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)”

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”