Robert Cray, Cadogan Hall, London, 3rd May 2017

It was a dismal, cold night with an ever present threat of rain that brought Robert Cray to London’s plush Cadogan Hall – it’s a converted church, and tonight it was a Temple to the Blues. Cray returned to London with a three piece backing band – the dread-locked and barefoot super-cool bass player Richard Cousins, keyboard maestro Dover “Whitecliffs” Weinberg and the passionate and inventive Terence Clark on drums. And up front, flanked by Matchless Speakers, was of course Robert Cray – belying his age, dressed in his trademark “preppy” style, he looks younger than his 63 years. Continue reading “Robert Cray, Cadogan Hall, London, 3rd May 2017”

Ray Davies “Americana” (Sony, 2017)

Ray Davies return with his first album in a decade, if we discount the various Kinks collaborations and choral reworking.  It stands as a testament that everything changes and nothing changes since Working Man’s Café dropped as the newly knighted Sir Ray turns his attention to the country which has had a profound effect on his life, America, yet still manages to return to the recurring themes of isolation reaction to change in the modern world. Continue reading “Ray Davies “Americana” (Sony, 2017)”

Bob Cheevers “Fifty Years Sampler” (Howling Dog Records, 2017)

In recognition of a half century of songwriting Bob Cheevers has pulled together a comprehensive 5CD, 83 song retrospective which covers, it’s claimed, ten genres of music, and taking a mix of songs from his albums as well as some unreleased recordings. I’m not completely sure what the ten genres are meant to be but country, western, folk, popular jazz, blues, rock, and singer-songwriter are all represented here on this ten track sampler. What it reveals is a hugely accomplished songwriter, and an idiosyncratic singer in the Willie Nelson mode. Continue reading “Bob Cheevers “Fifty Years Sampler” (Howling Dog Records, 2017)”

Brock Zeman “The Carnival is Back in Town” (Busted Flat Records, 2017)

Canadian musician Brock Zeman has had an excellent career and shows no sign of slowing up his output with his thirteenth release, the highly ambitious ‘The Carnival Is Back In Town’. 10 years in the making the album has already been scrapped once but Brock decided that it was worth taking a chance on and teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Blair Hogan and drummer Dylan Roberts alongside a number of other talented musicians, to have another go at bringing his carnival to life and it was well worth both his time and the obvious effort that went into creating it. Continue reading “Brock Zeman “The Carnival is Back in Town” (Busted Flat Records, 2017)”

Joe Martin “Small World” (Independent, 2017)

Youthful Red Rose native Joe Martin has crossed the Pennines to begin his musical adventures from a West Yorkshire base, physically at least. Spiritually he’s rooted in the 1970s American singer-songwriter world of Don McLean, Jackson Browne and James Taylor. These songs amply demonstrate that he’s worthy of a seat at their high table. Continue reading “Joe Martin “Small World” (Independent, 2017)”

Ha Ha Tonka “Heart-Shaped Mountain” (Bloodshot, 2017)

In which HHT continue to expand their brand of indie-Americana, sometimes resulting in excursions into areas that maybe should remain off limits. Mostly though they find a sweet spot where they find surging choruses that scream for a crossover hit and retain enough authenticity to not alienate a substantial part of their audience. So sensibly they kick-off with Race To The Bottom not so much driven by guitars but kicked and jabbed with a cattle-prod, with a chorus that you can sing along to on first listen (see below). They sound like the Kings of Leon without the disadvantage of the constipated vocals. There’s not a great deal of originality but they tackle everything gamely with huge enthusiasm and the proximity to Tom Petty I hear on Everything is easily shrugged away.  Continue reading “Ha Ha Tonka “Heart-Shaped Mountain” (Bloodshot, 2017)”

Oh Susanna “A Girl in Teen City” (Continental Song City, 2017)

Everyone has been, or will be, a teenager at some point in their lives and although we all have different personal experiences throughout those years, the feelings we have; the sense of hope for the future, the sense of adventure and as you grow older, the sense of nostalgia you have looking back is something that everyone can relate to. Oh Susanna makes an attempt to channel that sense of nostalgia into the twelve songs present on her newest release ‘A Girl In Teen City’ and she does a mighty fine job of it, so much so, that you feel like it could have been your story she is telling. Continue reading “Oh Susanna “A Girl in Teen City” (Continental Song City, 2017)”

Toby Hay “The Gathering” (Cambrian Records, 2017)

A quotation from Basho, the sixteenth century Zen Buddhist monk and poet, adorns The Gathering’s inlay sleeve: I like to wash / The dust of the world / In the droplets of dew. Basho, of course, is most famous for his haiku: Listen! A frog / Jumping into the stillness / Of an ancient pond. This album is anything but plop! Listening to Hay’s amazing collection of instrumental six-string and twelve-string acoustic guitar suites, one is struck by his Basho-like attention to the beauty of nature. There is a pastoral feel to his inventive and immersive oeuvre; the result of quiet contemplation, time spent reflecting on the wonders of creation.  Continue reading “Toby Hay “The Gathering” (Cambrian Records, 2017)”

Beth//James “All In Life” (Independent 2017)

Firstly, let’s remove one potentially confusing element of this debut EP. The clue’s in the double slash, it’s not Beth James the solo artist but Austin-based folk duo Mikaela Beth Kahn and Jordan James Burchill that we are concerned with here. I mention this only because you wouldn’t have been alone if you hadn’t yet seen the cover and been the victim of a double take on hearing Jordan’s unmistakably masculine, albeit tenor voice kicking off first track and single Lion Eyes. Continue reading “Beth//James “All In Life” (Independent 2017)”

Bob Dylan, London Palladium, London 28th April 2017

This was the first of three nights at The London Palladium, and this pretty theatre is by far the smallest venue I’ve ever seen Dylan in with just a 2,2866 capacity: Wembley Arena or The Dome this is not. Which means that even up in the Upper Circle the seats aren’t really that far from the stage – probably equivalent to being a dozen rows back in the stalls. The view of the stage – and hence the view of the band – is just perfect. Even during dimly lit sections it’s possible to pick out Dylan’s facial asides to the band – well, when they aren’t obscured by his wide brimmed hat. Continue reading “Bob Dylan, London Palladium, London 28th April 2017”