Our latest Short Cuts, an occasional feature where AUK casts a brief eye and ear on several albums we’ve received recently which just didn’t make the cut for a full review. Like most major music websites we can’t mention every album or EP we get sent but we reckon the picks below deserve a nod. Click on the links to hear a song.
We open this month’s selection with ‘If I Was, I Am’, a five song EP from Montreal’s Bells Larsen. It’s a delicate recording featuring just acoustic guitar and banjo with occasional glimmers of pedal steel adding some colour. Described as a “trans, queer person navigating the qualms of young adulthood,” Larsen is adept at describing relationships in an oblique and wining manner as on ‘Suitcases By The Door’ and he delivers an excellent rendition of Nick Drake’s ‘Place To Be‘. Well worth a listen.
From youthful yearnings we go to life long experience on the debut album from 78 year-old singer/songwriter Payson Lyon, ‘Long Day’s Journey Into Light’. It’s a fine album, very much in the American folksinger tradition with Lyon able to come up with some very attractive melodies on songs such as ‘Casena’s Song’ and ‘Right On The Borderline’, the latter having a slight touch of Townes Van Zandt to it. Lyon can rock a bit as well as on ‘I Hate It When‘ which is enlivened by some excellent guitar from Colin Linden who produced the album. Aside from the fine song writing there is excellent playing throughout with Linden, as always, on sparkling form while Fats Kaplin adds some fine fiddle and concertina.
Alex Seel has built a fine reputation as a solid songwriter and performer with his acoustic guitar skills often compared to Bert Jansch. These are all evident on his latest release, ‘All Sails To The Sun’ which is quite a formidable listen. The album opens with its lead single No Goodbyes which sets the mood nicely. Although Seel doesn’t sound like him, there’s a similarity here to Al Stewart on the ‘Gray Light Of The Moon’ while ‘Dream In Me’ ripples with autumnal colours reminding one of Nick Drake. Pick of the songs here is the seven minute ‘Circula’ which opens much in the manner of a Bert Jansch number with added ambient sounds and which steadily builds to a heady climax. A very impressive song.
Todd Deatherage currently hails from Austin Texas and has been playing country and rock music with numerous denizens of the alt-country scene for a couple of decades while spending some time in New York’s East Village rock scene. He brings much of this to bear on ‘Good Feeling’, a steady and pleasant collection of country rock and pop songs. There’s a nice hangdog sense of affection on the title song which has a mild Tom Petty tinge to it and ‘Back To Dallas’ finds Deatherage in reminiscent mood on while rooting around in a Weakerthans style.
Another artist claiming a Petty influence is Florida’s David C. Warren. On’ Song Of The Sinner’ he takes us on a brisk journey through eight songs which are quite admirable in their rough and ready state. Strangely enough, there’s little of Petty to be heard here, instead, Warren’s brief vignettes remind this reviewer at times of Jay Farrar. Have a listen to ‘Card Games’ and ‘The Hard Way‘ and see what you think. Warren and his band shamble nicely though songs such as ‘99 Days’ with its woozy Dylan like organ backing and ‘Morning After’ with a carefree lack of abandon and while it’s most likely that the album will be of local interest it’s well worth a listen.
After almost a decade’s absence from recording, Abi Moore comes back with a bang on ‘No More Chasing’. If memory serves, Moore was a mainly acoustic based singer/songwriter when we last encountered her. Here she packs a hefty wallop in the wake of experiencing breakups and losing her home on songs such as ‘Wake Up (Modernise Or Die)’, a turbo charged slice of primal rock’n’roll and the heavy blues riff of ‘Don’t You Worry About Me’. Known for her acappela singing, Moore is more successful however on the multi voiced ‘Between A Rock (And A Hard Place)’ and on the opening song, ‘Livin’ Underground’ which fuses fuzz driven rock and girl group harmonies.
From Penrith, we encounter the jolly romps of Errant Thieves, a four piece band who deliver a neat and unvarnished take on American and English roots music on ‘First Offence’. With several of the songs recorded with the band gathered around the one microphone (in bluegrass style they note) they conjure up a sense of an intimate night in with a fine set of pluckers and pickers playing by the fireside. ‘Midnight Highway’ sounds wonderfully homemade with some excellent harmony singing and ‘Skyway: Boxing Day’ sounds like something John Hartford might have written. ‘Tennessee River Runs Low’ has a hint of The Watersons to it and when they truly delve into traditional folk on ‘Now The Green Blade Riseth‘ they do so quite wonderfully. The band say they gig around Cumbria so if you are around there do search them out and buy a CD at the gig, tell them AUK sent you.
‘The Long Haul’ from The Mike Jacoby Electric Trio finds Jacoby playing with a band after a series of solo albums and, boy, does he seem to enjoy it. There’s a brashness to their approach on a song such as ‘Calm Before The Storm’ which gallops along with a frontier touch to it while ‘Bend’ reminds one of the cow punk days of Jason & The Scorchers. While they can turn in a fine power pop number such as ‘Everybody I Know‘, the pick of the songs here is the trippy haze of ‘Be Nice’, a Paisley Underground like trance, but the closing title song runs it a close second as Jacoby turns in a bravura performance as the band burn through this excoriating dissection of life’s vagaries.