Janne Saaristo “Never Say Ever Again” (Independent, 2018)

Janne Saaristo is from Sweden. Gothenburg, to be exact. It’s important to be exact. In ‘Old Dogs’, the opening song of his second album, the ex-punk sings that “even an old dog can learn” and all about “masters and slaves”… which is interesting, as Saaristo appears to be a songwriter enslaved to an aesthetic that he’s developed rather than inherited. Continue reading “Janne Saaristo “Never Say Ever Again” (Independent, 2018)”

Besides Daniel “T E E M I N G” (Hubbub! Music, 2018)

“There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.” The English literary critic Cyril Connolly said that. It’s unclear if the only child of Major Matthew William Kemble Connolly ever lived in a tiny house in the mountains of North Georgia, but it’s obvious that Connolly was talking rubbish. Becoming a parent and putting down roots need not be the enemies of anything – and creativity knows no bounds. That said, there’s a gentleness to the fourth album from Besides Daniel that could only come of writing songs softly in the still of another new night. Continue reading “Besides Daniel “T E E M I N G” (Hubbub! Music, 2018)”

Juanita Stein “Until The Lights Fade” (Nude Records, 2018)

Juanita Stein’s debut album, 2017’s ‘America,’ created a splash and placed the Howling Bells singer firmly in the solo spotlight. That she’s back within twelve months with a sophomore effort is a clear sign that the Australian wants to swim the mainstream. Does the music match the ambition? Perhaps. Electric guitars dominate and the production from Stuart Sikes (Cat Power, White Stripes, Loretta Lynn) is sympathetic to Stein’s gentle vocal strokes and meandering melodies. Opener ‘All The Way’ shares spaces with the southern gothic stylings of, say, Lera Lynn, whilst single ‘Forgiver’ (written with Brandon Flowers when touring as support for The Killers) is a kind of spoken-word, Iggy Pop-fronting-Primal Scream kind of blues – all balls and bluster. Continue reading “Juanita Stein “Until The Lights Fade” (Nude Records, 2018)”

Mt. Joy “Mt. Joy” (Dualtone, 2018)

Mt. Joy are currently riding the crest of a wave with over 30 million streams on Spotify for their self-titled debut album. That takes some doing. In fact, it’s got the LA-via-Philadelphia five-piece a physical release for the record and they’ll be visiting Europe and the UK later in the year. That’s the story. The music itself? It grabs you. Opener ‘I’m Your Wreck’ comes on like The Lumineers following the discovering of electricity, while the likes of ‘Dirty Love’ and ‘Silver Lining’ have a full-throated, sturm und drang quality that will set toes tapping and tongues wagging. Continue reading “Mt. Joy “Mt. Joy” (Dualtone, 2018)”

Izaak Opatz “Mariachi Static” (Mama Bird Recording Co, 2018)

There’s a Wurlitzer playing through the bright and breezy ‘Got To Me Since’ that grounds the sound of Izaak Opatz. It’s strange, especially when you read that the quirky songwriter grew up in and around the national parks of Montana, but that recurring keyboard sound is what stops this enjoyable record from taking a flight of fancy through the hills of indie pop to staying on the muddy paths of Americana. Continue reading “Izaak Opatz “Mariachi Static” (Mama Bird Recording Co, 2018)”

Little Steven & The Disciples Of Soul, Liverpool, 30th June 2018

For the second time in less than a year, ‘Little’ Steven Van Zandt is on-stage and in charge of Liverpool’s O2 Academy.   ‘Sweet Soul Music‘ has opened up the show and a five-piece horn section are breathing new life into the Arthur Conley/Otis Redding standard. The surefire opener sets the tone for the music The Disciples Of Soul will play for over two hours on this sweltering Saturday night. It maybe high summer outside, but it’s ‘Soulfire‘ – the title track of Van Zandt’s first solo album in nearly two decades – that is burning up the crowd in the venue.  Continue reading “Little Steven & The Disciples Of Soul, Liverpool, 30th June 2018”

Frank Turner “Be More Kind” (Xtra Mile Recordings, 2018)

A lot of people think of Frank Turner as
‘the new Billy Bragg’. The thing the Hampshire-born songwriter mostly has in common with the aforementioned ‘Bard of Barking’ is that his idiosyncratic style marks him out as a musical Marmite: you either love him or hate him. There’s no middle ground with Turner, it seems. ‘Be More Kind’, his seventh studio album, is no different to its predecessors in many ways. These are songs with the importance of being earnest weighing heavily on their well-worn chord sequences and melodies. The lyrics, then, need to fly from the speakers and speak to the listener… when they do, all is well; especially on the the lilting title-track, with its lovely acoustic guitar figure and mournful strings. But, when the message is lumpen, the music carries all the gravitas of a Hallmark greetings card. Continue reading “Frank Turner “Be More Kind” (Xtra Mile Recordings, 2018)”

Nathan Evans Fox “Texas Dust” (BMI, 2018)

Nathan Evans Fox sounds like the truth. In the end, that’s what we go to songwriters for, isn’t it? That sense of themselves that reveals a glimpse of ourselves, too. Fox sings about his own family, grief and religion on these eleven songs. But he’s also singing about you. Opener, ‘Texas Blues No 7,’ is prime Tom Joad-era Springsteen with its austere and acoustic atmosphere – but it’s one minute and a half into the title track that a fiddle enters the picture and the music opens up as wide as the country Fox is singing about: “… and every smile that you sent me, had a Shreveport stamp.” Continue reading “Nathan Evans Fox “Texas Dust” (BMI, 2018)”

Great Peacock “Gran Pavo Real” (Ropeadope, 2018)

Jason Isbell and Dave Cobb may well be redefining ‘The Nashville Sound’, but Great Peacock aren’t paying any attention. “I’m a rolling stone, I can’t sit still,” sings lead singer and guitarist Andrew Nelson, on the masterful and melodic ‘One Way Ticket’, as his band combine the sounds of 70s rock and 90s alt-country to create an aural and lyrical landscape as old as the hills.  Continue reading “Great Peacock “Gran Pavo Real” (Ropeadope, 2018)”

Old Crow Medicine Show “Volunteer” (Columbia Nashville, 2018)

‘A World Away’ bursts out of the speakers sounding like another time and another place and all seems right in the world. Well, wrong, as it’s a refugee song… but you know what I mean. Old Crow Medicine Show are back – and this time there’s electric guitars!  There’s the usual rollick and roll, too, but ‘Volunteer’ sparkles and shines with more urgency than the greatest band Bob Dylan never had in a long time. Recorded at the historic RCA Studio A and produced by man-of-the-moment Dave Cobb, there’s an ache in the soul of ‘Volunteer’ that never truly reconciles with the recklessness and rhythms of reels like the auld time ‘Shout Mountain Music’ and ‘Elzick’s Farewell’. Continue reading “Old Crow Medicine Show “Volunteer” (Columbia Nashville, 2018)”