Michael Clancy “Songbird” EP (Independent, 2019)

Michael Clancy is an English songwriter from Colchester, Essex. Now before you click on to the next review, please read on a bit. His five-track ‘Songbird’ EP reveals him to be a very accomplished songwriter. The words, ‘simple’, ‘gentle’, ‘easy’ or ‘soft’, in many reviews might be used as terms of denigration.  Clancy’s songs possess each of those qualities but don’t let that fool you into thinking that they are bland easy listening. Like the very best songwriters, Clancy has the ability to write in an economic style whereby less is more. There a few obvious hooks, yet the songs are deceptively catchy. They don’t grab you instantly but rather they subtly work their way inside you. Continue reading “Michael Clancy “Songbird” EP (Independent, 2019)”

The Sheepdogs + Creatures, The Deaf Institute, Manchester, 18th June 2019

The Sheepdogs may hail from Saskatoon, Canada but it’s clear that their musical roots lay much further south – The Allman Brothers and the whole early seventies ‘southern rock’ scene based around Capricorn Records in Macon, Georgia are clear reference points. However, The Sheepdogs are no revivalists. Like their forebears, their sound is guitar-based rock with liberal helpings of soul, blues and country. To this they add their own fresh ingredients to create a modern take on a well-established classic recipe. The show having been sold out weeks in advance, there was a palpable air of anticipation in the room as the stage was set up for the main event. This culminated in a huge roar as the band took the stage, long hair, beards and tassels giving a clue, if one were needed, as to what was to follow. Continue reading “The Sheepdogs + Creatures, The Deaf Institute, Manchester, 18th June 2019”

Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets + Sinead Burgess, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, 9th June 2019

One dictionary definition of ‘perfection’ states that it is, “a state, variously, of completeness, flawlessness, or supreme excellence.” It is doubtful whether anyone at Nick Lowe’s sold out show tonight would have any hesitation in applying that definition to the man himself. From his earliest beginnings with Kippington Lodge and Brinsley Schwarz, it has always been apparent that Nick Lowe has a talent. His involvement with Stiff, and later Radar Records served to further underline that. However, the 1994 release of his ‘The Impossible Bird’ LP marked the beginning of a series of albums that have singled him out as one of the great British songwriters. Never one to stand still, Nick Lowe arrived tonight on the back of last year’s ‘Tokyo Bay’ single and this year’s ‘Love Starvation’ EP. On both releases Lowe is accompanied by Nashville instrumentalists Los Straitjackets and it’s they who are his current touring band. Continue reading “Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets + Sinead Burgess, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, 9th June 2019”

The Hollering Pines “Moments in Between” (Independent, 2019)

‘Moments in Between’ is the third album from Salt Lake City band The Hollering Pines. It has a clear, crisp production, some nice harmonising by sisters Marie Bradshaw and Kiki Jane Sieger and even features pedal steel from no less than Greg Leisz. From the gentle, melodic opening of ‘He Don’t Understand’ to the rocking finale of ‘Keep it Light’ the album presents a series of well-crafted songs. The pick of them, ‘Out of Dodge’ has a slight indie feel added to its country-rock base, producing a Cowboy Junkies, Mount Moriah type feel. Continue reading “The Hollering Pines “Moments in Between” (Independent, 2019)”

Peter Bruntnell + Sophia Marshall, Gullivers, Manchester, 30th May 2019

Deciding whether to catch the support artist or not can be a bit of a lottery. Stay in the bar and you risk missing out on something special, roll up and you can end up shuffling around and feigning interest as some plucky trier tests the limits of your attention span. Tonight’s winners were certainly  those that abandoned their comfy seat in favour of catching  Leicester based singer-songwriter Sophia Marshall. Formally one half of the Havenots, Marshall possesses a captivating voice which she put to fine use in delivering some beautifully crafted songs. Drafting in her band, the set began with the acapella ‘Drunken Sailor’ which immediately served notice that this was no ordinary performer. There then followed a series of exquisite compositions that deserve to be heard on a bigger stage. With the ability to write such wonderful songs as ‘Beauty Sleep’, ‘Sarah’s Room’ and the superb concluding ‘Wasted Days’, it might be questioned as to why Marshall decided to include three covers in her short set. Continue reading “Peter Bruntnell + Sophia Marshall, Gullivers, Manchester, 30th May 2019”

