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)”

Mary Chapin Carpenter, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 5th February 2017

This gig was the last of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s UK tour, and was also a first weekend highlight for the inaugural City Roots festival running across many venues in Cambridge as a week-long winter spin-off from the annual Cambridge Folk Festival. All the big gigs for this festival are at the centrally situated Corn Exchange which – unlike the Junction (the only other large venue in town) – is well set up for large seated audiences. Continue reading “Mary Chapin Carpenter, Cambridge Corn Exchange, Cambridge, 5th February 2017”

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)”

The Nightjar “Objects” (Independent, 2017)

A few years ago Americana-UK commissioned the renowned musicologist Dr Fred Dineage at Goldsmith’s University to construct a continuum of ethereality – known as the Bush Scale – in order for us to more easily classify records like this one. Towards the top end of the scale sits Julianna Barwick and just below is Grouper. The Unthanks sit somewhere in the middle and at the other end of the scale sits Lucinda Williams (at one point the scale was posited as the Williams scale with Lucinda to Victoria being the breadth, but then events overtook). The scale runs from 0 to 9 and this sits somewhere around a 6. Continue reading “The Nightjar “Objects” (Independent, 2017)”