists and his excellent band. Continue reading “Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Albert Hall, Manchester, 25th October 2017”

Janis Ian “The Essential 2.0” (Sony Music CMG 2017)

With ten Grammy nominations, and being able to count the likes of Dolly Parton, Cher, Billy Joel, Johnny Cash (who apparently kept a book of her poetry in his library), Jimi Hendrix and Willie Nelson as fans, Janis Ian is entitled to be described as “the songwriter’s songwriter”. When you consider that her songs have been covered by artists such as Glen Campbell, Celine Dion and Roberta Flack it is clear that this is a seriously talented artist and as such, this career-spanning retrospective really is an “essential” listen. Continue reading “Janis Ian “The Essential 2.0” (Sony Music CMG 2017)”

Kathryn Rose Wood “In The Ashes” (Independent 2017)

This is a debut album. It is a challenging album and a difficult album, but it is also an absolutely beautiful album. Kathryn Rose Wood, a singer/songwriter based in New Orleans, is also a clinical music therapist with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and therefore well aware of how powerful music can be in healing and improving well-being. It is poignant then, that the album is comprised of six songs that she wrote while grieving the suicide of her younger brother Preston and which chronicle the stages of grief. Continue reading “Kathryn Rose Wood “In The Ashes” (Independent 2017)”

Eric Westbury “Atomic Wilderness” (Barreltown Records 2017)

There is something immediately striking about this album; that feeling of familiarity and reassurance you only really get when hearing something for the first time that just “sounds right”. And Atomic Wilderness certainly sounds right. It’s the third release by the Vancouver-based artist Eric Westbury, a gravel-voiced purveyor of Americana with a hint of Punk and a lot of keen social observation. If you like your songs tight, well-crafted and punchy, Eric Westbury is your man. First track The Cavalcade is a bouncing, easy melody that sets the scene for a hugely impressive group of songs.  Continue reading “Eric Westbury “Atomic Wilderness” (Barreltown Records 2017)”

Deer Tick “Deer Tick Volume 1/Volume 2” (Partisan Records 2017)

In what is a slightly unusual move, Deer Tick have simultaneously released two albums of contrasting styles, their first for four years. Whilst being massively diverse in sound, both records actually do sit together very well to offer a full insight into a band in full creative flow. Volume 1 is acoustic with some folk edges and opens with a full-on John McCauley vocal on Sea of Clouds that certainly shakes the listener out of any preconceptions that this may be the “quieter” of the two albums. Continue reading “Deer Tick “Deer Tick Volume 1/Volume 2” (Partisan Records 2017)”

Paul Kelly “Life is Fine” (Gawd Aggie/Cooking Vinyl 2017)

‘Life is Fine’ as in ‘hanging by a thread’ rather than ‘great’, is a powerful return by Aussie songwriting royalty Paul Kelly. The Australian singer-songwriter is so pleased with it that he is about to embark on his first full band tour of North America to promote it. First listen to opening track Rising Moon will demonstrate why Kelly has such faith in “Life is Fine” as it’s a pretty irresistible R and B number and when the following tracks of Finally Something Good and the rocking Firewood and Candles kick in you can see how the variety of styles reflects the cohesiveness of the full band set up. Continue reading “Paul Kelly “Life is Fine” (Gawd Aggie/Cooking Vinyl 2017)”

Dai and the Ramblers “Bon Bon” (Just Peachy Records 2017)

In 2014, debut album, the Zydeco-influenced “Duw Duw”, saw London-based Dai and the Ramblers gain widespread praise and this follow-up will be eagerly awaited.“Bon Bon” is a continuation in part of the style of their debut, but it also sees the sound evolve with elements of soul, country and even a hint of gospel in Up Above My Head. The album was recorded at a series of live sessions in Rupert Gillet’s Walthamstow studio and this definitely gives a vital edge to the sound. Song writer and front man Dai Price deals in tight and trim vignettes in a range of genres, all delivered in a rich vocal style and backed by an experienced team of musicians who have worked with the like of Van Morrison, Jeff Beck and Richard Thompson. Continue reading “Dai and the Ramblers “Bon Bon” (Just Peachy Records 2017)”

Kev Minney “Stories of the Sky” (Independent, 2017)

An astronomically-themed album cover heralds an interesting debut from Northampton-based acoustic virtuoso Kev Minney. Working closely with Mercury-nominated producer Jag Jago, Minney has crafted an album of dreamy soundscapes, often based around the themes of space. As an admirer of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Nick Drake, the songs are driven by personal storylines and given the precious time to develop and breathe. This is helped by an impressive range of contributing musicians and measured production that ensures the acoustic nature of the songs is never swamped. Continue reading “Kev Minney “Stories of the Sky” (Independent, 2017)”