Ordinary Elephant “Before I Go” (Independent 2017)

Crystal Hariu and Peter Hanmore are the married couple that are Ordinary Elephant and this is a very considered and often stately work. The album seems to be surfing some sort of zeitgeist in Americana at the moment. Simple, folksy arrangements using guitar and banjo as a songwriting pairing without drifting too close to the Earl Scruggs bluegrass thing. This Is The Kit could be a handy signpost here. All the songs are tightly constructed with the basic instrumental pairing providing the back bone to all the songs. Continue reading “Ordinary Elephant “Before I Go” (Independent 2017)”

VanWyck “An Average Woman” (Independent, 2018)

VanWyck is an Amsterdam based singer who has tried out a number of different musical genres on her path to this intimate album of confessional songs. It’s a wildly varying CV taking in classical piano, rapping, playing with a jazz dance band, and being half of a trip hop duo. The classical piano and perhaps a few jazz influences apart none of this earlier history impacts on An Average Woman which may be the new direction or another branch on VanWyck’s musical tree. The former is to hoped for as this is an album of some depth, musically and conceptually, which marks VanWyck as a singer that it is hard to ignore. Continue reading “VanWyck “An Average Woman” (Independent, 2018)”

Johnny Dowd “Twinkle, Twinkle” (Mother Jinx, 2017)

From beneath the waters of this dark and eerie sonic soundscape emerge some of the most well-known songs in the American canon. The songs on this fine album are as familiar as, well, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ – the title cut – along with ‘Tom Dooley’, ‘Oh My Darling Clementine’, ‘Red River Valley’, ‘St. James Infirmary’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’. But it’s a safe bet you’ve never heard them done this way. Dowd is highly original, even eccentric. Sometimes these songs, familiar as they are, can be recognised only by the lyrics. Continue reading “Johnny Dowd “Twinkle, Twinkle” (Mother Jinx, 2017)”

Southern Tenant Folk Union “Southern Tenant Folk Union (10th Anniversary Re-Issue)” (Johnny Rock, 2018)

If you haven’t heard of them before, Southern Tenant Folk Union have been around for a while, ten years to be precise, and to celebrate this achievement the Edinburgh based 6- piece have decided to reissue and remaster their debut album which saw them garner a lot of attention in terms of radio airplay and live opportunities.
The songwriting present on the record is of an incredibly high standard leaning further towards the more folk and bluegrass side of the ever-undefinable Americana bracket but channels that roots sound very well, combining it with modern songwriting sensibilities and naturally, the lyrical content to match the time it was recorded, as opposed to the time the sound reflects. Continue reading “Southern Tenant Folk Union “Southern Tenant Folk Union (10th Anniversary Re-Issue)” (Johnny Rock, 2018)”

The President Lincoln “Pilgrims and Aliens” (Nine Mile Records, 2018)

The Gaffer generally, and understandably, prefers reviews to not be written in first person. I suppose the prospect of being even partly responsible for unearthing another Everett True would actually be a burden too heavy for even the shoulders of the broadest human, but this review is contingent on me being able to say this. I don’t like Placebo star Brian Molko’s voice. Don’t know a thing about him, could well be a good egg so good luck and all the rest of it to him. But that voice. No. So you see, I can’t make these observations the site’s observation. Continue reading “The President Lincoln “Pilgrims and Aliens” (Nine Mile Records, 2018)”

Ruby Boots “Don’t Talk About It” (Bloodshot Records, 2018)

Ruby Boots – real name Bex Chilcott – throws a handful of dust into the eyes on the opening two tracks of Don’t Talk About It, which come out of the blocks running, and punching out in a glam-rock way. It’s So Cruel stomps all over the leather clad tough talker who’s a little backward at coming forward, much to the chagrin of Ms Boots who suggests “we got a spark but it’s not quite a fire / let’s get it burning with a touch of desire”. Even meeting his ex-wife, and his girlfriend, doesn’t do much to cool her ardour. Over fuzzed up guitars and stomping drums he eventually gets the idea. Some guys. Continue reading “Ruby Boots “Don’t Talk About It” (Bloodshot Records, 2018)”

Ginger Wildheart “Ghost In The Tanglewood” (Round Records, 2018)

There’s a dichotomy at the heart of these songs – they are generally explorations of mental illness and especially Wildheart’s struggle with depression, and yet the songs sound joyous. ‘Daylight Hotel’ which opens the record was penned whilst he was in hospital receiving treatment and it sounds like a celebration, a big rousing chorus, a call for recovery. It is a refreshing change from the usual maudlin self-centred responses to the issue. Continue reading “Ginger Wildheart “Ghost In The Tanglewood” (Round Records, 2018)”

Korby Lenker “Thousand Springs” (Soundly Music, 2018)

East Nashvillian Korby Lenker does not take easy options. Deciding against traditional studio recording, seventh album ‘Thousand Springs’ was recorded in a variety of personally significant  spaces, including the edge of the Snake River Canyon, a cabin north of Sun Valley and his undertaker father’s mortuary. A guitar, a tent and some recording gear captured the ideas, then an extensive road trip led to recordings with a wide range of folk collaborators.  This honed and edited result is an intelligent, sincere collection of songs that is a travelogue of ideas. The process of production is as interesting as the art itself.  Continue reading “Korby Lenker “Thousand Springs” (Soundly Music, 2018)”

I’m With Her “See You Around” (Rounder Records, 2018)

I’m With Her are a folk trio made up of Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins (Nickel Creek) and Aoife O’ Donovan (Crooked Still). Each artist has a fanbase following in their own right and can claim Grammy Awards, millions of Spotify listeners and a multitude of albums and musical projects between them.  Their musical heritage is apparent in the accomplished songwriting and arrangement throughout See You Around, their debut album. The album was co-produced by Ethan Johns (Ryan Adams, Laura Marling, Paul McCartney) and recorded at Peter Gabriel’s Real World Studios in Bath, England. Continue reading “I’m With Her “See You Around” (Rounder Records, 2018)”

Dave Richardson “Carry Me Along” (Independent, 2018)

A drift of New England based contemporary (yet traditional) folk, if such a thing exists. Dave Richardson’s stock in trade is ‘old school’ roots, certainly in terms of song subject and structure. That’s no bad thing. Inevitably, the music is counterpointed by the obligatory folkie beard; a fine specimen sported for us by Dave, who resides in Vermont and recorded this release in Boston. Continue reading “Dave Richardson “Carry Me Along” (Independent, 2018)”