Cranford Hollow “Color/Sound/Renew/Revive” (Swampfire Records, 2017)

If Americana-UK were to judge the merits of a band’s music by the length, density and texture of their beards, then Cranford Hollow would score ten out of ten by a country mile. They are hereby awarded this year’s Bic Disposable Razor Award (other brands are also available) for the best beardage we have seen in a long while. May I suggest they try applying a little Honest Amish Beard Balm Leave-In Conditioner. Your beards will thank you for it, guys. Continue reading “Cranford Hollow “Color/Sound/Renew/Revive” (Swampfire Records, 2017)”

Chip Taylor “A Song I Can Live With” (Train Wreck Records, 2017)

“Good Morning from New York. It is January 11th 2016. David Bowie died yesterday.” Chip Taylor’s voice and delivery conjures up a feeling of warmth and intimacy that reminds one greatly of the late Alistair Cooke and his weekly ‘Letter from America’ for Radio 4. Taylor shares a similar avuncular style to the radio presenter. In a bizarre crime, before cremation, Cooke’s body was stolen and his bones sold as parts for bone grafts by a crooked surgeon, who never told the recipients that Cooke had died from cancer that had metastasized throughout his body, including said bones. Continue reading “Chip Taylor “A Song I Can Live With” (Train Wreck Records, 2017)”

Craig Finn “We All Want The Same Things” (Partisan Records, 2017)

A bag of pot and seven thousand dollars are found amongst her brother’s hockey equipment when he dies unexpectedly, and the deceased guy’s sister reaches out to a friend of her bro, who helps her to get rid of the pot. Thus, are the two main protagonists joined together in the elegiac ‘God in Chicago’ which is a riveting and emotional piece of storytelling by Craig Finn. It’s very filmic: it could be an American road movie by Wim Wenders, Alexander Payne or Willy Vlautin. Continue reading “Craig Finn “We All Want The Same Things” (Partisan Records, 2017)”

Ags Connolly “Nothin’ Unexpected” (At The Helm Records, 2017)

Who doesn’t love Ags over-easy? Bob Harris really digs this new offering from Ags Connolly. He’s already played several tracks on his show and it’s easy to see why it has got him all stirred up. Ags has teamed up with a sterling group of musicians that includes Michael Guerra from The Mavericks on accordion, and Grand Ole Opry stalwart Eamon McLoughlin on fiddle.  Released on the tuned-in Brighton-based At The Helm label which specialises in releasing ‘un-scrubbed Americana music’, it has been three years since Ags’ first release, How About Now, but the wait has been worth it. Continue reading “Ags Connolly “Nothin’ Unexpected” (At The Helm Records, 2017)”

Norrie McCulloch “Bare Along The Branches” (Black Dust Records, 2017)

There was that awful moment after Mum’s tiny, emaciated body had been lowered into the cold, hard ground with the St. Michael card I’d blu-tacked on the coffin-lid for protection and company; because we left her all alone in the windswept cemetery. Only when the silence became too oppressive did I force myself up into her bedroom, open the wardrobe door and begin to gather her clothes and other personal effects into cardboard boxes for their final journey to the charity shop in the High Street. Norrie McCulloch is also a member of that club no-one wants to join. He writes with such detail of his experience on Safe Keeping. What to give away and what to keep? He knows the excruciating pain that accompanies this task. Continue reading “Norrie McCulloch “Bare Along The Branches” (Black Dust Records, 2017)”

Two Cow Garage “Brand New Flag” (At The Helm Records, 2017)

‘He had a tattoo under his right eye that said ‘Fuck the world!’ and I wasn’t in a position to disagree,’ Say what? ‘Anger is an energy,’ John Lydon once sang. It sure is. If you could bottle Two Cow Garage’s anger we could substitute fossil fuels like oil and petrol and run the world on indignation and rage. Brand New Flag is part scathing social commentary, part-venting, and more than partly responsible for blowing my speakers out. Continue reading “Two Cow Garage “Brand New Flag” (At The Helm Records, 2017)”

Steve Pledger “Somewhere Between” (Noisy Dog, 2016)

steve-pledger-cd-jpegIf he were a reggae musician instead of a folk troubadour, Steve Pledger would be known as a ‘conscious man’, as the Jolly Brothers used to sing. ‘You’ve got to be a conscious man,’ could be his theme tune. It’s his mind set, attitude and subject matter that earns him that soubriquet. Pledger is a man concerned with social justice, a society where the poorest and most vulnerable get the support that they need. Be it the JAM’s (just about managing – this week’s media catchphrase), the disabled, the disenfranchised and those struggling for recognition and equal rights when it comes to issues of gender and sexuality. He’s an ethical sentient being. Increasingly these days, that seems to be a rarity. Continue reading “Steve Pledger “Somewhere Between” (Noisy Dog, 2016)”