The Winterlings “American Son” (Independent, 2017)

The history of popular music is littered with chance encounters and the random coming together of artists but surely the Buddhist fire ritual that brought Wolff Bowden and Amanda Birdsall together must be right up there as one of the most unlikely. The Winterlings were borne out of that chance encounter and a move to the wilderness that is the Pacific Northwest seven years ago has subsequently given birth to a creative and productive partnership that continues with the new album American Son. Continue reading “The Winterlings “American Son” (Independent, 2017)”

Thea Gilmore, Winchester Science Centre Planetarium, 22nd September 2017

The unique and atmospheric venue that is the Planetarium at The Winchester Science Centre was the setting for Thea Gilmore to showcase her new and critically acclaimed album, The Counterweight. If such a very different stage was always likely to provide the sell-out audience with a memorable evening then that was further guaranteed when Friday evening chaos on the M3 led to what must be the most bizarre warm up ever for a gig – a stomach churning 360-degree feature film projected onto the dome roof, We Are Stars, spanning the formation of hydrogen, nuclear fusion in stars, formation of asteroids, our own solar system and evolution of life from the very first cells. Continue reading “Thea Gilmore, Winchester Science Centre Planetarium, 22nd September 2017”

Prinz Grizzley “Come On In” (Independent Release, 2017)

Prinz Grizzley is Chris Comper, an Austrian with his heart in American music. His rural upbringing helped developed a love and passion for the way of life and the music that this landscape inspires. With an eye across the pond Comper, even when dabbling in indie rock/pop, remained inspired by folk, blues and country. Come on In is the first product of that long-standing influence and sits firmly in the country camp. Comper has written all these songs and, with the thread of Aaron Goldstein’s pedal steel running throughout, it is actually hard to believe that they originate from Austria rather than Nashville. In fact, the majority of the songs are better than much of what currently originates from that mainstream conveyor belt of mediocrity; as if Comper has taken the best of it and used his European filter to deliver a product upgrade. Continue reading “Prinz Grizzley “Come On In” (Independent Release, 2017)”

Tom Russell “Folk Hotel” (Proper Records, 2017)

In the 1990’s Tom Russell was, along with Dave Alvin, hailed as the architect of what came to be known as Americana music. Folk Hotel is album number 36 for Russell and, in 2017, he has surely delivered one of the Americana albums of the year. This is a storytellers’ album with every song a poem or a story in its own right. A year after the passing of one of the great song writing poets, Leonard Cohen, a song about New York’s Chelsea Hotel, Up in The Old Hotel, provides a fitting and high-quality opening. Leaving El Paso, a song about the journey Russell and his wife made following the route the Spanish took to Santa Fe some 500 years previously, features Eliza Gilkyson on vocals and some gorgeous Tex-Mex accordion from Joel Guzman.  Continue reading “Tom Russell “Folk Hotel” (Proper Records, 2017)”

Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters, The American Museum in Britain, Bath, 20th August 2017

High up on Claverton Hill on the outskirts of Bath is the bucolic setting of The American Museum in Britain. Established in 1961 with the aim of educating the UK, and the world, about American cultural history, it was perhaps fitting that this was the final venue for Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters on their first ever UK tour. Continue reading “Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters, The American Museum in Britain, Bath, 20th August 2017”

Mark Olson “Spokeswoman of The Bright Sun” (Glitterhouse Records, 2017)

If the marvellously vague and broad church that is Americana incorporates a wealth of musical genres then the latest offering by the critically acclaimed songwriter and ex Jayhawk Mark Olson undoubtedly has its roots firmly in the world of American folk. Spokeswoman of The Bright Sun was recorded in the summer of 2016 at the Joshua Tree home of Mark Olson and his wife and musical partner Ingunn Ringvold and it is that desert environment that has provided the driving narrative behind this new album. Continue reading “Mark Olson “Spokeswoman of The Bright Sun” (Glitterhouse Records, 2017)”

William The Conqueror “Proud Disturber Of The Peace” (Loose, 2017)

William The Conqueror, a three-piece band from Cornwall, is the creation of former folkie, Ruarri Joseph. For those of us fortunate enough to have caught Mr Joseph in his former guise playing small, intimate venues, often with just an acoustic guitar for company, there was always the feeling that there was another rockier, harder edged version waiting to cut loose. Continue reading “William The Conqueror “Proud Disturber Of The Peace” (Loose, 2017)”

Dino Valente “Dino Valente” (Floating World Records, 2017)

In February 1968 Dino Valente entered the CBS studios in Los Angeles to record what would be his only solo album. Although he was known at the time as the underground Bob Dylan, Valente probably had more in common with Leonard Cohen circa Songs from a Room. The common denominator here was CBS Records producer Bob Johnston who was assigned to Valente post working with Dylan on Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde on Blonde and who would go on to work with Cohen on the aforementioned Songs album.  Continue reading “Dino Valente “Dino Valente” (Floating World Records, 2017)”

Susan Cattaneo “The Hammer & The Heart” (Jersey Girl Records, 2017)

For her fifth release Boston singer songwriter Susan Cattaneo has pushed the boat out with a double album comprising 18 tracks. With the two discs independently titled The Hammer / The Heart it will come as no surprise that each disc has a distinctive feel to it. With the majority of tracks being either self-penned or co-writes and, with production credits for the whole album bar one track, Cattaneo clearly lacks neither talent nor a work ethic. Continue reading “Susan Cattaneo “The Hammer & The Heart” (Jersey Girl Records, 2017)”

Alan & The Big Hand “Yellow Car No Return” (Lost Wasp Records, 2017)

Alan & The Big Hand are described as a folk collective headed by Alan McClure. McClure is a writer and musician based in Galloway, south-west Scotland.  His creative output encompasses oral storytelling, poetry, songs, novels, short stories, audio sketches, singer and chief songwriter with The Razorbills, occasional member of The Wee Folk Storytellers. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough he is also a primary school teacher.

Continue reading “Alan & The Big Hand “Yellow Car No Return” (Lost Wasp Records, 2017)”