The Doomed Bird of Providence “Burrowed into the Soft Sky” (Front & Follow, 2017)

TDBoP are the most evocative of the bands working in the post-rock landscape; their music always conjures up images even before you have any idea of the concepts behind them. That’s due to the purpose behind the songs – it’s not music of escape or abandon, it is music rooted in ideas and concepts, so whether passages are sweeping and grand or intimate and scratchy they are always driven by something and it’s the vision of something that makes them so compelling. Continue reading “The Doomed Bird of Providence “Burrowed into the Soft Sky” (Front & Follow, 2017)”

Valparaiso “Broken Homeland” (Zamora, 2017)

This French collective rose from the corpse of Jack the Ripper (the French Band – named for the Nick Cave song) and provide a particularly Gallic flavoured brand of Americana. The four corners of their world are populated by Giant Sand, Spain (both Howe Gelb and Josh Haden guest), PJ Harvey and the Tindersticks, so it’s slow burning Desert rock with an overcoat and a bucketful of attitude. It’s produced by John Parish (who also appears) and it sounds beautifully organic, suffused with as much atmosphere as a Joseph Conrad novel. Continue reading “Valparaiso “Broken Homeland” (Zamora, 2017)”

Mark Lavengood “We’ve Come Along” (Earthwork Music, 2017)

If americana is the world, then bluegrass is Austria, impossibly beautiful and incredibly conservative. Often I find the genre to be more about the preening and display of beautiful musical plumage and less about making music that really matters. Thankfully Lavengood is more musically dishevelled, there are loose threads that can be pulled and there’s plenty to get to grips with. He certainly has some chutzpah, opening with the title track which weighs in at 7 minutes and sets the tone for the rest of the record – there is some really excellent fluid playing and there’s also space for digression, for pause and for the imperfect. It varies in pace and texture and is happy at times to use jazz or rock influences. He shows off his genre chops on the standard Ol’ Slew Foot and Ralph Stanley’s Bound to Ride but in many ways they are the least interesting pieces on the record. Continue reading “Mark Lavengood “We’ve Come Along” (Earthwork Music, 2017)”

Lucy Kitchen “Sun To My Moon” (Bohemia Rose Records 2017)

Lucy Kitchen’s songs are intimate in that they are often love songs, and the performances and backing are closely arranged around her voice, which is a thing of some beauty. It is the voice that dominates; the songs of loss like Searching for Land or He is Lost to Me suit her perfectly. In atmosphere the songs have something of Nick Drake about them. Hollow has that peculiarly bucolic jazzy feel; it’s folk music but it’s reaching out to other forms. Those other forms include the usual bedfellows like country – the billowing of pedal steel on Lovers In Blue doesn’t overwhelm, it just does its job of counterpointing the harmonies. It’s interesting that when the strings arrive they are formal violins rather than the fiddles you might expect, so the pedal steel, when it returns, seems quite maverick. Continue reading “Lucy Kitchen “Sun To My Moon” (Bohemia Rose Records 2017)”

Ian Felice “In The Kingdom of Dreams” (Loose, 2017)

Between two things there is often a dilution of each, a middle of the road but there is also the possibility of great fertility. I mention this as when listening to this record my first impression (and so far it’s an unshakeable one) is that on this record Ian Felice finds a beautiful sweet spot somewhere between Bob Dylan and Jeff Mangum (Neutral Milk Hotel). There’s a wonderful off-the-cuff quality to the recordings (it was recorded quickly over 4 days produced by brother Simone and featuring other brothers fraternal and otherwise) as though the way the songs sound on here isn’t necessarily how they will sound again. There are strange lyrical flourishes – “Well the aliens landed on Election Day and they stole your mother’s lingerie” from 21st Century is one example – and at points an almost gleeful release, like it’s a creative cleansing. Continue reading “Ian Felice “In The Kingdom of Dreams” (Loose, 2017)”

Nick Heyward “Woodland Echoes” (Gladsome Hawk, 2017)

Those of you who still remember Nick Heyward from his days fronting Haircut 100 (humorously described in the press release as a New Wave group) may be surprised by this record, but anyone who has paid attention to what he’s done since won’t be. Ever since his first few solo singles like Whistle Down the Wind, he’s been moving away from the itchy pop funk that made him, the only echo of it here being the opening bars of The Stars. This record is full of naturalistic images. So thickly does he lays it on that he makes Thomas Hardy seem like Elmore Leonard. There’s the sound of birdsong at the start of Beautiful Morning, which unfolds like a flower welcoming the sun, then goes mildly rococo with the detail, bucolic 100. Continue reading “Nick Heyward “Woodland Echoes” (Gladsome Hawk, 2017)”

Juanita Stein “America” (Nude Records, 2017)

This record reminds me a lot of the Coco Hames record from early in the year; a solo debut that explores several styles is always a pleasant listen but lacks an essential sense of identity to mark it out from the crowd. At times where the songs need something to push them on, they drift. Stargazer is a case in point, it is lovely, her voice is good, the melody is satisfying but it just doesn’t reach out and grab me. Similarly Cold Comfort resurrects standard Country tropes, pleasantly – it doesn’t do anything, which is frustrating as she is clearly capable of more than just settling for these pleasant genre pieces. Continue reading “Juanita Stein “America” (Nude Records, 2017)”