Warm Soda “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” (Castle Face Records, 2017)

The fourth, and apparently last, album from Matthew Melton’s power-pop band Warm Soda is in an incandescent hurry – a dozen songs each clocking-in at well under three minutes, the whole album over in half an hour. The pace is relentless, barely a heart beat between songs – making for a comet tail shedding material in perfect single sized portions as it plunges towards the sun. Continue reading “Warm Soda “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” (Castle Face Records, 2017)”

Ned Roberts “Outside My Mind” (Aveline, 2017)

“Outside My Mind” is the follow-up album to 2014’s eponymous debut from London based folk artist Ned Roberts – and it’s a confident and well-produced recording. In fact, in many ways this album belongs almost as much to producer and multi-instrumentalist Luther Russell as to Roberts himself, with Russell providing drums, electric guitar, piano and backing vocals as well as studio guidance. But it is Ned Roberts’ album and it’s a strong one. Ned has a great voice, slightly reminiscent of Nick Drake but also with a little James Taylor in his tone – no bad thing for a singer-songwriter. He’s also a fine guitar player in the folk finger picking style and his songs, pulled together over a three year period for this recording, are very listenable indeed.  Continue reading “Ned Roberts “Outside My Mind” (Aveline, 2017)”

Sweet Gum Tree “Sustain The Illusion” (Dreamy Bird Records 2017)

In the 1980’s alongside, all of the hardcore, reggae and The Fall, John Peel occasionally championed some bands that didn’t quite fit; they were self-consciously ‘arty’ and most of them would end up on 4AD records or just fade into obscurity – they fell somewhere between The Wild Swans and Swans Way. SGT have a grand(iose) sweep and a sound that is steeped in the 1980’s the synthesiser sounds and the ability to embrace the embellishments without any self-consciousness. Sometimes it is possible to put your finger on exactly the precedents. On Someday there a definite whiff of the Blow Monkeys, both in the vocals and the structure of the song; elsewhere the influence is filtered and fully absorbed, they leak out like a dark root showing in a head of blonde hair, there are a few phrases of Rollercoaster where I can almost feel Smash Hits in my hands. Continue reading “Sweet Gum Tree “Sustain The Illusion” (Dreamy Bird Records 2017)”

Andrew Combs “Canyons Of My Mind” (Loose Records 2017)

Sometimes Americana is a fickle genre; it spins off down blind alleys and one way streets in all kinds of maverick directions. Other times it shoots straight from the hip. You may have read that compelling article we poached (I mean borrowed) from Guidelive.com several days back concerning its nature. In case it passed you by, it delves into the age-old question of the pigeon hole. To get back to the matter in hand, Dallas singer songwriter Andrew Combs has released his third album which is a little bit country, a little bit folk, a little bit pop but quintessentially all American in sound and suggestion. Continue reading “Andrew Combs “Canyons Of My Mind” (Loose Records 2017)”

Son of the Velvet Rat “Dorado” (Fluff & Gravy Records, 2017)

It would be the understatement of the year to describe the torn and ragged instrument that is Georg Altziebler’s throat as “cracked” or “whisky scarred”. It’s a hollow rattling thing that speaks of dry deserts and lonesome travellers. Dark as the shadows in a Sergio Leone movie, dust covered, careworn and heartbroken. And just as it took an Italian film maker to reinvent and renew the Western as a genre, Son of the velvet rat (Georg and wife Helke) have so far made their music in their homeland of Austria whilst still sounding as if they have recorded in a small studio behind a shack somewhere out in the Californian desert. Continue reading “Son of the Velvet Rat “Dorado” (Fluff & Gravy Records, 2017)”

Craig Finn “We All Want The Same Things” (Partisan Records, 2017)

A bag of pot and seven thousand dollars are found amongst her brother’s hockey equipment when he dies unexpectedly, and the deceased guy’s sister reaches out to a friend of her bro, who helps her to get rid of the pot. Thus, are the two main protagonists joined together in the elegiac ‘God in Chicago’ which is a riveting and emotional piece of storytelling by Craig Finn. It’s very filmic: it could be an American road movie by Wim Wenders, Alexander Payne or Willy Vlautin. Continue reading “Craig Finn “We All Want The Same Things” (Partisan Records, 2017)”

Nick Ellis “Daylight Ghosts” (Mellowtone Records, 2017)

Throughout this record Ellis’ guitar playing is excellent and the sound is clear and resonant (it was recorded in Liverpool St George’s Hall Crown Court Room) and it’s clear the further that Ellis gets from standard acoustic singer-songwriter fare, the better he sounds. The opener The Grand Illusion survives only on its guitar playing and the following Hanging Around with its poppier melody weaves a far more interesting pattern. Ellis has the voice for rock and the fingers to play pretty much whatever he pleases; the beautiful cascading phrases of Carillon are brought back to earth by the vocal. Where the pieces are unencumbered by the vocals they really stretch out as Dance of the Cat and Good Morning Mr Hirons show. Continue reading “Nick Ellis “Daylight Ghosts” (Mellowtone Records, 2017)”

Tom Snow “Uptown Hopeful” (Slipstream Records 2016)

Tom Snow has enjoyed a 50 year career in the music industry and is best known as a songwriter penning Linda Ronstadt’s hit “Don’t Know Much” and Leo Sayer’s “Thunder In My Heart” plus many more. However, he was a pioneer of the late 60’s and early 70’s country rock scene working with a young and already eccentric Gram Parsons before starting his own band named Country. Whilst he released a number of albums in his own name, the songs on this CD have never been released before and it is thus a treasure trove for fans of music from that era which defined much of what we know and love today as Americana. Continue reading “Tom Snow “Uptown Hopeful” (Slipstream Records 2016)”

The Sweet Water Warblers “With You” (SweetWaterWarblers, 2017)

Wow! These ladies can really sing. The quality of the harmony work on all the tracks on this EP is just outstanding. Hailing from Michigan, the Sweet Water Warblers are Rachael Davis, Lindsay Lou and May Erlewine, three women who had already forged independent reputations on the American Roots circuit, they came together at a festival appearance in 2014 and haven’t looked back since. Continue reading “The Sweet Water Warblers “With You” (SweetWaterWarblers, 2017)”

The Handsome Family, The Union Chapel, London, 2nd March 2017

Brett and Rennie Sparks brought a four-piece Handsome Family to The Union Chapel for one of those rare evenings that truly deserve the accolade “magical”. Demonstrating the ability for even a little television exposure to change the size of an audience The Handsome Family have stepped up to a considerably larger venue than on previous tours, and one that couldn’t be more in keeping with their music – on an early March evening when the shadows draw in quickly there could have been no better frame for their musical paintings of the strange, mystical and plain bizarre in American life. Continue reading “The Handsome Family, The Union Chapel, London, 2nd March 2017”