AUK Shortcuts October 2023: Shaw’s Trailer Park, Thom Morecroft, Luluc, Sofia Talvik, Rachel Sermanni, John Douglas, Sunset Stranger, Meredith Lane and Tom Carlson

Our latest Short Cuts, a monthly 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 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’s roundup with a definite bang, a solid guitar-revved bang. Shaw’s Trailer Park are a five-piece band who dig into grungy pschedelia al la The Dream Syndicate and Rain Parade and add touches of Krautrock along with a whiff of Stooges-like snottiness on their self titled debut album. ‘Crash Landing’ would have sounded perfectly at home on ‘Emergency Third Rail Power Trip’ while ‘Memory’s mighty riff is straight from the ‘60s garage punk era and features some inspired sonic guitar solos. A blast from start to finish, they end with the seven-minute zonked out ‘Snakegirl’ with its tremendous fuzzed bass which might well shake your abode’s foundations.

Thom Morecroft is a Shropshire-based singer-songwriter who, during lockdown, managed to produce a digital album a month for his Patreon subscribers. Plenty of practice then for his second “proper” album ‘Waiting For Leo’, the title pertaining to the subsequent birth of his son Leo. It’s a quiet listen, rustic and low key with Morecroft’s slight yet attractive voice backed mainly by just his acoustic guitar. Songs such as ‘Mother’s Pillow’ and ‘When I Bury My Father’ are reminiscent of early ‘70s fragile singer-songwriters and there’s a hint of Alan Hull’s wonderful melancholy woven in. It’s not all bare branches as Morecroft adds percussion and backing vocals to several of the songs with our current favourite the moody ‘Somebody Hurt Me.

Australian duo Luluc lull the listener into a dream-like reverie on their album ‘Diamonds’ with singer Zoe Randall’s voice as calming as a cup of Horlicks. The music gently undulates with melodic guitar and soothing brass the main elements, reminding one of Angelo Badalamenti’s work for David Lynch with Randall in the role of Julee Cruise. They open with the title track which name-checks Doug Sahm but this is miles removed from Sir Doug’s ebullience. Much more apt is ‘Sleepyhead’, a joyful little ditty but for full on Zen calmness listen to ‘Snow. Adding their rendition of ‘As Tears Go By’, the second last song on the album is a bit of a miss-step as one can’t help but compare it to the original, disturbing the flow somewhat.

Sofia Talvik raises her voice in protest on several of the songs on ‘Center Of The Universe’, her seventh album. From Sweden but immersed in American folk music Talvik rails variously against the recent overturn of Roe v Wade by the US Supreme Court, the war in Ukraine and the epidemic of missing children evidenced by the masses of posters she observed on her most recent tour of the states. While it’s all perfectly delivered there’s an old-fashioned feel to these songs, too much of Joan Baez or Buffy St. Marie in the early ‘60s. Nevertheless, songs such as the lilting ‘A World Away’ and the winsome ‘Meanwhile In Winnsboro, written about the pandemic, do much to redeem the album.

“Everybody OK?” asks Rachel Sermanni as she opens ‘Dreamer Awake’, the Scottish singer’s latest album. Her slightly jazz infused folk songs are always top notch and she is on top form with this latest selection which starts with the excellent ‘Dreamer‘, a fully-fledged folk rock song with Sermanni coming across like a female Robert Plant (the ‘Raising Sand’ Plant, not the Viking rock god) while Pentangle like lead guitars and rippling piano  fly out. There’s more excellent band arrangements on ‘Big Desire’, ‘Liminal’ and the haunting ‘Killer Line’ but even when the songs are stripped back as on ‘In Her Place’ Sermanni is quite riveting and her voice is quite the joy. A lovely album.

