Wayne Graham “Mexico” (K & F Records, 2016)

Wayne Graham is a duo, Hayden and Kenny Miles, brothers from Whitesburg, South-East Kentucky, where their father founded a church and they backed the services on drums and bass. Wayne Graham is a composition of both their grandfather’s first names. Both were coal miners, as were their father and uncle, until the closure of the mines, following the strikes of the United Mines Workers in the 1970’s. Barbara Kopple’s Oscar winning film “Harlan County USA” depicts the area at the time – a reminder of the miners strikes in the UK. Continue reading “Wayne Graham “Mexico” (K & F Records, 2016)”

Jackalope Tales “Let Me Tell You a Story” (Independent, 2017)

‘Let Me Tell You a Story’ is the second full-length album from the Sheffield based folk trio Jackalope Tales. It is comprised of three previously released EPs plus a couple of bonus tracks, the band mainly performing songs written by their American songwriter Linda Lee Welch. The album opens with a group composition A Jackalope Tale. What’s a jackalope you ask?  Well… a jackalope is a mythical animal of North American folklore (a fearsome critter) described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns. Thanks Wikipedia. Still no wiser; the track appears to be an attempt at an adult nursery rhyme listing as it does things related or pertaining to this creature. It swings along but the vocals unfortunately are not good or idiosyncratic enough to bring any charm in the lyrical nonsense to the fore, and consequently the track doesn’t escape the boundaries of some naive lyricism and rudimentary bluegrass.
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Elouise “Deep Water” (Independent, 2016)

Well, here’s a thing we’ve been waiting for: another subdivision of the Americana genre, with Elouise Walker and her band declaring their sound to be Blackgrass. It’s distinctive from the already familiar Southern Gothic by (for the most part) eschewing the overtly “spooky” overtones and concentrating more on dissipation, disassociation and a generally downtrodden and bleak outlook on life – and then coupling that with reworked Bluegrass and Old Timey standards. Amazing Grace, to just take one such, swings back and forth like a drunken addict mumbling to herself in a cracked and wheezing vocal which carries little conviction of the reality of the salvation that’s being claimed. Continue reading “Elouise “Deep Water” (Independent, 2016)”

Aaron Lee Tasjan “Silver Tears” (New West, 2016)

The cover image for Aaron Lee Tasjan’s latest release shows him sporting a two-piece suit entirely bejeweled with 10p-coin-sized silver sequins (or quarter-sized, in US coinage). Looking at this scaly, Stetson-wearing disco ball of a merman glisten in the sun, one can’t help but think “OK, this is going to be quirky. And not necessarily in a good way”. Fortunately, any suspicions of empty showmanship are dismissed from the very first moments of playback. The opener Hard Life is air-tight, with a 70s funky groove rolling slowly but assuredly forward, carrying playfully witty lyrics along with it. It sets the tone for the rest of the record nicely, “tight” and “70s” being keywords here. Continue reading “Aaron Lee Tasjan “Silver Tears” (New West, 2016)”

The Most Ugly Child “Copper and Lace” (Independent, 2017)

The first adjective that comes to mind when listening to The Most Ugly Child’s debut LP is simply “big”. The group is nominally a six-piece but with guest appearances that include a whole freaking brass band, they can make much more noise than their promo shots would suggest. And quite enjoyable noise it is too. Firstly, you have the songwriting, singing style, and nostalgic pedal steel tones that evoke the classic country of Buck Owens and George Jones. Adding to the controlled chaos is the earthy acoustic grit of dobro, banjo, and smashing fiddle breaks. Of course, one singer would not be enough for a band so clearly bent on laying more tracks, so leads and harmonies are traded by Daniel Wright and Stevie-Leigh Goodison.  Continue reading “The Most Ugly Child “Copper and Lace” (Independent, 2017)”

Adrian + Meredith “More Than A Little” (Vertigo Productions, 2016)

Rarely does “Americana” feel like a more appropriate classification than it does for Adrian + Meredith’s “More Than A Little”. After 40-odd minutes of playing time, the sheer list of traditional American genres discernible makes one wonder how exactly does the Krygowski power couple manage to maintain a consistent and recognisable sound throughout. Between the album’s monochrome artwork, Adrian Krygowski’s punk upbringing, and the head-bobbing swagger of the opening Take A Boat, you’d expect you’re in for the nihilist-chic marriage of rockabilly and punk rock that makes you want to put Día de Muertos skull decals on your hot rod (should you own one). But there is so much more. Continue reading “Adrian + Meredith “More Than A Little” (Vertigo Productions, 2016)”

Cary Morin “Cradle To The Grave” (Independent, 2017)

Cary Morin possesses finger-picking skills that many guitarists would sell their soul for. A Montana native and member of the Crow tribe, Morin’s music rolls together blues, folk, jazz and a host of other flavours into his own style of Native Americana. Plying his musical trade across the USA and wider world for nigh on thirty years, he’s won a host of blues and Aboriginal music awards to boot. Continue reading “Cary Morin “Cradle To The Grave” (Independent, 2017)”