Sam Baker “Land Of Doubt” (Independent, 2017)

Sam Baker’s 2013 album, Say Grace, was a highly-acclaimed body of work, prompting one well known music publication to put in in the top 10 country albums of that year. It is difficult to see Sam’s latest offering, Land of Doubt, making that particular list. Not because it isn’t very good, because it is, but because this is such a unique album in musical terms that it defies easy genre pigeon holing.

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Colin Hay “Fierce Mercy” (Compass Records, 2017)

The latest solo album from prolific Men at Work frontman Colin Hay is a lesson in how deceptive appearances can be. The kitschy cover design looks like a collage of stock photos and clip art, and could suggest equally unpolished contents (to those unfamiliar with Hay’s oeuvre, anyway). Nothing could be further from the truth. Top-notch production values are on display from the opening bars of Come Tumblin’ Down. Satisfying Americana flavours of banjo, accordion, and a twangy Telecaster feature prominently in a rich and masterful arrangement. Continue reading “Colin Hay “Fierce Mercy” (Compass Records, 2017)”

John Smith “Headlong” (BARP Records, 2017)

John Smith has been lauded as one to watch for some time now, attracting effusive praise from peers and press alike. He has opened for the likes of John Martyn and John Renbourn, guested with Jackson Browne and Rodney Crowell, and played sessions alongside David Gray and Joan Baez. Headlong is John’s fifth album, and the impressive rollcall continues, as he employs Cara Dillon on backing vocals and Sam Lakeman both plays and produces.

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Eric Ambel “Lakeside” (Last Chance Records / At The Helm Records, 2017)

Serial collaborator and producer Eric Ambel returns with his first solo record in over a decade. “Lakeside”, supposedly named after Ambel’s favourite former boozer, delivers ten tracks that would feel right at home in any dive where the floorboards are seasoned with spilled beer and the pool tables’ resale value ruined by cigarette damage. Continue reading “Eric Ambel “Lakeside” (Last Chance Records / At The Helm Records, 2017)”

Morton Valence “Europa” (Bastard Recordings, 2017)

Were it not for the declaration on the album cover that “millions of us…consider ourselves as both citizens of the UK and Europe” Morton Valence’s latest release would represent the subtlest political album you’re ever likely to encounter. At first glance it’s a collection of multi-lingual cover versions, capped off with a reworking of the band’s own Sailors’ Return. Look a little closer and there’s a subliminal message here : je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais takes Serge Gainsbourg’s song and makes of it a lament for the EU Referendum vote, following it up with a crackling Weimer republic version of Wenn ich mir was wunschen durfte that hammers home the message. Continue reading “Morton Valence “Europa” (Bastard Recordings, 2017)”

Mike Felten “Diamonds And Televisions” (2017, Independent)

It’s refreshing to come across an Americana album that’s essentially a fun listen, so kudos to Mike Felten for that feat alone. A Chicago native, he’s been a record store owner, open miker and gigging troubadour for the best part of half a century. Daresay that he’s pretty much seen it all… Continue reading “Mike Felten “Diamonds And Televisions” (2017, Independent)”

Ezio “Daylight Moon” (Jazzhaus Records, 2016)

Daylight Moon is the ninth studio album in a career spanning 26 years from Cambridge-based band Ezio. A popular online encyclopedia would have us believe that this is a folk music band, but judging from the smorgasbord of musical sounds and styles found on this album that is a far too simplistic description and exposes the limitations of trying to pin labels onto musicians.

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