Also from Scotland, John Douglas, ex of The Trashcan Sinatras releases his self titled solo album, 11 songs featuring just his voice and guitar which revisit some of his old band’s numbers along with several new songs. Perfect for late night listening the songs are quiet and reflective as Douglas recalls primary school days on ‘Orange Crayons or pays tribute to the romantic countryside which abuts Glasgow on ‘Maid Of The Loch’. He also pays tribute to Syd Barrett on ‘Oranges And Apples’ and dedicates the last song, ‘Always’ to his wife, Edi Reader. The most immediate number is the jaunty, almost sea shanty tale of an Aberdeen fisherman on ‘The Sleeping Policeman’ and there is one cover song, a tender reading of Prefab Sprout’s ‘We Let The Stars Go’. All in all an album which is both relaxing and engaging and bound to played by Radio Scotland’s more discerning deejays.

Although based in the Catskills, Jonathon Linaberry AKA The Bones of J.R. Jones was inspired by the desert expanses of the American southwest on ‘Slow Lightning’. It’s a bit of an oddity however with no underlying theme emerging as Linaberry roams from style to style, honing in on Native Americans on the spooky instrumental ‘Preservation’, rocking out on ‘Heaven Help Me‘, which sounds as if it could have been recorded by Redbone. A drum machine trots alongside a casually strummed guitar as Linaberry sings and almost yodels about a woman who treats him wrong on ‘I Ain’t Through With You’ while ‘Love Is A Sickness’ reminds one of Petunia & The Vipers.  His high lonesome voice is heard to best effect on the Mike Nesmith like ruminations of ‘Salt Sour Sweet’ which features some lovely lonesome pedal steel.

Back to Australia for some dreamlike pastoral psychedelia from Sunset Stranger on ‘Double Dream’. Somewhat akin to the Rose City Band, Sunset Stranger meander quite wonderfully through eight songs with rippled guitars and a light dusting of pedal steel prominent. There are a couple of short and fairly upbeat songs such as the country pop of ‘Prometheus Blues’ and the (US) Charlatans’ like ‘Early Train’ but they’re at their best on the longer and more limpid numbers. ‘Shades Of Time flows sweetly over its seven minutes and the closing title song is a wonderful hypnagogic trip through a psychedelic dream ending with a fiery outburst of guitars which then pause only for a sweet coda to be tacked on.

Meredith Lane just recently moved to Nashville from her hometown of Enterprise, Oregon and ‘Greyhound’ is her first album to be recorded there. She adds a pop sheen to her take on country music which works well on the title track sounding like a Fleetwood Mac song with Stevie Nicks in the driving seat while ‘Know You’ (with pedal steel from Paul Niehaus) is a punchier number which allows Lane’s voice full rein, tough yet emotional. The propulsive punk rock of ‘Bitter’ (with its transistor radio tinny toned beginning) might find her steering well away from any sense of Nashville but then she floors you with the excellent ‘Gas Station Baby which has hints of Bobbie Gentry and some very pleasant pedal steel (this time from Brett Resnick). Closing song ‘Stranger’ sees Lane playing scrubbed banjo with the band pared back on a lengthy vocal tour de force as she whispers and wails existentially.

We close this month on a much more traditional note with Tom Carlson’s ‘San Joaquin Waltz’, a set of decidedly old-fashioned (in a good sense) country folk songs. While the opening title track may be the most immediate to stake its claim, as the album unfolds it reveals some very splendid songs. Carlson’s pleasantly relaxed voice is perfectly suited to the both the lonesome lament of ‘Pleiades’ (with lonesome fiddle to boot) and the much more spritely paced ‘Chinese Zodiac Placemat Monkey’ with its twangy guitar and Tom Waits’ like lyrics. The standout song is ‘St. Francis Hotel, a wonderfully down-at-heel portrait of a lost soul with Leonard Cohen-like images appearing as if in a dream. When he’s not playing or recording Carlson works in the vineyards of the Southern San Joaquin Valley, thankfully he had the time out to record this very pleasant album.

About Paul Kerr 439 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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