Finlay Morton “Only Half A Live” (Stoneroom Recordings, 2016)

Morton is yet another one of those Scotsmen who can deliver a well-crafted version of bluesy rock (see Tam White, Stevie Agnew, Jimmy Barnes), it’s in their working class bones you see. Well, that’s one myth that was popular at one point but it’s probably more likely that the 50ish long haired Morton spent his youth in Aberdeen listening to Cream, Rory Gallagher, Stone The Crows before moving on to Dire Straits and Chris Rea and to this day still spins discs of a similar nature. Continue reading “Finlay Morton “Only Half A Live” (Stoneroom Recordings, 2016)”

Tahoma “Hideaway” (Independent, 2016)

A five-piece band from Austin Texas Tahoma tread a melodic soft-rock path. While they mention the classic 70’s sounds of Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and the Eagles in their brief bio as influences much of this album seems to be more akin to the current slew of young male chart toppers.  Now this may be doing Brandon Aguilar, singer and chief writer for the band a disservice and indeed the album is spikier than the likes of Ed Sheeran but despite the band tag here Aguilar is front and centre throughout and there is a tendency to slip into a soft soul bag on several of the songs. Continue reading “Tahoma “Hideaway” (Independent, 2016)”

Piano Magic “Closure” (Second Language Music 2016)

It’s a wee bit embarrassing to confess that despite a 20 year career, 12 albums and the late John Peel a fan of the band that this reviewer has never heard of Piano Magic. In defence they are not common or garden Americana UK fodder, their songs unfolding somewhat glacially over an electronic pulse that’s embellished by washes of guitar as Glen Johnson’s disembodied and almost spoken vocals slowly delve into existential conundrums. However there are several moments here when the songs positively soar, sometimes borne aloft on a waft of string arrangements.  Lyrically there are echoes of Nick Cave, L. Cohen and Momus while the arrangements have a mild whiff of The Go Betweens and The Walkabouts all adding up to some fine melancholic soul searching. Continue reading “Piano Magic “Closure” (Second Language Music 2016)”

The Great Western Tears “Tales From Tallows” (Independent, 2016)

Back in May of 2015 I reviewed the debut EP from Oxford’s The Great Western Tears giving it a big thumbs up and noting them as a band to watch out for. Well here’s the album and thankfully they haven’t let me down as it’s a very fine listen indeed. They remain a band who are steeped in the ethos of country music but there’s little of the Ameripolitan ambition which fuelled their song The Late Great Man In Black on the EP. Instead, the songs are intimate ruminations, late night musings, acoustically based with Kurt Hamilton’s pedal steel adding atmosphere. Continue reading “The Great Western Tears “Tales From Tallows” (Independent, 2016)”

Amanda Rheaume “Holding Patterns” (Independent, 2016)

"Rheaume-Amanda-2016"Having explored her family roots on 2014’s acclaimed Keep A Fire Ottawa’s Amanda Rheaume moves into a more mainstream sound on Holding Patterns. With producer Jim Bryson (of Weakerthans and Kathleen Edwards fame) on board the album is a classy selection of songs that run the gamut from radio friendly AOR to sensitive meditations on social issues. Very much an activist and engaged in several worthy causes locally Rheaume weaves her social conscience into the album with its central song, the deeply affecting “Red Dress” addressing the alarming situation in Canada regarding poorly investigated deaths of indigenous women (with proceeds from sales of the song as a single going to the cause). Continue reading “Amanda Rheaume “Holding Patterns” (Independent, 2016)”

Todd Snider “Eastside Bulldog” (Thirty Tigers, 2016)

"Snider-Todd-2016"Apparently, Todd Snider has a doppelgänger, an East Nashville musical hooligan who goes by the name of Elmo Buzz and who has three rules on playing music. 1. “Play the bones of some Fifties or Sixties-sounding thing and make it just barely original enough to start a song.”2. “Only sing about fighting, fucking, getting fucked up, kickass cars, East Nashville or Bocephus — all other songs are stupid.” 3. “When in doubt, yell, ‘baby,’ and see what happens.” Continue reading “Todd Snider “Eastside Bulldog” (Thirty Tigers, 2016)”

Paul Goodwin “The Northern Lights In The Neon Tube” (Independent, 2016)

"Goodwin-Paul-2016"Four years in the making but The Northern Lights In The Neon Tube is not the result of endless hours spent tinkering in the studio, budgets be blasted. Instead the gap is explained by Cambridge musician Goodwin as due to him being, “incredibly slow at doing things.” Well, good things come to those who wait and Goodwin certainly delivers here with a melancholic set of songs that he has handcrafted virtually by himself as he plays all instruments bar drums, the songs recorded at his home. Continue reading “Paul Goodwin “The Northern Lights In The Neon Tube” (Independent, 2016)”

Andy Ferrell “At Home And In Nashville” (Independent, 2016)

"Ferrell-Andy-2016"As football commentators love to say, “It’s a game of two halves” and the same goes for North Carolina’s Andy Ferrell’s debut album. Comprised of 12 songs the first six were recorded in Nashville with a band complement while the remainder are a capture of a solo show in his home town of Boone effectively reminding this reviewer of the days when one had to flip a disc over midway through listening. It’s not only the reminder of this old ritual that recalls the “good old days” when listening to At Home And In Nashville as Ferrell is yet another of these youngsters who are looking to singers and songwriters from the seventies for inspiration. Ferrell notes Townes Van Zandt as one of his heroes but on listening to the album there are reminders of Arlo Guthrie and Loudon Wainwright to be heard while the live tracks span a tradition that goes back to Woody Guthrie. Continue reading “Andy Ferrell “At Home And In Nashville” (Independent, 2016)”

Albert Af Ekenstam “Ashes” (Kning Disk, 2016)

"Ekenstam-Albert-2016"Ashes is the debut album from Albert Af Ekenstam, a Swede who seems to have been in various bands prior to this including “post rock” instrumental band Tempel and who cites as influences Bon Iver and Mogwai. One can see the influence of both here, haunting soundscapes as heard on soundtracks such Les Revenants are evident on the two instrumental tracks while Iver’s early hushed rusticana breathes on (almost literally) several of the songs. Continue reading “Albert Af Ekenstam “Ashes” (Kning Disk, 2016)”

Chip Taylor: Glasgow Americana Festival The Classic Grand – 7th October 2016

You know you’re in the presence of greatness when the artist onstage is recounting his recent meetings with Tom Petty and Elvis Costello and you just know that they were in awe of the artist as opposed to the other way around. But then not everyone is Chip Taylor, a man whose story is so entwined with the history of rock music that they’re virtually inseparable. Of course he’s the man who famously penned Wild Thing and Angel Of The Morning, really just the tips of his musical iceberg. Able to draw together county, pop, rock and rythym’n’blues he penned hits for a host of names in the sixties before releasing his own prototype of outlaw country on several seventies albums. In the eighties he turned his hand to professional gambling and apparently excelled at this, reputedly banned from every casino in Atlantic City as they couldn’t keep up with his winnings. The late nineties saw him return to music with his own solo albums abetted by several acclaimed collaborations with Texan violinist Carrie Rodriguez. On his albums Taylor comes across as a sage, the songs ruminations on life and in particular, the absurdities and injustices that life throws up enveloped by his dry wit, comforting voice and occasional scabrous lyric. Continue reading “Chip Taylor: Glasgow Americana Festival The Classic Grand – 7th October 2016”