Toby Hay “The Gathering” (Cambrian Records, 2017)

A quotation from Basho, the sixteenth century Zen Buddhist monk and poet, adorns The Gathering’s inlay sleeve: I like to wash / The dust of the world / In the droplets of dew. Basho, of course, is most famous for his haiku: Listen! A frog / Jumping into the stillness / Of an ancient pond. This album is anything but plop! Listening to Hay’s amazing collection of instrumental six-string and twelve-string acoustic guitar suites, one is struck by his Basho-like attention to the beauty of nature. There is a pastoral feel to his inventive and immersive oeuvre; the result of quiet contemplation, time spent reflecting on the wonders of creation.  Continue reading “Toby Hay “The Gathering” (Cambrian Records, 2017)”

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)”