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 kick off this month with an energetic collection of what used to be called cowpunk from Portland’s Jenny Don’t And The Spurs on their album ‘Fire On The Ridge’. With Blasters’ like rockers along with touches of western swing and rockabilly they are an engaging outfit and Ms. Don’t sings excellently throughout. Try the widescreen drama of the title song for immediate gratification or satisfy your inner cowboy with the retro rumble of ‘Johnny Vagabond’. It’s a rousing album from start to finish from a band who recently wowed UK audiences on their first tour over here.
We next head to Edmonton Canada for a slice of what The Confusionaires call music with a little dirt under its fingernails. A trio who have rockabilly and country woven into their songs, they play with a fine sense of gusto but the album suffers from a lack of standout songs. One senses that they would be a much better proposition in a live setting but there are some moments here to cherry pick such as the raw edged Z.Z. Top boogie of ‘Not My Business’ and (back to cowboys) the twangy ‘The Faintest Of Hearts‘ which closes the album like Dick Dale on horseback.
Sticking with Canada, Little Misty’s ‘Nowhere Land’ is a sophisticated blend of folk and polished studio arrangements. Kathryn Samman’s gamine vocals are a delight throughout as the band tiptoe through delicate whimsy (as on ‘Butterfly’), delve into Michael Nyman like staccato arrangements on ‘Dust’ or float through the dreamlike reverie of ‘Something Fishy’. Well worth investigating.
‘The Wheel’, from Ireland’s Badhands is a bit of a mixed bag. At its heart are a bunch of piano driven songs which always seem to be on the point of tipping over into full blown melodrama while elements of bandleader Daniel Fitzpatrick’s other career, writing movie scores, intrude throughout. The overall result is a sense of clutter with the arrangements overwhelming the songs for much of the time. Have a listen to the opening song, For A Little While, a Nick cave like meditation on alienation, and judge for yourself.
Hailing from New Orleans, Shawn Williams captures a southern gothic ambient mood on ‘Sulking In Love’ with producer Mark Howard (Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Lucinda Williams, U2, etc.) giving the album a Daniel Lanois like vibe. There’s a hint of Dr. John voodoo in the stealth like ‘Society’ while ‘I Need More‘, a song with a brilliant burbling bass line recalls vintage Lucinda Williams. Meanwhile, ‘It’s Getting Lonely’ slinks along with a fine sense of menace.
Dan Whitehouse’s last album, ‘The Glass Age’, a collaboration with Swedish musician Gustaf Ljunggren, found this Wolverhampton raised singer songwriter reflecting on communications in the modern age – zoom and the likes. ‘Reflections On The Glass Age’ revisits the songs from the previous album, paring them down to bare bones – guitar and piano. We have to say that stripped of the electronic effects and sonic noodling which dressed the earlier versions, too reminiscent of the 80’s for these ears, the songs have become much more introspective and even claustrophobic. Dark themes abound, none more so than on ‘The Tide‘ with Whitehouse begging for a column of air. An album for fans of melancholy.
David Edward Booth is another singer/songwriter who might be described as melancholic but his musings on ‘All My Days’ are much less claustrophobic, delivered as they are with a keen eye on the rural wilds of England along with some superb folk arrangements. He seems somewhat akin to Blue Rose Code’s Ross Wilson on a song such as ‘Another Me’ which has resonant double bass and mournful flugel horn along with a healthy dose of passion. ‘Run’ glides quite wonderfully and the title song with Booth joined on vocals by Kelly Bayfield, is quite superb. Highly recommended.
We close with an album which isn’t going to win any awards but which epitomises the joy of playing and listening to music. Andy Hawk & The Train Wreck Endings are jobbing musicians from Virginia who conjure up a fine mix of roadworthy songs fuelled by boogie, country and rock’n’roll. Hawk seems to be a rock’n’roll romantic, imbibing from Dylan, Lou Reed, Springsteen and others and he parlays this into an engaging set of songs on ‘The Symphony of 2 a.m’. ‘Tell Me’ rocks along quite wonderfully with Hawk inhabiting perfectly a love struck loser while ‘Gone Away’ is a frenetic slice of post punk new wave. They’re at their best on the deeply romantic yearnings of the title track as a lonesome violin backs Hawk’s nocturnal yearnings. It’s music played with heart and soul and it deserves a listen well beyond the band’s home confines. You can catch a flavour of the band on ‘Jimmy Carr’ (no, not about that Jimmy Carr) here.