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.
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The Rails “Cancel The Sun” (Psychonaut Sounds/Thirty Tigers, 2019)

“Something is slipping my mind” Kami Thompson sings on one of the multiple  not-so-hidden gems on ‘Cancel The Sun’. But in fact when it comes to ‘Cancel the Sun’ qualifying as a folk-rock landmark of 2019,  absolutely nothing is lacking at all – and only one track of its 10 is arguably surplus to requirements. Continue reading “The Rails “Cancel The Sun” (Psychonaut Sounds/Thirty Tigers, 2019)”

Alias Patrick Kelly “An Unclaimed Inheritance” (Independent, 2019)

If your thing is grunge-flavoured, rock-powered  Americana with a steely-eyed take on modern US  working-class life, then Alias Patrick Kelly’s ‘An Unclaimed Inheritance’ EP is almost certainly going to be right up your street. On the plus side, it’s a workmanlike six-track production which combines a heady mixture of social anger in its lyrics with solidly crafted, cohesive alt country and rocky sounds. On the downside, a couple of songs seem to get stuck in the musical equivalent of a low gear, and come perilously close to running out of steam altogether. Continue reading “Alias Patrick Kelly “An Unclaimed Inheritance” (Independent, 2019)”

Peter Bruntnell “King of Madrid” (Domestico, 2019)

Flicking through a back catalogue of reviews of Peter Bruntnell albums – and ‘King of Madrid’ is his tenth – a hefty proportion are seemingly dedicated to dreaming up new ways of insisting that the Devon-based singer-songwriter is British Americana’s best-kept secret, the sub-text of the argument presumably being that only the inexplicably fickle tastes of the record-buying public/international music industry/whichever gods secretly rule the universe of popular music have deprived Bruntnell of the star status he so richly deserves.
Continue reading “Peter Bruntnell “King of Madrid” (Domestico, 2019)”

Jake Xerxes Fussell “Out of Sight” (Paradise of Bachelors, 2019)

There are nine tracks on North Carolina folk musician  Jake Xerxes Fussell’s third album, ‘Out of Sight’, and in the sleeve notes meticulously explaining each one’s backstory, one adjective appears in all of them: traditional. But it’d be very wrong to assume that ‘Out of Sight’ simply picks up from where Fussell left off on his first two albums,  also made up entirely of  re-worked and often long-forgotten folk songs. That said, on his latest album, Fussell unearths songs from locations as diverse as County Offaly in Ireland, North Carolina, New Jersey, Florida and the Chattahoochee River separating Alabama from Georgia. Continue reading “Jake Xerxes Fussell “Out of Sight” (Paradise of Bachelors, 2019)”