Coco Hames “Coco Hames” (Merge, 2017)

When a new name passes in front of us, we like to be able to say, oh yes she’s that kind of performer. Listening to this first record from Coco Hames I’m left with a good feeling and no real idea where her future lies. She certainly showcases a broad range of styles across these ten songs; the closest thing I can think of is Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward’s She & Him project, where they explored across the genres and the decades. Hames starts with When You Said Goodbye, something that resembles both sixties pop in the vein of Hermanns Hermits and also wonderfully the Go-Betweens – the plangent guitars are a dead-ringer for Robert Forster – then she moves onto to classic girl-group territory with I Do Love You before wonderfully diverting into pop-punk with the Ramonesy I Don’t Wanna Go. Continue reading “Coco Hames “Coco Hames” (Merge, 2017)”

Chip Taylor “A Song I Can Live With” (Train Wreck Records, 2017)

“Good Morning from New York. It is January 11th 2016. David Bowie died yesterday.” Chip Taylor’s voice and delivery conjures up a feeling of warmth and intimacy that reminds one greatly of the late Alistair Cooke and his weekly ‘Letter from America’ for Radio 4. Taylor shares a similar avuncular style to the radio presenter. In a bizarre crime, before cremation, Cooke’s body was stolen and his bones sold as parts for bone grafts by a crooked surgeon, who never told the recipients that Cooke had died from cancer that had metastasized throughout his body, including said bones. Continue reading “Chip Taylor “A Song I Can Live With” (Train Wreck Records, 2017)”

Those Lavender Whales “My Bones are Singing” (Fork & Spoon Records, 2017)

There is a backstory to My Bones Are Singing, and although it’s not explicitly spelt out at any point on the album it’s so relevant that it can’t really be ignored. Before recording My Bones are Singing, Aaron Graves, who is Those Lavender Whales, had been diagnosed with a life threatening brain tumour. Knowing this puts an extra emphasis on the reflections on mortality that permeate the album – it’s not something that can just be dismissed as existential angst or a grappling with the awful inevitability of life’s ultimate destination. Continue reading “Those Lavender Whales “My Bones are Singing” (Fork & Spoon Records, 2017)”

The Andrew Collins Trio “And It Was Good” (Independent, 2017)

This is a difficult album to review simply because I’ve never heard anything quite like it before. For a start, it’s totally instrumental; unusual in the Americana genre, though the music does have its roots quite firmly in Bluegrass.  It’s also a concept album, something else that’s quite rare in this genre. And not just any old concept – this album takes the rather grand biblical story of creation as its theme. You certainly can’t accuse Andrew Collins and his band mates, Mike Mezzatesta and James McEleney of lacking ambition. Continue reading “The Andrew Collins Trio “And It Was Good” (Independent, 2017)”

The Abrams “The Abrams” (Warner Music Canada, 2016)

This is the major label debut EP from Canadian brothers John and James Abrams who, despite only being just into their twenties, already carry an impressive CV, having the honour of being the youngest Canadians to appear at the Grand Ole Opry and having already put out a couple of albums under their own auspices. Now they’ve been picked up by a major label (Warner Music Canada) and have their first EP produced by Gavin Brown, who has also produced for such bands as The Tragically Hip and Barenaked Ladies.  Continue reading “The Abrams “The Abrams” (Warner Music Canada, 2016)”

Matt Hannah “Dreamland” (Gamine Records, 2017)

Matt Hannah’s Dreamland is an album of roots-tinged rock, with just enough pedal steel, upright bass and accordion to make it rock that bit easier, and that’s appropriate as the title song, and album opener, explains.  Here Hannah contrasts two sleep states, a pair of dreamlands – the one of his youth where he’d rock out all night with a band and then sleep until the afternoon, and the one he has now – where the listless drifting life with a band has been swapped for the steady life with just one woman. Continue reading “Matt Hannah “Dreamland” (Gamine Records, 2017)”

Rodney Crowell “Close Ties” (New West Records, 2017)

Americana defies easy classification but perhaps the legendary Rodney Crowell, by way of an introduction to his outstanding new album Close Ties, has come up with as good a definition as any. “All the people who represent Americana share a common thread and that thread is poet. Whether they are actual poets or their music exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial compromise in favour of a singular vision. Which resonates with me.”  Continue reading “Rodney Crowell “Close Ties” (New West Records, 2017)”