AUK Shortcuts : Rachel Sumner, Chris Castle, Mark Mandeville & Raianne Richards, Palomino Kings, Memorial and The Texas Trio

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.

It’s always nice to see folk who participated in our Twang Factor series (which showcased new talent) reappear so it’s gratifying to find Rachel Sumner popping up this month with her second album ‘Heartless Things’. She’s ditched her band’s name (Travelling Light) and moved on from the down-home front porch style of her previous album, heading here into a more precocious folksy mode with some fleet footed arrangements including horns and woodwind. It’s quite the delight as her airy vocals skim across the songs with ‘Katie’ being the prime example, a song which needs to be tethered to the ground in case it floats away. There’s a serious aspect to ‘Radium Girls (Curie Eleison), a song which tells the tale of the fate which befell female workers who painted watch faces with radium dust, while Sumner dips into autobiography on ‘3000 Miles‘. Well recommended, especially if you dig early Joni Mitchell or Cindy Lee Berryhill.

Chris Castle is a bit of a veteran, having recorded or played with a plethora of names such as Garth Hudson, Chris Hillman, Jimmy Webb and even Tommy Ramone. His latest album, ‘Long Way To The Bottom’, produced by Larry Campbell, is a bit of an eye opener as he expertly roams through a selection of songs which take in country rock (cosmic at times), southern swamp and  some good old fashioned Nashville tear jerkers. He opens with the wonderful southern slope which is the title song, reminiscent of Tony Joe White, ‘Someday’ is a great Bakersfield like romp with pedal steel guitar licking and curling throughout. There’s an excellent pair of tear stained ballads in the shape of ‘Even Losers Win’ and’ My Dreaming Heart’ and some serious gravitas on the aching strains of ‘Between Intent And Deed. A seriously good album.

A married couple from Massachusetts, Mark Mandeville & Raianne Richards maintain their mellow sounds on their fourth album ‘Making Promises’. If you can dig the simple delights of a husband and wife harmonising on a batch of laid back acoustic songs then this may be the pair for you. At their best they can disarm you with the title song which is quite delightful as they sing of wedding vows, the song given some gravitas by a bowed cello. Much of the album reflects their decision to marry after several years of partnership and they examine the in and outs of that decision on songs such as ‘Reflecting’ and ‘When Love Comes ‘Round Again’. ‘Hello Bill’ looks outward however as the pair sing a superb valedictory to a late mentor on a song  which has a wonderful whiff of John Prine to it.

Time then for some unabashed rock’n’roll courtesy of the Palomino Kings, a brash new band from the UK, who unleash their self titled debut album this month. There’s nothing too original here as they sashay between Felice Brothers like roustabouts as on ‘You Won’t See Me Tonight’ and grungy country rock such as ‘Never Wanted To End Up This Way. On occasion, they veer too heavily into 70s like denim clad rock, the prime culprit being ‘Butterfly’ but when they rein it in on songs such as ‘Shattered And  Lost’ and ‘Nowhere To Run, Nowhere To Hide’, there’s a sense that this bunch might be ones to watch in the future.

There’s certainly a bustle in the hedgerow when it comes to the alt folk duo that is Memorial. On their second album ‘Redsetter’, the Brighton based pair (Ollie Spalding and Jack Watts) sound quite ethereal and quite vulnerable in quite a delightful way. Their songs are lightly speckled with delicate arrangements, none more so as on ‘Good Nature’, a song so fragile it seems as if a slight whiff of wind might blow it away. The pair whisper their way through a set of songs which tug at emotions such as loss with ‘Silver being the prime example while ‘River’ has a very slight trip hop ambience to it. However, the closing song, ‘Warrener’, stripped of all arrangements, is the most arresting moment here.

We close this edition of Shortcuts with an amiable crew from Texas, a trio called, of all things, The Texas Trio. The band (country artist Kyle Park, two time Grammy award winner Jason Roberts, and keyboardist John Michael Whitby from George Strait’s Ace in the Hole Band) are in thrall to western swing, in particular, the music of Bob Wills with Wills’ characteristic whoops present on several of the songs. They set the album off in fine fettle with ‘Concho Valley Ride which is followed by ‘Miss Molly’, a grand approximation of the best of western swing. There’s a whole load of swing on show here as on ‘Hot Headed Honey’ and ‘South Of Oklahoma’ but the trio do branch out  with a couple of the songs bringing them more up to date. Their version of Rod Steagall’s ‘When The Cimarron Was Red And On The Rise’ is like a page from a Larry McMurtry novel while ‘Bad Luck Cowboy’ is a song imbued with the spirit of Michael Martin Murphy. It’s a tremendous listen.

About Paul Kerr 445 Articles
Still searching for the Holy Grail, a 10/10 album, so keep sending them in.
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