Hayes Carll + Travis Linville, Deaf Institute, Manchester, 15th May 2019

Hayes Carll is in a pretty good place right now. His new album ‘What It Is’ is a triumphant return to form following two releases which some considered somewhat flat. In addition, at the start of an eight date tour of the UK in Manchester, he had some news to impart as he  announced that just three days earlier he had married his partner, Alison Moorer. This news was greeted with cheering and applause, something that was to be repeated regularly as the evening unfolded. Continue reading “Hayes Carll + Travis Linville, Deaf Institute, Manchester, 15th May 2019”

Simone Felice, Leaf, Manchester, 30th April 2019

Dressed in black jeans, black shirt and a crumpled black jacket; with unkempt hair and a greying, wispy beard, Simone Felice shuffled unceremoniously on to the stage to open the first of two sets he delivered tonight.  Accompanied for the evening by only his acoustic guitar, Felice gave a cursory nod to his audience before opening the evening with the familiar ‘One More American Song’ from the 2009 The Duke and The King album ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’. From the start, a hushed room hung on every note and every word and this remained the case for the remainder of the night. Continue reading “Simone Felice, Leaf, Manchester, 30th April 2019”

Old Lost John “Seers and Weathermen” (Independent, 2019)

Old Lost John’s albums have regularly gained favour on this site. His latest offering is not about to change that, in fact, it is arguably his best yet. If the name is new to you, then you’ve been missing out. Swedish troubadour, Tomas Thurnberg, AKA Old Lost John, recorded ‘Seers and Weathermen’ during the latter months of last year, in his flat in Malmo and at his parents’ house in the Swedish countryside. He also produced, mixed and mastered it himself. Thurnberg has decided to release it only via download and streaming “to save a little CO2”. Whilst this might be very laudable, his judgement might be questioned from a commercial point of view. However, that debate is for another day. Continue reading “Old Lost John “Seers and Weathermen” (Independent, 2019)”

Molly Tuttle + Ole Kirkeng, Night & Day, Manchester, 11th April 2019

Molly Tuttle has been creating quite a lot of noise recently and on tonight’s evidence she’s no empty vessel. Twenty-six year old Tuttle grew up in San Francisco and started to play the guitar when she was eight years old. Four years ago, she moved to Nashville, releasing a seven track mini- album ‘Rise’ in 2017. Her debut full album ‘When You’re Ready’ was released earlier this month to huge critical acclaim. No surprise really then to find a packed crowd in Manchester wanting to check out the live experience and they were not disappointed as they were treated to an enthralling evening of Tuttle’s songs along with some carefully selected covers and a display of folk guitar playing that stands up alongside the very best. Continue reading “Molly Tuttle + Ole Kirkeng, Night & Day, Manchester, 11th April 2019”

The Long Ryders + The Hanging Stars, Gorilla, Manchester, 10 April 2019

It seems that nearly everyone you speak to arrived at this thing we call Americana via a different route. One area of commonality though, is that The Long Ryders were an important step on that journey, or indeed, for some, the beginning of it. For this reason, the band continue to be held in high regard and with great affection by their loyal fan base. The demographic of tonight’s audience suggests that the majority are long-standing fans. Long Ryder’s shows in recent years have been hugely enjoyable nostalgia trips. This year, there is a new dynamic; the band have released the excellent ‘Psychedelic Country Soul’ album, to critical acclaim and no little commercial success (Sid Griffin took much delight in informing the audience that it had reached number one in the official UK Americana album chart). Continue reading “The Long Ryders + The Hanging Stars, Gorilla, Manchester, 10 April 2019”