Alela Diane “Cusp” (All Points, 2018)

Since her last album in 2013 (About Farewell) Alela Diane has remarried and given birth to two daughters. We mention the daughters as Cusp is, above all, an album about motherhood, even the album cover can be seen as an update on Whistler’s Mother. Diane sings of her own experiences as a mother while some songs are written from a mother’s perspective. She’s moved on from her early days when she was linked to the freak folk movement, Cusp is an assured and mature set of songs. Continue reading “Alela Diane “Cusp” (All Points, 2018)”

Grant-Lee Phillips “Widdershins” (Yep Roc Records, 2018)

With this record G-LP sounds confident, spontaneous, relaxed and angry – it’s a heady brew and provides the fuel to make this his best set of songs for some time. Each song is a stinging jab with lyrical barbs and musical hooks, a riposte to the current political situation. Make no mistake, these are protest songs, subtle and cutting.  Recorded over four days they have an immediacy; they haven’t rehearsed the soul out of the songs which smoulder and often catch fire. Continue reading “Grant-Lee Phillips “Widdershins” (Yep Roc Records, 2018)”

Barrence Whitfield and the Savages “Soul Flowers of Titan” (Bloodshot Records, 2018)

The old saw is that “the blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll”, and that’s a fair enough claim even if it does leave elements of hillbilly country and other musical genres out of the gene pool. It explains, though, that rich vein of music that gets called blues-rock, and other related mutations like the acid-blues and psychedelic soul. Matter of fact it’s a hell of a melting pot, and Barrence Whitfield and the Savages stir that particular mess around like master chefs before dolling out fourteen perfect takes on the basic recipe. Continue reading “Barrence Whitfield and the Savages “Soul Flowers of Titan” (Bloodshot Records, 2018)”

Ferris & Sylvester “Made in Streatham” (Archtop Records, 2018)

Ferris & Sylvester’s new EP Made In Streatham takes a bluesy twist on the indie folk singing and guitar picking, the five-track offering taking a different turn on the music fans heard on their first EP The Yellow Line. Their latest single from the EP Better in Yellow is a more uplifting song with the brass notes throughout bringing out the lively character of the lyrics.  It is clear to see why they were on BBC Introducing‘s In Devon Best of 2017 with this hit. Continue reading “Ferris & Sylvester “Made in Streatham” (Archtop Records, 2018)”

Kyle Craft “Full Circle Nightmare” (Sub Pop, 2018)

Listening to this record is like mistakenly making conversation with a drunk that you can’t get away from, only this drunk has some great stories to tell. Like the bastard child of Jerry Lee Lewis and Lou Reed he’s imbued with rock and roll – with the mythology, he’s a crumple-suited romantic, forever nursing a broken heart. The opening line of Heartbreak Junky just about sums up his worldview: “So you fell in love, and it wasn’t with me” – love is never easy, love will always break your heart and love is just another addiction. Craft really bangs the songs out, guitars, piano, organ and brass all entwined all rooted strongly in classic songwriting and with such energy and such conviction that you do end up listening to every word. Continue reading “Kyle Craft “Full Circle Nightmare” (Sub Pop, 2018)”

Tyler Childers “Purgatory” (Thirty Tigers 2018)

Building up a steady head of public interest, Tyler Childers follows his three singles of last year with his debut album co-produced by Sturgill Simpson no less. And it could well have been hewn from the same wood as Sturgill’s earlier releases. Lots of guitars, rebel lyricism and fiddles with nods to Nashville, Appalachia and Steve Earle particularly with the ‘Copperhead Road’ fuelled ‘Whitehouse Road’ – note the repeat of the word road to enable such comparisons. Continue reading “Tyler Childers “Purgatory” (Thirty Tigers 2018)”

J. Briozo “Deep In The Waves” (Swallow The Music, 2017)

J.Briozo is in fact Jeff Crandall, the lead singer of Swallows, who found himself writing a parallel set of songs as Swallows recorded their third album. He invited his band mates along to fill in the framework of the songs and J. Briozo was/were born. The stylistic diversity of the record is probably a result of him trying to do things differently from Swallows. The sounds are more eclectic and less roots based, the standout Beautiful Mess sounding so much like an Elliott Smith song that I had to check it wasn’t, but in fairness to Crandall he does start by mentioning Miss Misery so the resemblance is not coincidental. Continue reading “J. Briozo “Deep In The Waves” (Swallow The Music, 2017)”

Alpha Mule “Peripheral Vision” (Giant Meteor Records, 2018)

Eric Stoner and Joe Forkan, both visual artists by day, come together to form a potent partnership much greater than its parts. Their website claims influence by rock, blues, bluegrass, folk and traditional country and to be honest, that is a fair summing up of the variety of styles on this wonderful album, albeit that it only ever tempts us toward bluegrass, never actually quite taking us through the door. Continue reading “Alpha Mule “Peripheral Vision” (Giant Meteor Records, 2018)”

Boathouse Keepers “Emperor of Oranges” (Backwater Records 2017)

If the lyrics to most popular music can usually be reduced to the essentials of “Baby I love you”, or “why did you leave me?” then you have to applaud the efforts of any musical act which chooses to put its songwriting focus on literature and history instead. Such is the case with Suffolk folk duo, Holly Johnston and Jonathan Coy, A.K.A. Boathouse Keepers, on this, their debut album, “Emperor of Oranges.” Continue reading “Boathouse Keepers “Emperor of Oranges” (Backwater Records 2017)”

Steve Hartsoe “The Big Fix Deluxe Edition” (Independent 2017)

Crashing into life with the big Pettyesque footstomper ‘Said and Done’ this album bursts forth on a wave of Californian country rock, a breezy West Coast sound from a breezy West Coast resident. A former rock journo returning to the music he used to make. ‘If I Had One Song’ is next up still ticking all the boxes and sounding very much like Bruntnell’s ‘Shot From a Spring’ but not quite as compelling and it’s probably the voice. The production is fine. Everything’s turned up to 10 .5 and mixed with a lovely sheen that does not stray into 80’s over production but keeps the guitars honest and the rhythm front and centre. Continue reading “Steve Hartsoe “The Big Fix Deluxe Edition” (Independent 2017)”