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)”

Mount Song “Mount Song” (Suncave Recordings, 2017)

You know that hazy rock sound, the one where the songs seem to drift along on a kind of medicated meander? That’s what Mount Song do. They never push too hard the songs that aren’t suffused with energy; they’re more a close your eyes watch the patterns form on the back of your eyelids kind of a band. They are Swedish (I don’t think that matters) led by Jacob Johansson, but they could be from anywhere, they could be from Oklahoma. I think the Flaming Lips (pre Soft Bulletin) are an influence and there are also echoes of Radiohead – Wake Up has that feeling, it simmers along bursts into choruses, while Guitar on Fire is a smoulder rather than a blaze. Continue reading “Mount Song “Mount Song” (Suncave Recordings, 2017)”

Scott Hrabko & The Rabbits “Summer” (Independent, 2017)

I know that this is grown-up Americana music, I know that it is well-crafted, slyly funny and expertly put together. I know it sounds like an Americana record should sound and I know that I should be listening to it now but I’m not. I’m cheating. I’ve listened to half the record (I’ve had it on in the car for the last few days), I’m trying to get through it again and to write something about it but it isn’t grabbing me, it isn’t saying anything to me. I’m trying to see if something else does, to see if it is me, or it’s the record. Searching around I listened to a couple of Hoodoo Gurus songs from the early 1980’s – they still chime with me, I’m still capable of being reached. Try something new, Japanese Breakfast The Body is a Blade – yep it penetrates. Try something more Americana? OK. Here’s the new one from Kevin Morby, it’s lovely, it excites me, it’s definitely not me. Continue reading “Scott Hrabko & The Rabbits “Summer” (Independent, 2017)”

Don Antonio “Don Antonio” Santeria/Audioglobe 2017

Antonio Gramentieri has worked with a host of Americana favourites from Howe Gelb, Richard Buckner and the Friends of Dean Martinez. If you blend those together, add in an Italian view of life (I like to think of Inspector Montalbano) and a dose of noir, you get a sound that is at once Mediterranean and universal. There’s a mix of louche instrumentals like Il Turco that’s like an ill-advised drug fuelled tour of a souk, sardonic stories like ‘Sera’ narrated by Hugo Race and then strange little twisted slices of seedy europop like Baballo. A complete stew of styles all slightly skewed into Gramentieri’s worldview. Continue reading “Don Antonio “Don Antonio” Santeria/Audioglobe 2017”

Cory Branan “Adios” (Bloodshot, 2017)

Branan is the type of songwriter who doesn’t like to repeat himself – no meticulous honing of a style. No, Branan likes to write a song and move on. The style will be suggested by the song. Genre is an elastic spectrum; it is invisible and ignored. Another Nightmare in America is in the tradition of It’s the End of the World as We Know It (or We Didn’t Start the Fire), a rollicking evisceration of contemporary society. Then there’s Cold Blue Moonlight, a bluesy slow-burner more akin to Spain (the band). It makes for a thrilling journey. Blacksburg sounds like Joe Henry in country rock mode (with the Jayhawks on hand) whilst Visiting Hours is a kind of new wave gallop. Continue reading “Cory Branan “Adios” (Bloodshot, 2017)”

Enderby’s Room “Enderby’s Room” (Fika Recordings, 2017)

This is Dan Mayfield’s first record as band leader. He’s worked with Darren Hayman, The Wave Pictures and Allo Darlin’, and his own sound isn’t too far away from those artists. It is a gentle blend of folk suffused with atmosphere, hushed polite vocals and everything clearly thought through and stuffed with detail. ‘The Music’ details the pleasures of music, the physical pleasure of the needle in the groove or the tape passing over the heads as well as the bliss from the actual music, the drone of harmonium binding everything together. The songs are full of small personal pleasures rather than bold statements – ‘Stars’ mixes ukulele with harmonium and the twinkling of vibes to create a painterly atmosphere where the brushstrokes of the instruments create the atmosphere. Continue reading “Enderby’s Room “Enderby’s Room” (Fika Recordings, 2017)”

Los Straitjackets “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets” (Yep Roc, 2017)

In which Los Straitjackets provide thirteen instrumental versions of Nick Lowe songs. They add their usual twang, and it ends up like a Shadows record without Cliff Richard. Mildly diverting at first and in the end a futile exercise, there isn’t really one song that sounds better as an instrumental, and no version really does anything astounding so you forget the vocal melody and they also slide into cheesy territory as Lately I’ve Let Things Slide shows where the melancholy is replaced with musical a kiss me quick hat. Continue reading “Los Straitjackets “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets” (Yep Roc, 2017)”