Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn “Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn” (Smithsonian Folkways, 2020)

Abagail Washburn doesn’t leave all the banjo experimentation to her husband Bela Fleck, who has produced this new album. Where Bela has been looking across the Atlantic to the banjo’s origins in Africa, Abigail Washburn has explored, in the company of longtime friend and musical collaborate Wu Fei, a Pacific looking path for the banjo which links up Appalachian clawhammer with the Chinese guzheng. One could lazily classify this as a “world music” experiment, which is a rather quaint term in as much as it is suggests that there is music available from somewhere other than this world, but really it is an album that shows that two very different instruments – the 5 string glory that is the banjo and the 21 string “harp/zither” that is the guzheng – can make sensational sounds together. Continue reading “Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn “Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn” (Smithsonian Folkways, 2020)”

Muzz “Muzz” (Matador Records, 2020)

Not just the band’s name, ‘Muzz’ perfectly describes their sound. Fortunately that was the intention according to producer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman who wanted to describe the texture of the group’s sound without being pinned to a particular genre or time. They chose well. There is a richness to the expansive layers of cosmic and psychedelia that they blend with full-on indie rock in their debut, and for good measure, eponymous album. Continue reading “Muzz “Muzz” (Matador Records, 2020)”

Video: Old Sea Brigade & Luke Sital-Singh “Call Me When You Land”

‘Call Me When You Land’ features a beautiful, collaborative vocal from Luke Sital Singh and Old Sea Brigade (AKA Nashville-based Ben Cramer).  It’s a shimmering, dreamy song for the summer and is the lead single from a new EP, ‘All the Ways You Sing in the Dark’, due out on 28th August.  Cramer says of the single: “I’m really proud of the lyrics to this one, they’re a little more playful and sarcastic than is usual for me.  ‘Only advertisers know me’ might be my best attempt yet to summarise what it means to be human in the 21st century.”  Indeed, those few words concisely sum up where we are now.

Classic Americana Albums: Gregg Allman “Laid Back” (Capricorn/Polydor, 1973)

A friend once offered me the thought that music, as with all art, could and should offer the listener the opportunity to experience the depths as well as the heights of feeling. He suggested two examples, ‘Berlin’, by Lou Reed, and, ‘Laid Back’, by Gregg Allman. I’m not intending to review, ‘Berlin’The thing about perceived emotional content is that one man’s meat is almost bound to be another’s poison. Often it seems to relate to nothing more than the faces that are pulled or the amount of sweat generated. But then why do we swear that A is all soulful connection and intent whilst B is lightweight and lacking any emotional depth, based solely on the sound that comes out of their mouths? Why are we seduced into thinking that guitarists that play at one end of the neck are more ‘emotional’ and ‘heartfelt’ than someone at the other? Any answers are very welcome.    Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Gregg Allman “Laid Back” (Capricorn/Polydor, 1973)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Guy Clark “Instant Coffee Blues”

Last week’s Chain Gang entry ‘Such Great Heights‘ by Iron and Wine leads me to a song featuring, alongside coffee to deal with its after-effects, the aforementioned wine. Guy Clark’s ‘Instant Coffee Blues‘ features on his 1975 album ‘Old No. 1‘, and is a classic song in the storytelling realm, as it takes us through a casual one night encounter, Clark singing in the first verse “And she took him home for reasons that she did not understand/And him, he had the answers but did not play his hand/For him he knew the taste of this wine very well/It all goes down so easily but the next day is hell.” Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Guy Clark “Instant Coffee Blues””

Ben Kunder “Searching For The Stranger” (Independent, 2020)

Alarm bells start ringing for this writer when faced with a promo picture of a singer-songwriter replete with a beard and sporting the obligatory woolly hat. Fearing the worst, tracks are cued up with trepidation. Phew! Relief! This isn’t one of ‘those’ records. Canadian (Toronto-based) Kunder knows about melody and pop sensibilities. Continue reading “Ben Kunder “Searching For The Stranger” (Independent, 2020)”

Track Premiere: Margaret Chavez “I Virgo”

Crunching guitars usher in ‘I Virgo‘ before it is set free and launched into a stratospheric piercing blend of folk and rock and reverb heavy Cosmic American Music – Phosphorescent is in there, Mercury Rev and Midlake too but it’s a blissful sound that is really all its own.  ‘I Virgo‘ is  taken from Margaret Chavez’s new album ‘Into An Atmosphere‘ which has been described as a “folk-rock opus” – but it’s more than that. Continue reading “Track Premiere: Margaret Chavez “I Virgo””

Video: Courtney Marie Andrews “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault”

We start the week with a new video from the wonderful Courtney Marie Andrews.  She says: “This is a song rooted in taking ownership of our own story and pain and the message was something I’d tried to put in a song for a long time.”  As you would expect of Andrews, the lyrics and vocal performance are simply beautiful.  Continue reading “Video: Courtney Marie Andrews “It Must Be Someone Else’s Fault””