Dan Hartland “Great Novels” (Independent, 2018)

It’s always good to come across homegrown talent which is what is firmly on show here with the first full length record from Dan Hartland. Intelligent lyrics, hummable melodies and some rather fancy top notch guitar playing all add up to a very listenable eleven track album. The title track ‘Great Novels’ is, as the title hints, all about writing and inspiration accompanied solely by Hartland’s guitar which on this track in particular is top drawer and indicative of the overall folk acoustic style. Continue reading “Dan Hartland “Great Novels” (Independent, 2018)”

Brady Harris Band “NoHo Calling” (Independent, 2018)

Opening with the Devoesque ‘Let’s Live’ which is all new wave rhythms and hand claps with catchy choruses, you think you have a handle on The Brady Harris band and their new platter ‘NOHO Calling’ (that’s North Hollywood to you and me!) But the next track ‘Raise a Glass’ is pure barrelhouse boozer blues of the soft country lament variety, all crisp shuffle snare and sweet guitar and piano solos . It could be 1am and the bourbon has run out without it being messy. Continue reading “Brady Harris Band “NoHo Calling” (Independent, 2018)”

The Decemberists “I’ll Be Your Girl” (Capitol Records, 2018)

Everything you’ve heard about ‘I’ll Be Your Girl’ is true – it’s a glorious confection that is spectacularly different from everything that has gone before. And yet it’s also so recognisably in keeping with everything that The Decemberists have ever done. The big difference is that synthesizers and keyboards are given a prominence not heard since ‘The Hazards of Love’, but unlike that coherent experiment in developing a folk-rock opera in the mode of, but so much better than, Jethro Tull ‘I’ll be your Girl’ plays with different styles – from ecstatic release to the Floydesque and through various modes of British influenced Glam-rock.  Continue reading “The Decemberists “I’ll Be Your Girl” (Capitol Records, 2018)”

Rebecca Turn “Waves EP” (Independent 2018)

A Porthcawl native, Hurn was plucked from playing local open mic sessions as her reputation was spreading by none other than Pixie Lott showing a canny knack for spotting a talent.
A glorious voice, mature beyond her years and thankfully lacking the affectations of many of her contemporaries, drives this small collection of pop-inflected whimsy and wistfulness. Patently heading for ‘pop’ success it would be a shame if some of the freshness and verve is lost on the way because this is smashing stuff. Continue reading “Rebecca Turn “Waves EP” (Independent 2018)”

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats “Tearing at the Seams” (Stax Records, 2018)

When you think of the good ol’ USA and start to muse on the hotbeds of music over the years, the names of the famous music cities start to drift through the psyche as a misty-eyed reverence pulls you towards them.  You ponder all the greats that have emanated from the fabled places like Detroit, New Orleans, Nashville, LA, New York, Chicago and Denver. Denver?  Well, it did produce Earth, Wind and Fire singer Philip Bailey and one or two others but that’s about it really (sorry Denver!). That may be all about to change with the release of the excellent ‘Tearing at the Seams’. Continue reading “Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats “Tearing at the Seams” (Stax Records, 2018)”

Courtney Marie Andrews “May Your Kindness Remain” (Loose Music, 2018)

‘May Your Kindness Remain’ is a very different album to Courtney Marie Andrews’ previous release ‘Honest Life’, less directly personal and far more sombre. Which is hardly surprising since the last album was driven by the breakup of a two year long relationship whilst ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ is in many ways a reaction to living in Trump’s America. Which is quite clearly not the America that Courtney Marie Andrews recognises or believes in. There’s a big difference musically too, with ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ eschewing the big loud and positive arrangements of ‘Honest Life’ which gave a country spin to what was at heart a Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter album – ‘May Your Kindness Remain’ is nearer to ‘On the Beach’ than it is to ‘Blue’. Continue reading “Courtney Marie Andrews “May Your Kindness Remain” (Loose Music, 2018)”

Ronnie Fauss “Last Of The True” (New West, 2018)

“When I was working at the Saginaw paper mill… “ sings Ronnie Fauss on another Springsteen-esque standout from his third album and all seems right in the world. Electric guitars are raging, drums are pounding and a honky-tonk piano can be heard playing in the distance. So far, so good. The album mixes heartland Americana with barrel-house country and the pace doesn’t let up. Continue reading “Ronnie Fauss “Last Of The True” (New West, 2018)”

Don Gallardo “Still Here” (Southern Carousel Records / Clubhouse Records 2018)

This fine album of richly layered music on the country-rock side of Americana makes for enjoyable listening. The song-writing glistens, the musicianship is stellar, and Gallardo is a compelling singer. The songs deal with drinking, life’s travails, and the need to learn – and indeed, profit – from pain and mistakes. “The bottle puts it off until tomorrow/Then tomorrow blows in like a hurricane … Is this my curse/Or something I gotta learn,” Gallardo sings on the opener, ‘Something I Gotta Learn’. The song is country rock led by chiming electric guitars and a heavy back beat. One can hear female backup singers oohing in the background. The sound is very full indeed. Continue reading “Don Gallardo “Still Here” (Southern Carousel Records / Clubhouse Records 2018)”

The Yellhounds “The Banks Of The Mississippi” (Independent, 2018)

Manchester-band The Yellhounds’ title-cut ‘Banks Of The Mississippi’ from their new four-track EP sees the release open in a rich, melancholy fashion. A genuine feel of America’s south ensues, one that suggests images of the bottomlands captured through a stylish and imaginative production. Next up, the boys fuel the fire with ‘Day Is Done’ as they combine old-timey and bluegrass on hightailing it into the Appalachian mountain regions. Clawhammer and otherwise, banjo, mandolin and a rock steady bass propel the tune in majestic fashion! On showing even greater drive ‘Ain’t Got No Home’ has the fervour of youthful new ideals raking over ashes of old, and with a full-bodied rhythm section and roving fiddle and able lead vocal The Yellhounds produce a more than adequate authentic blend. Continue reading “The Yellhounds “The Banks Of The Mississippi” (Independent, 2018)”

Mark Huff “Stars For Eyes” (Exodus Records, 2018)

Mark Huff gives the impression of being one of those people who can pick up a guitar and make up a song on the spot that will be dripping with hooks and full of memorable melodies. He makes it sound so easy,  as if he’s not even trying. The songs just flow out of him, flitting between styles without missing a beat. ‘God In Geography’ slides in some new-wave organ and lightness of touch, it seems to be his natural habitat. But so does the pedal steel licked ‘Carolina Blue’ and that’s Huff’s great strength: he can switch styles without it feeling forced, it’s all just part of one big dressing up box. Continue reading “Mark Huff “Stars For Eyes” (Exodus Records, 2018)”