Sammy Brue ” I Am Nice” (New West Records 2017)

Bloody hell. This is the frankly astonishing debut album from the Portland, Oregon native Brue who has been mentored by Justin Townes Earle and produced by half of The Civil Wars and a quarter of the Alabama Shakes and is only 15yrs old. This is Stevie Winwood territory smashing into a scene when still of school age with a prodigious talent that defies convention. Why so good? Not just his age surely? No not at all but that does play into the critical assessment. There is no doubt that the production has lifted the occasional bit of weak material but the majority of this album aims high and invariably hits the target. This is no novelty record. Continue reading “Sammy Brue ” I Am Nice” (New West Records 2017)”

Nathan Oliver “Head In The Sand” (Potluck Foundation 2017)

This 20 minute EP takes the listener back to a time when fuzzed guitars and shoegazing was not considered the social misdemeanour it is perhaps considered today (despite its reflowering this summer) . Nathan White IS Nathan Oliver – well, him and some fine pick up instrumentalists and this EP represents a return to recording after 8yrs off and took a year to record ( now that’s what I call a work ethic 1yr = 20mins of music) but it does have the feel of a serious piece of work despite its very solidly signposted influences and heritage. Continue reading “Nathan Oliver “Head In The Sand” (Potluck Foundation 2017)”

Roger Waters “Is This The Life We Really Want?”

If you are a Water’s fan – be it ‘Amused to Death’ or ‘Pros and Cons’ or a Floyd fan particularly of ‘Animals’ or ‘The Wall’ then you are going to really enjoy the musical tropes explored in this angry, reflective, world-weary and ultimately affecting album. If you are new to this music then dive in, the Water’s fine. Teaming up with Nigel Godrich appears to have both edited out raging Roge’s more self-indulgent moments as well as, amongst other things, encouraged more of the ‘found sounds’ that appear throughout the work. Lots of BBC voiceovers from the 70s, the speaking clock, bagging area announcements and, of course, Trump. Continue reading “Roger Waters “Is This The Life We Really Want?””

Leeroy Stagger “Love Versus” (Independent 2017)

Stagger’s eleventh studio album sees him really hitting some impressive heights as a songwriter. This is an old school album in the sense that it is a singer/songwriter opening his heart and reflecting his concerns and dreams whilst backed by an accomplished bunch of musicians and highly sympathetic production.
Each song is crisp and independent but they all build to give an affecting picture of an artist comfortable in his own skin and in charge of his craft. Continue reading “Leeroy Stagger “Love Versus” (Independent 2017)”

Justin Currie “This Is My Kingdom Now” (Endless Shipwreck 2017)

Justin Currie has ploughed a pretty deep furrow since disbanding Del Amitri and with the exception of a reunion tour a couple of years ago he enjoys a small but very dedicated fanbase which lap up his razor sharp observations couched in melodies that lesser songwriters would dream of imagining. Live he is immense; ploughing through a back catalogue of genuine pop classics laced with his black humour, and it is fitting that this latest release fits perfectly into such a set list. Continue reading “Justin Currie “This Is My Kingdom Now” (Endless Shipwreck 2017)”

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)”