Juanita Stein “America” (Nude Records, 2017)

This record reminds me a lot of the Coco Hames record from early in the year; a solo debut that explores several styles is always a pleasant listen but lacks an essential sense of identity to mark it out from the crowd. At times where the songs need something to push them on, they drift. Stargazer is a case in point, it is lovely, her voice is good, the melody is satisfying but it just doesn’t reach out and grab me. Similarly Cold Comfort resurrects standard Country tropes, pleasantly – it doesn’t do anything, which is frustrating as she is clearly capable of more than just settling for these pleasant genre pieces. Continue reading “Juanita Stein “America” (Nude Records, 2017)”

Hard Working Americans “We’re All In This Together” (Melvin Records/Thirty Tigers 2017)

Hard Working Americans are what might be called a “supergroup” in some circles, with members being drawn from Widespread Panic and the Chris Robinson Brotherhood. The band’s musical credentials are impressive and they have a good sound, based fairly firmly in the southern rock genre. Formed in 2013 they’ve put out three albums prior to this new release without ever really making much impact outside the U.S. and it’s hard to see this latest release being the one to change that. “We’re All in This Together” is a live album (as was 2014’s The First Waltz) and it’s really one for the established fan. Continue reading “Hard Working Americans “We’re All In This Together” (Melvin Records/Thirty Tigers 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)”

The Last Dinosaur “The Nothing” (Naim Records, 2017)

“The Nothing” is the long-awaited follow-up to The Last Dinosaurs’ debut album and it is evident from the outset that, that time has been well spent. The record opens with the short, gentle acoustic track Atoms accompanied solely by the whispered vocals of the front man and brainchild, Jamie Cameron, and a beautiful string arrangement to add some depth to an otherwise sparse track. The opener is a good indication of the overall sound of the record in terms of the musicianship and the themes explored throughout and second track Grow takes that formula and builds on it adding drums and another whispered vocal. Continue reading “The Last Dinosaur “The Nothing” (Naim 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)”

Heather Lynne Horton “Don’t Mess with Mrs Murphy” (At The Helm, 2017)

“When a man gives his opinion, he’s a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she’s a bitch!” so Bette Davis remarked some years ago. Thankfully things have improved since then. Not so much third wave feminism, perhaps nearer to a new wave of alt-country, Heather Lynne Horton has championed the maxim – Women are equal to everything – for just as long as Lord Hale has. Continue reading “Heather Lynne Horton “Don’t Mess with Mrs Murphy” (At The Helm, 2017)”

Wilson “Old School, New Rules” (Independent, 2017)

This is a slice of well-crafted, Seventies-leaning pop that’s light on the power but heavy on the catchy melodies. West Country troubadour Steve Wilson is the writing hub of this four piece. Admittedly, they’re quite hard to define musically, but there are places to start. The harmonies (contributed by the band to most of the tracks) are unswervingly excellent, with echoes of the Beach Boys, the Beatles and 10cc. Whilst the music isn’t too heavy on guitar, Tom Petty is brought to mind on the opening two tracks, Long Road and Pretty Girl In A Small Town. Continue reading “Wilson “Old School, New Rules” (Independent, 2017)”