Lyman Ellerman “I Wish I Was A Train” (Woodshed Resistance, 2018)

Lyman Ellerman is based in Bon Aqua, Tennessee and has written all the songs and, with Jason Morgan, produced this remarkable record. Listening and being drawn into the eleven tracks, one can’t fail to draw up a picture of the humanity of Lyman that makes him so remarkable. His voice, his guitar work, and the power of his lyrics just underline this presence. Bigger Plans,’ the first track, is a confident, thought provoking, and uptempo starter. You get the measure of Lyman straight away. His words are full of wise warnings of the vicissitudes of life. It’s no good being “bound and chained to your treasures” or “shackled to your fears.” The fact is you’ll never see what’s really coming. “Foundations will crumble,”  because you’ll never see what’s really coming, being “too busy making bigger plans.” And the message is swayed up by fine guitar work, here and throughout the album. Continue reading “Lyman Ellerman “I Wish I Was A Train” (Woodshed Resistance, 2018)”

Tami Neilson “Sassafrass” (Outside Music, 2018)

Born in Canada, now based in New Zealand, Tami Neilson, confidently presents her sixth album. Tami, part of a musical family, has had a  part in the writing of all the songs here, some with her brother, Joshua Neilson and one with her late father, leader of The Neilsons, a Canadian family band active in the 90’s with whom Tami played from the age of 12. Continue reading “Tami Neilson “Sassafrass” (Outside Music, 2018)”

Ash Gray “Chicken Wire” (Labelship Records, 2018)

Here is the second album from Ash Gray from  Austin, TX, now based in Sheffield, Yorkshire, the land of his forefathers. All the tracks here are written and produced by Gray himself. The title track demonstrates well how Gray orchestrates and startles with his music. This is a song, that under the influence of the pedal steel (James Shelton from Austin, Texas) and the saw (Jeff Johnston, also from Austin) is able to convince you, (with the rhyme of “cold desire” with the idea of “the fear of pain like a cat on fire / Caught in the chicken wire!”) how uneasy life and love can be. Listen to the song and the conundrum will become more clear. “Yeah! Caught in the chicken wire!” What an original, stark and compelling image. Continue reading “Ash Gray “Chicken Wire” (Labelship Records, 2018)”

Rod Picott “Out Past The Wires” (Welding Rod Records, 2018)

Rod Picott’s pedigree is prodigious and it shows in his music. In this album, produced by Neilson Hubbard in Nashville, he is framed by standout musicians: Will Kimborough, Lex Price, Evan Hutchings and Kris Donegan. His recent tour of the UK will have re-emphasised his stature. He says of ‘Out Past The Wires’ that it is “My most ambitious project of my seventeen year career.” And “The most satisfying recording I’ve made.” Those words stress how important this work is, and also how important our appreciation and understanding of it is, as well. Continue reading “Rod Picott “Out Past The Wires” (Welding Rod Records, 2018)”

Dean Owens “Southern Wind” (At The Helm Records 2018)

Dean Owens is a well known artist from Leith, with an established reputation on both sides of the Atlantic and here is a very special album. This review should convince you to take special notice of  his work. Recorded and produced in Nashville, with an array of notable musicians in support, you can “feel the wind blowing” through the music. On the title track, and throughout the album, you can hear Will Kimbrough and his all-round musicianship. He is a close associate and friend of Dean’s. Continue reading “Dean Owens “Southern Wind” (At The Helm Records 2018)”

The Lost Brothers “Halfway Towards A Healing” (Bird Dog Records 2018)

Here are two singer/songwriters from Ireland, Oisin Leech and Mark McCausland, now based in Liverpool. This is their fifth album, produced and recorded by Howe Gelb and Gabriel Sullivan (of Giant Sand fame) at the Dust and Stone Recording Studio in Tucson, Arizona. On the strength of their performance here, The Lost Brothers have secured their ascendancy in the music world. Within the words of their songs are hints, of their lives: “Another road, another town, another song/ another echo in the wind.” And what startles the listener, in the first song, is the reference to a particular place: “The Hotel St John.” The subtle, absorbing, captivating use of reference to a place. Where could that be? The Virgin Islands? Malta? Who knows? Continue reading “The Lost Brothers “Halfway Towards A Healing” (Bird Dog Records 2018)”

Arcelia “Building On The Land” (How Now 2018)

In Old Spanish, Arcelia means “treasure chest” which is a good way of describing the outstanding musicianship and variety of this album. Arcelia are a trio consisting of Gavin Alexander on guitar and vocals; Teresa Gallager on vocals; and Simon Foster on keys, cajon and vocals. They are supported, mostly, by Perry White on piano and Martin Elliott on bass. The first track, ‘Fallen,’ written by Gavin Alexander and Cat Bloomfield, with whom he has penned many songs, sets the tone perfectly for the collection. The implied depth of meaning “Fallen, fallen, but got up again” has a sustaining force, maintained by its harmonies. Continue reading “Arcelia “Building On The Land” (How Now 2018)”

Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards “California Calling” (Compass Records 2017)

Laura Cortese, a force already as a solo singer, has gathered around her, in Boston, other alumni from Berklee College of Music: Cellist, Valerie Thompson, fiddler, Jenna Moynihan and bass player, Natalie Bohrn. Together, they are a foursome to be reckoned with. Laura has written or has had a part in writing nine of the songs on this remarkable album. It doesn’t take long to become immersed in the music that the quartet provides. The first two tracks capture you. Continue reading “Laura Cortese & The Dance Cards “California Calling” (Compass Records 2017)”

Andy Griffiths “Big Red Monster” (Musician Records 2017)

Here is a thoughtful album that deserves your attention. Andy tells stories in his songs that are “beyond anywhere,” which are words from the first track. Rather, they present a carefully collected and memorable array of events and places. The cover and pictures on the album, and its title give some clues here. There is Andy playing his guitar, sitting above Worbarrow Bay on the Dorset coast, and on the back is the big red tractor, the monster itself. Track 7 tells of the families, who, on a mere moment’s notice were forced to leave their village of Tyneham which was then required as part of the Lulworth Range as gun and fighting practice for the Normandy landings. Continue reading “Andy Griffiths “Big Red Monster” (Musician Records 2017)”

Great Willow “Find Yourself in Los Angeles” (Sedan Zero Records 2017)

In their debut album Great Willow have managed to recreate and update the sound of the California canyons in the sixties. The reference is there to the 60’s sounds of (amongst others) the Byrds and the singing of Gene Clark. Great Willow are James Coombs and Erin Hawkins, with their exquisite harmony singing and with them are Rich McCulley playing guitar, and Ed Barguirena on drums. And, throughout, the mariachi horns, providing what is, at times, almost a “Tex-Mex” feel. Continue reading “Great Willow “Find Yourself in Los Angeles” (Sedan Zero Records 2017)”