Tift Merritt “Stitch of The World” (Yep Roc Records, 2017)

In 2015, after almost two years on the road touring in support of her album Travelling Alone, Tift Merritt decided to take a year off the road, just “to see what would happen to me.” What happened, as Tift enjoyed the solitude of a friend’s ranch in Texas, was the inspiration to write. This was the starting process for Tift’s latest offering Stitch of The World. Her experiences during that period were to lead to songs inspired by her surroundings of the time. Wait For Me, about leaving the disappointments of the past behind and believing that good things are up ahead, was provoked by the long straight roads that she found in Texas. Watching the ranch hands toiling with their daily routine helped provide the theme of working through times of struggle and the persistence of love in the beautiful and hopeful song, Love Soldiers On. Continue reading “Tift Merritt “Stitch of The World” (Yep Roc Records, 2017)”

The Buttertones “Gravedigging ” (Innovative Leisure, 2017)

Well, at last here’s an album with plenty of twang – of course in this case it’s the treble high guitar twang of a surf band, given a somewhat harder edge with a heavy dose of Garage Rock.  An album like Gravediggin’ is what results when you’ve spent too much time listening to Dick Dale and the original Nuggets collection in regular rotation. Continue reading “The Buttertones “Gravedigging ” (Innovative Leisure, 2017)”

Steepways “Holy Smoke” (Mansion House Records 2017)

This is a strong first album from London songwriting duo Blair Chadwick and Charlie Bateson, operating under the nom de guerre of Steepways.
They’ve assembled a talented group of musicians around them – Drummer Jamie Shaw, pedal steel player Darren Buddell, Andy Fairclough on Hammond Organ and other keyboards (is there such a thing as a song that can’t be improved by the addition of a Hammond Organ?!) and Chris Clarke playing bass and making a major contribution as producer. They also have former Alabama 3 singer Siobhan Parr providing some outstanding backing vocals and a nice duet on penultimate track Rather Be Alone.  Continue reading “Steepways “Holy Smoke” (Mansion House Records 2017)”

Sean Rowe “New Lore” (Anti, 2017)

I really try to be fair when writing these reviews. I try not to get too caught up in my own taste, try to be a little bit objective at least, measure the records against what we collectively agree is our scoring system. I try to find the positives; it gives me no pleasure to disagree fervently with some of my fellow writers. I really fight hard not to give in to urges to grandly dismiss a record in a hail of sarcasm and self-serving vitriol wrapped up as criticism (for this see my work from 2005). Then I get records like this to review that I dislike on first listen and every time I listen (again and again – I like to discern and understand the roots of my dislike) I really fail to see the good or understand the attraction of a record like this.  Continue reading “Sean Rowe “New Lore” (Anti, 2017)”

Alison Krauss ”Windy City” (Decca/Capitol, 2017)

Alison Krauss is phenomenal. Whether you look at figures like her record 27 Grammy Awards, millions of records sold, career longevity or simply judge her from the purity of her vocals, Krauss really is one of the stand-out performers in modern music. Windy City is her first solo record in 18 years, after she took a hiatus to record music with her Union Station band. The album is a tribute to older classics, with tracks such as those originally performed by artists like Glen Campbell, Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson and The Osborne Brothers. With a sensitive touch provided by producer Buddy Cannon, it’s a masterpiece of music re-interpretation and a fitting ode to the giants on whose shoulders present artists stand on.  Continue reading “Alison Krauss ”Windy City” (Decca/Capitol, 2017)”

Warm Soda “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” (Castle Face Records, 2017)

The fourth, and apparently last, album from Matthew Melton’s power-pop band Warm Soda is in an incandescent hurry – a dozen songs each clocking-in at well under three minutes, the whole album over in half an hour. The pace is relentless, barely a heart beat between songs – making for a comet tail shedding material in perfect single sized portions as it plunges towards the sun. Continue reading “Warm Soda “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” (Castle Face Records, 2017)”

Ned Roberts “Outside My Mind” (Aveline, 2017)

“Outside My Mind” is the follow-up album to 2014’s eponymous debut from London based folk artist Ned Roberts – and it’s a confident and well-produced recording. In fact, in many ways this album belongs almost as much to producer and multi-instrumentalist Luther Russell as to Roberts himself, with Russell providing drums, electric guitar, piano and backing vocals as well as studio guidance. But it is Ned Roberts’ album and it’s a strong one. Ned has a great voice, slightly reminiscent of Nick Drake but also with a little James Taylor in his tone – no bad thing for a singer-songwriter. He’s also a fine guitar player in the folk finger picking style and his songs, pulled together over a three year period for this recording, are very listenable indeed.  Continue reading “Ned Roberts “Outside My Mind” (Aveline, 2017)”