Songs for the apocalypse: The Low Anthem “To Ohio”

It was about 10 years ago that I first came across Rhode Island’s Low Anthem in a soggy field (well, garden) in Wiltshire when they played one of their famous End of the Road performances, and like most of the music I love sobbed my way through most of the set. ‘To Ohio’ with its line about every new love being basically just a shadow is a classic example of everything that’s great about the band, and those harmonies you would kill for, let alone die.

Topic Records 80th Birthday Party, The Barbican, London, 7th June 2019

At 80 years of age Topic Records is the world’s oldest Independent Record label – and if it hasn’t been called Topic for the whole of that time there is at least a good continuity all the way back to the first recording by the Workers Music Association. In 1939 they released ‘The man who waters the workers’ beer‘ by Paddy Ryan, and bar the odd World War they haven’t looked back. Well, of course they have looked back – being at the cutting edge of the folk revival meant that Topic recorded a vast amount of old songs, as well as becoming the record release vehicle for the likes of Ewan MacColl. Old and new has ever been the way of folk, and the evening’s musical director – Eliza Carthy – captured that sense with a diverse series of musicians playing individual short sets, and then being the backing band for others, as the evening progressed. Continue reading “Topic Records 80th Birthday Party, The Barbican, London, 7th June 2019”

Forty Elephant Gang “Next Time Round” (Independent, 2019)

Naming your popular beat combo after a vicious gang of 19th-century thieves and robbers from South London – and female at that – may seem an interesting choice for an Alt-folk (their description) band from East London. However, this debut is one example of when to expect the unexpected. For ‘Next Time Round’ by the Forty Elephant Gang is a very enjoyable first effort, strong songs and good musicianship, with an underlying upbeat feel throughout.
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Lachlan Bryan and the Wildes “The Road” – Listen

You may feel that you’ve heard every song about life on the road, that there’s nothing more to hear.  Well, there are a lot of songs about the touring life but Australia’s Lachlan Bryan brings enough autobiographical honesty to ‘The Road‘ that it stands out.   There’s selfishness “I chose the road as something I would follow and I chose love as something I would leave behind /  So I drove like there was no tomorrow and I broke every single heart that I could find” and there’s acceptance “the road was not a good decision but there ain’t no good in looking back in time.

Rich Layton & Tough Town “Salvation Road” (Never Lucky Records, 2019)

On the original road to salvation, St. Paul suggests that the wages of sin are death. Rich Layton has avoided that outcome in a lifetime in the rock’n’roll trenches, but has taken a few knocks along the way, and now brings us his ‘Salvation Road’. The title track is a gospel-infused shot at rock’n’roll redemption, which Layton says he performs on Saturday night in the bars and Sunday morning in the church. As he says “Perseverance has been the story of my life, especially where music is concerned”. Continue reading “Rich Layton & Tough Town “Salvation Road” (Never Lucky Records, 2019)”

AmericanA to Z – David Rawlings

David Rawlings is best known for his work with Gillian Welch, with whom he creates achingly beautiful and melancholy music. The couple were part of the Bluegrass Class of 2000 who suddenly found that they had mainstream appeal after the huge success of the Coen Brother’s ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?‘ At that point, Rawlings and Welch had already recorded two albums with legendary producer T Bone Burnett, who also produced the ‘O Brother…’ soundtrack. They weren’t exactly flying under the radar, but the impact on the Coen brothers film cannot be understated. The follow up documentary ‘Down From the Mountain,‘ followed the various artists involved in the soundtrack, including Rawlings and Welch, culminating in a concert at the Ryman in Nashville. This was wildly popular and paved the way for bluegrass-influenced bands like Nickel Creek to enjoy massive mainstream popularity in the early 00’s. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – David Rawlings”

Joshua Burnside “Live At The Elmwood Hall” (Quiet Arch Records, 2019)

Releasing a live album can be a risky business. Capturing the essence of a show in a recording isn’t always easy. Credit then to Northern Irish singer-songwriter Joshua Burnside who, with ‘Live at The Elmwood Hall’ has produced an album that showcases his talents to the absolute max. Recorded in December 2018, Burnside is credited with responsibility for the mixing and he has delivered a lovely sounding album.
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Don Gallardo announces summer UK dates

Don Gallardo, whose last album we described last year as “richly layered music on the country-rock side of Americana” has announced a string of summer UK tour dates including Suffolk’s Maverick Festival, shows including London, Bristol and Birmingham, and culminating in a performance at Tingestock Festival (full tour dates below). Continue reading “Don Gallardo announces summer UK dates”

How did bluegrass become the new sound of political protest across the US?

The Guardian ran a superb article over the weekend on a genre we don’t cover enough here on AUK –  bluegrass – partly because it appears to be the marmite of americana. The article focused on the genre’s recent gravitation towards activism: “Bluegrass has no history of protest music. Or rather, its protest has always been a passive, melancholic one, the sound of displaced workers longing for their home in the Blue Ridge Mountains far away. It is a music whose roots are bedded so deep in its nostalgic view of America that it can seem estranged from the modern world – and vice versa.” Continue reading “How did bluegrass become the new sound of political protest across the US?”