Conor Oberst “Salutations” (Nonesuch Records, 2017)

The lengthy follow up to last year’s acid confessional ‘Ruminations’ is an expanded version of that self-same album but with added band, tracks and dareonesayit self-acceptance. The bitter starkness has been replaced and perhaps displaced by an album that gladdens the heart and stimulates the brain. Lyrically Oberst has always been able to skewer his own inadequacies in the face of his life and lifestyle but this reworking has prompted some re-examinations and perhaps relaxations. Evidently working with the Felice Brothers (amongst others) has given Oberst a clear sense of purpose and instrumentation. This is as close to the template for ‘Americana’ you are ever going to get. Harmonica, melancholy melodies, storming choruses, image packed lyrics, guitars and drums, raucous backing vocals, beautiful guitar flourishes, a distinct lack of synths or troubling production, a genuinely timeless feel (although at push it could be 1971!) etc.  Continue reading “Conor Oberst “Salutations” (Nonesuch Records, 2017)”

Mark Eitzel “Hey, Mr FerryMan” (Decor Records 2017)

Eitzel is an arresting cove. A lounge room crooner with impeccable Americana credentials and instincts. Beyond that an entertaining, erudite man with much to say and a lot to share. This album marks a massive up swing in his profile as in the company of Bernard Butler he aims for the kind of mainstream breakthrough that similar artists such as John Grant and Jason Isbell have enjoyed; critically acclaimed solo material released after leaving loved but not massive bands (in the case of the Czars the band had folded). Originally conceived as a stripped down set by Eitzel the instinct of Butler as producer to widen and fill out the production has paid enormous dividends as Eitzel has delivered his most consistent and musically assured album yet. Continue reading “Mark Eitzel “Hey, Mr FerryMan” (Decor Records 2017)”

Ryan Adams “Prisoner” (Virgin/EMI 2017)

A comeback, break up album – what could be better for the record buying Americana fan? Ryan Adams, the quintessential wounded troubadour, back ‘on form’ with a searing examination of a highly personal life event. Surely this is cause for celebration but in the name of good taste a muted one as we empathise with our poet songsmith? Well yes and perhaps more pertinently no. This is a bright shiny production with some strong songs and Adam’s voice sounding in fine fettle but songs such as Doomsday and the opener Do You Still Love Me have a very eighties feel to the sound which make the record sometimes feel soulless. Continue reading “Ryan Adams “Prisoner” (Virgin/EMI 2017)”

Little Diamonds “New Orleans Bound” (Independent, 2016)

Essentially a John Prine/Early Dylan channeller, New Orleans Bound offers up 45 minutes of undiluted classic guitar, singer and occasional colour of harmonica, drum, bass or string. As an exercise in nailing a sound – lonesome travelling troubadour it ain’t half bad. Lots of walking blues half sung half spoken in a surprisingly weathered and clear voice given the youthfulness of the face on the CD cover.  Continue reading “Little Diamonds “New Orleans Bound” (Independent, 2016)”

Neil McSweeney “A Coat Worth Wearing” (Hudson Records 2017)

An album that features an Edward Thomas poem on its sleeve notes is always going to be worth the time spent on it and the rule remains true with this latest offering from the Sheffield folkster. Muscular production and some stunning soundscapes lift the material above the simply strong and into the realm of the memorable. Forlorn Hope has some deep booming beats that underpin the groove and gladden the heart. But it is Danse Macabre that genuinely grabs the listener by the scruff of the neck demanding attention. Hymnal and elegiac the palette grows as vocals collide in a processional celebrating the wolf. There are comparisons to be made with Wolves by Phosphorescence not only in the haunted quality of the storytelling but in the subject matter and manner the story is told. Continue reading “Neil McSweeney “A Coat Worth Wearing” (Hudson Records 2017)”

Cormac O Caoimh “Shiny Silver Things” (Independent, 2017)

The fourth solo outing for singer songwriter O Caoimh continues where his previous efforts left off. This is a collection songs that belie their often ‘lightweight’ production with hidden depths or lyrical touches that make the listener sit up and take notice. On the back of the wave of positivity concerning his last release not least from this very website (‘this album is a tour de force’) O Caoimh has his work cut out – not many artists have more than one tour de force in their careers. This reviewer can but think of a couple, if that.  Continue reading “Cormac O Caoimh “Shiny Silver Things” (Independent, 2017)”

Jackalope Tales “Let Me Tell You a Story” (Independent, 2017)

‘Let Me Tell You a Story’ is the second full-length album from the Sheffield based folk trio Jackalope Tales. It is comprised of three previously released EPs plus a couple of bonus tracks, the band mainly performing songs written by their American songwriter Linda Lee Welch. The album opens with a group composition A Jackalope Tale. What’s a jackalope you ask?  Well… a jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore (a fearsome critter) described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns. Thanks Wikipedia. Still no wiser; the track appears to be an attempt at an adult nursery rhyme listing as it does things related or pertaining to this creature. It swings along but the vocals unfortunately are not good or idiosyncratic enough to bring any charm in the lyrical nonsense to the fore, and consequently the track doesn’t escape the boundaries of some naive lyricism and rudimentary bluegrass.
Continue reading “Jackalope Tales “Let Me Tell You a Story” (Independent, 2017)”