Classic Americana Album: Various Artists “This One’s For Him: A Tribute To Guy Clark”

Describing ‘This One’s For Him’ as a classic Americana album might seem surprising given it’s entirely made up of cover versions. Also, in no way does ‘This One’s For Him’ constitute a “breakthrough”  moment in the history of Americana like – to cite an obvious case – Uncle Tupelo’s ‘No Depression’. Nor yet is ‘This One’s For Him’ one of those back-to-the-roots folk albums that a more mainstream artist like Bruce Springsteen occasionally pulls out of the hat and which, as said album soars to sales levels beyond the wildest commercial dreams of most Americana artists, is nevertheless dubbed “classic Americana” by the mass media.
Continue reading “Classic Americana Album: Various Artists “This One’s For Him: A Tribute To Guy Clark””

Alan Barnosky “Lonesome Road” (Independent, 2020)

Alan Barnosky’s sophomore EP ‘Lonesome Road’ sees the Michigan-born musician switch from a mainly single guitar and voice format in his debut album ‘Old Freight’ to a full-blown bluegrass album complete with a multi-member backing band. But there will likely be few complaints about the end result either way. Continue reading “Alan Barnosky “Lonesome Road” (Independent, 2020)”

Paul Kelly “Songs From The South 1985 – 2019” (Cooking Vinyl, 2019)

It’s a point of pride for Australians that they don’t beat around the bush. So when it comes to reviewing ‘Songs From the South 1985-2019’, by one of that country’s greatest modern-day singer-songwriters,  you could maybe get away with just writing “this album is stunningly and consistently brilliant, go out and buy it today.” (That way if the Editor got sarky about whether this new-found brevity of style had anything to do with the outgoing ‘festive season’ then  you could claim you were reflecting the Aussies’ no-nonsense approach to life and that the comment summed up pretty neatly what you thought, anyway.) Continue reading “Paul Kelly “Songs From The South 1985 – 2019” (Cooking Vinyl, 2019)”

Betsy Phillips “Like We’re Talking” (Independent, 2019)

In the 1970s cult science-fiction comedy novel ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, given the billions of planets floating around the universe, the description for Planet Earth is limited to two words: “mostly harmless”.  And, regrettably, “mostly harmless” could also apply to Nebraska-born singer-songwriter Betsy Phillips latest EP, ‘Like We’re Talking’.
Continue reading “Betsy Phillips “Like We’re Talking” (Independent, 2019)”

Karen & The Sorrows “Guaranteed Broken Heart” (Ocean Born Mary Music, 2019)

One of the music industry’s most time-honoured clichés is that an artist’s third album represents a critical creative crossroads – even way back in the 1980s,   Essex folk singer Billy Bragg wryly subtitled his immortal ‘Talking to the Taxman about Poetry’ as “the difficult third album.” But in the case of queer country band Karen & The Sorrows third long-player,  ‘Guaranteed Broken Heart’ passes any unwritten musical roadworthiness tests with flying colours. Continue reading “Karen & The Sorrows “Guaranteed Broken Heart” (Ocean Born Mary Music, 2019)”

AmericanA to Z – Ray Wylie Hubbard

“Beans and biscuit in my cupboard, listen to Ray Wylie Hubbard!”  Houston-born Hayes Carll all but bellows on one of his early tracks, ‘Down the Road Tonight’, just to make it perfectly clear that he, for one, thinks checking out his fellow Americana artist is as fundamental and natural as always having those two staples of Southern USA cooking close at hand. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Ray Wylie Hubbard”

Interview – Forrest Van Tuyl

Forrest Van Tuyl (aka An American Forrest) spends six months of the year working as a cowboy on the trails of some of the remotest wilderness areas of Oregon and the other six months writing and playing music. A singer-songwriter for over a decade, his latest album ‘O Bronder, Donder Yonder?’ (Hearth Music) reviewed earlier this year by AUK, draws deeply on his outdoor life, and, amongst other genres, is inspired by a mixture of folk, Outlaw country and traditional American music. Above all, it feels like it’s modern American frontier music of the deepest kind – about living in one of the last parts of the North American wilderness in the 21st century. We talked to Forrest Van Tuyl about how he came to be writing, singing and playing music like this. Continue reading “Interview – Forrest Van Tuyl”

Tim Grimm “Heart Land Again” (Cavalier, 2019)

‘Heart Land Again’ is Tim Grimm’s reworking of his debut album ‘Heart Land’, published in 1999 and inspired by the singer-songwriter’s life-changing move from Los Angeles to an 80-acre farm in rural Indiana. Featuring two new tracks as well as every song bar one off ‘Heart Land’, Grimm says the eleven songs on ‘Heart Land Again’ are ‘keepers’ after all these years, and it brings me great joy to show them in a new light.”  And certainly, listening to the original ‘Heart Land’, which moves between a kind of neo-classic Bakersfield sound to bits of Gospel and good ol’ MOR country rock, in one sense it’s easy to understand why Grimm has wanted to do that –  rather than just writing off ‘Heart Land Again’ as what the more cynically-minded might call a self-tribute album. Continue reading “Tim Grimm “Heart Land Again” (Cavalier, 2019)”

Bill Scorzari “Now I’m Free” (Independent, 2019)

Once or twice a year, an album rolls onto the scene that is quickly and widely hailed as a game-changer. But if ‘Now I’m Free’ scores a few remarkable goals, it doesn’t, at least for this reviewer, kick the ball clear out of the stadium. First, the bare facts: Bill Scorzari’s third album is a 15-track, 74-minute marathon of fairly mainstream roots/Americana music, and is – to quote him – a result of  “three years’ introspection and contemplation of the human condition.” To some, the sheer length of ‘Now I’m Free’ is maybe a little daunting, and that kind of aim might sound like it’s been culled from the back of a philosophy book, rather than being the publicity blurb for a third album by a former New York trial lawyer. Continue reading “Bill Scorzari “Now I’m Free” (Independent, 2019)”

Yo Zushi “Unconditional Love” (TWGDOYP Records, 2019)

With publicity notes telling us that Japanese-Anglo artist Yo Zushi has spent a decade “bankrupting small labels with uncommercial music” and which describe his musical status as “absolutely obscure”, before first listening to ‘Unconditional Love’,  you could be forgiven for wondering what the heck it was you had to review this month.
Continue reading “Yo Zushi “Unconditional Love” (TWGDOYP Records, 2019)”