Mean Mary “Blazing: Hell is Naked Soundtrack” (Woodrock Records 2018)

Mean Mary (Mary James), renowned multi-instrumentalist and lightning-fingered banjo picker, returns with her new album ‘Blazing,’ which is a soundtrack to accompany the novel she has recently written with her mother, Jean James. The novel, which is to be released ahead of her tour of Europe and the UK beginning, in August is based around a former cop using unconventional methods to investigate crime around the Hollywood scene. Continue reading “Mean Mary “Blazing: Hell is Naked Soundtrack” (Woodrock Records 2018)”

Matt McGinn “The End of the Common Man” (Independent, 2018)

“Money, power and people: two out of three ain’t bad,” sings Matt McGinn on the opening track of this outstanding new offering. While ‘The End of the Common Man’ is about the corrupting power of corporations, you are left in no doubt throughout that it is “people” that McGinn is in sympathy with, as track by track, a catalogue of stories unfold, some beautiful and touching, some raw and driving, but all united by McGinn’s faith in humanity and contempt for those who seek to threaten or harm (see penultimate track about an elephant called Trump for further details). Continue reading “Matt McGinn “The End of the Common Man” (Independent, 2018)”

Ben Glover “Shorebound” (Proper Records, 2018)

Ben Glover 2018

Northern Irishman Ben Glover is an artist who certainly sees the value in collaborations in song-writing having said recently that “navigating is always easier with fellow travellers”. This approach certainly paid dividends last year when he co-wrote the Americana Music Association’s International Song of the Year ‘Blackbirds’  with Gretchen Peters in 2017. ‘Shorebound’ sees Glover continue with this approach with ten of the twelve tracks being co-written with fellow artists, including Peters again. Continue reading “Ben Glover “Shorebound” (Proper Records, 2018)”

Charley Crockett “Lonesome as a Shadow” (Thirty Tigers 2018)

Like his famous ancestor Davey, Charley has certainly not taken the easy route to success having spent years hitchhiking and busking in the US and around the world. He then toured extensively throughout the US, gaining a reputation as a formidable live act as audiences grew. From there he recorded an album that paid tribute to his favourite Country and honky-tonk songs that gained critical acclaim and saw him likened to the likes of Bill Withers, Dr John and, of course, Hank Williams. Continue reading “Charley Crockett “Lonesome as a Shadow” (Thirty Tigers 2018)”

Lindi Ortega “Liberty” (Shadowbox Music Inc 2018)

Canadian singer-songwriter Lindi Ortega has deployed a new approach with a sound that moves away from her traditional roots-influenced sound into what can be described as a more cinematic sound. ‘Liberty’ has a big, sweeping soundtrack feel to it with lush arrangements and songs that quite simply don’t do what you would expect. There is nothing obvious about the melodies or chord progressions in this collection of smouldering vignettes. Continue reading “Lindi Ortega “Liberty” (Shadowbox Music Inc 2018)”

Louis Brennan “Dead Capital” (Independent, 2018)

Painful, searing lyrics, darkness so bleak you feel you’ll never find a way out, but then laugh out loud moments that are life-affirming in their intensity. Such are the contradictions in this offering, as rich and dark as Irish stout from this London-based Dubliner and just as satisfying for those thirsting for originality and individuality in recorded output. Having grown disillusioned with his job, Brennan quit and started to write songs based on the comings and goings he observed in Victoria Park, London. The emptiness of spirit he identified led him to the theme and title of this album, Dead Capital. Deep, simmering vocals eke out tales of self-loathing and despair, with an almost symmetric beauty to cushion the blow, as in opener ‘Airport Hotel’. Continue reading “Louis Brennan “Dead Capital” (Independent, 2018)”

Darlingside “Extralife” (More Doug Records/Thirty Tigers 2018)

Massachusetts based Darlingside combine an almost dystopian view of the future with intricate, four-part harmonies to present an irresistible package on ‘Extralife‘. Described by NPR Music as “literary-minded, baroque, folk-pop” and with a distinctive vocal style that is reminiscent of the ‘Sunshine ‘60’s’ yet utterly modern, this is a record that reveals new depths on each listen. Continue reading “Darlingside “Extralife” (More Doug Records/Thirty Tigers 2018)”

The Novel Ideas “The Novel Ideas” (Independent 2017)

The Novel Ideas are a country-folk four-piece from Brighton, Massachusetts and their self-titled album was released in the UK in November. Having been playing together for around six years and featuring three different song-writers in their ranks, the Novel Ideas certainly don’t lack experience or creativity and it shows in a mature album that demonstrates all that is good about the Americana genre. Continue reading “The Novel Ideas “The Novel Ideas” (Independent 2017)”

Langhorne Slim “Lost at Last Vol 1” (Dualtone Records 2017)

Langhorne Slim has taken a “step sideways” from 2015’s The Spirit Moves in order to move forward. The result is a more stripped-back offering that retains much of Slim’s defiant introspection albeit in a more lo-fi folk style than previously. Recorded at Stinson Beach, California where views of the ocean have inspired numerous artists, “Lost at Last” sees Slim channel his desire for individuality into thirteen tracks that may lack some polish but gain a raw authentic feel. It’s a collection of songs, recorded almost spontaneously with a backing cast of seasoned Slim veterans like bassist Paul Defiglia and drummer Malachi DeLorenzo who also takes producing credits alongside Mt Davidson of Twain who contributes pedal steel among other things. Continue reading “Langhorne Slim “Lost at Last Vol 1” (Dualtone Records 2017)”

Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Albert Hall, Manchester, 25th October 2017

The resplendent setting of a former Methodist hall in central Manchester was a suitable venue to welcome Jason Isbell back to these shores and an expectant congregation of devotees were not disappointed by an evening that showcased perfectly the strengths of one of America’s finest artists and his excellent band. Continue reading “Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit, Albert Hall, Manchester, 25th October 2017”