StevieRay Latham “The Nomads of Industrial Suburbia” (SR24, 2020)

According to the bumpf for ‘The Nomads of Industrial Suburbia’, Devonian  StevieRay Latham’s second EP in a year “merges his passions for fine art and songwriting.” And the end result is certainly something more of a collage of finely turned-out indy-folk rock musical ‘paintings’ than straight-up songs. It’s not just the minute-long intro and minute-long epilogue on the opening song, not to mention the 40-second burst of ethereal, New Age-style electronica that ends the EP that gives the album its artwork-y feel. To judge by the repetitive lyrics Latham often favours, rather than vehicles for developing narratives as normal folk tends to do – storytelling, if you like – instead, he’s trying to entwine the words deep into some highly atmospheric, and diverse, musical styles. It could be just an impression but the words’ actual meaning, rather than being the main point of each song, feel almost secondary.  Continue reading “StevieRay Latham “The Nomads of Industrial Suburbia” (SR24, 2020)”

AmericanA to Z: Jason Isbell

In Nik Cohn’s history of pop and rock Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom, his chapter on The Beatles opens  “Next come the Fab Four, the Moptop Mersey Marvels, and this is the bit I’ve been dreading. I mean what is there possibly left to say about them?” And in Americana, these days, it’s easy to feel the same way when writing about Jason Isbell. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: Jason Isbell”

John Jenkins “Growing Old” (Independent, 2020)

“I’m growing old” is the first, uncompromising, line of the first song on Liverpool-based John Jenkins’ latest album, and “I’m singing this song before I die” is  – in theory – the last line of the last track, so it’s maybe not surprising that the bulk of what comes between also dwells, heavily, on life in our twilight years. The most powerful of all of these age-themed numbers is undoubtedly the title track, which maintains its utter honesty about growing old throughout, all backed up by a series of gently growling, shimmering guitars. Lines like “I don’t like it, but sometimes I feel the need to thank it, because I’m still here as you can see,” capture perfectly the spirit of that old saying that if you don’t like having another birthday roll round, then just consider the alternative. Continue reading “John Jenkins “Growing Old” (Independent, 2020)”

How I Write a Song: James McMurtry

In this new series for Americana UK, artists from across the genre discuss their approach to song-writing. It’s been more than 30 years now since a youthful, up-and-coming  James McMurtry first crossed paths with another, already renowned fellow Texan singer-songwriter, the late Guy Clark, at an open-mike session in Kerrville near San Antonio. Rather than proving a massively inspirational encounter, McMurtry once recalled in an interview in lonestarmusicmagazine  that his overriding memory of Clark that particular day was the “awfully gracious manner for a man who’d been forced to stand under a tree in Kerr County on a hot afternoon listening to a bunch of us young’uns try to impress him with our songs.” Continue reading “How I Write a Song: James McMurtry”

Ray Remington “Texas Rose” (Independent, 2020)

In an era when so many Americana musicians seem hellbent on blurring genres and styles come what may, you can’t help wondering sometimes how much (or little) headway an up-and-coming Americana artist would make these days before succumbing to the general mindset and producing the world’s umpteenth ‘fusion roots’ album. Or maybe it’s not that tough and some folks have just got lazy:  because if California-born Ray Remington’s quest to produce an old-school, uncompromising electrified country sound on his debut EP ‘Texas Rose’  is anything to go by,  some artists can forge their own path right across a good-sized vintage musical prairie or three – and still be going strong. Continue reading “Ray Remington “Texas Rose” (Independent, 2020)”

Van Darien “Levee” (Independent, 2020)

In the  (highly recommended) film ‘Still Crazy’, as plans forged by the 1970s British psychedelic rock group Strange Fruit for a comeback tour run headfirst into a morass of cliched band problems like  XXXL egos,  deep-rooted personal feuds,  and addictions to certain mind-bending substances, there’s a point where Billy Connolly, playing an ageing roadie, observes with wry world-weariness “In an uncertain world, it’s reassuring that some things stay the same.”  And funnily enough, given these current, extraordinarily weird, times, you could say the same about Texas-born, Nashville based singer Van Darien’s debut album ‘Levee’. Continue reading “Van Darien “Levee” (Independent, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Guy Clark “Cold Dog Soup”

Connections between James McMurtry, last week’s AUK Chaingang link, and Guy Clark –  no longer with us, but who started out writing around 20-25 years before –  are multiple and powerful. Both are key figures in the world of Texas singer-songwriting but far less well-known than they deserve. Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Guy Clark “Cold Dog Soup””

Slow Parade “Hi-Fi LowLife” (Independent, 2020)

From the moment ‘Hi-Fi Lowlife’s opening track  ‘Waiting on the Smoke to Clear’ kicks off with a swirling blast of electronic fuzziness, only for a set of gently resonating piano chords to carve through the aural smog (or smoke?), the sensation that we’re in for some kind of psychedelic-laden rock’n’roll ‘experience’ is all but inescapable. Continue reading “Slow Parade “Hi-Fi LowLife” (Independent, 2020)”

Frazey Ford “U Kin B The Sun” (Arts & Crafts, 2020)

After starting out with the retro folk band the Be Good Tanyas, for her third solo album since 2010, Vancouver-based artist Frazey Ford has all but completely eliminated the Americana influences that permeated her previous two productions. Rather, on ‘U Kin Be The Sun’ she concentrates on producing what sounds, on the face of it, like a straightforward, solid slab of mid-paced, well-polished  Southern soul, leaning towards 1970s-tinged funk and gospel and with Ford’s intense yet indolent voice over-arching proceedings with astonishingly potent force.
Continue reading “Frazey Ford “U Kin B The Sun” (Arts & Crafts, 2020)”

Katie Blount “Dark Water” (Independent, 2020)

‘Dark Water’ is a tough album to review, but for a reason that does British singer-songwriter Katie Blount’s nine-track debut no discredit whatsoever. The “problem”  is that while ‘Dark Water’ packs several punches of the folk-tinged  acoustic-guitar-based variety, such is  the knock-out potency of the last song, ‘Orion Sky’,  that it risks completely eclipsing what’s come before.
Continue reading “Katie Blount “Dark Water” (Independent, 2020)”