Bill Kirchen “The Proper Years” (The Last Music Co, 2020)

Before hearing this double album I was unaware of the existence of the rockabilly hall of fame, so these 25 tracks have been not only a pleasure but an education. Bill Kirchen began in the ’70s with Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen opening for bands such as Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers. This band boasts not only 23 albums, 12 singles and 4 chart entries, but to be cited as an influence by heavy-hitters such as Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Put simply, Bill Kirchen plays the guitar, and he plays it a lot. Kirchen’s style has been called “one of the most distinctive, pure-Fender Telecaster tone guitar sounds in modern music” by The Rockabilly Hall of Fame. The story goes that he plays a pretty sunburst 1959 Telecaster that he got in 1967 when he swapped his Gibson SG with a random on a bus; The rest is not history. Guitar Player magazine dubbed him “The Titan of The Telecaster” after he “played the heck out of his guitar” in New Haven. Continue reading “Bill Kirchen “The Proper Years” (The Last Music Co, 2020)”

Pi Jacobs “Two Truths and a Lie” (Traviana Records, 2020)

“Two truths and a lie” refers to the icebreaker party game where you reveal three statements about yourself. This album records Pi Jacobs doing the same, only musically. Which tracks are the truth? We may never know, but we can all enjoy the stories she tells even if some may be fiction. Pi Jacobs is like many folk artists a well-travelled woman. Raised in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district and growing up in California communes, Jacobs moved to New York where she got her record deal in 2017. Her dusty music started before this with a string of EPs in 2013 and 2015. Her first album ‘A Little Blue’ mixes folk and soul, and ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ continues this exploration. Continue reading “Pi Jacobs “Two Truths and a Lie” (Traviana Records, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Mark Lanegan “Man in the Long Black Coat”

Last week’s Chain Gang piece explored a Bob Dylan song that was later covered on ‘I’m Not There’ OST  (Columbia, 2007) by The White Stripes. Naturally, I revisited this gem of a soundtrack and then had the hard task of picking just one track from it to show and tell. Mark Lanegan’s cover of ‘Man in the Long Black Coat‘ is such flawless Americana that even Ramblin’ Jack Elliot and The Black Keys covers have to wait their turn. Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Mark Lanegan “Man in the Long Black Coat””

Steady Habits “Hold In Your Breath (EP)” (Independent, 2020)

There is a band called Steady Habits which are a Connecticut-based American punk-ska band: this is definitely not them. This Steady Habits is the unmistakable new Americana project of Sean Duggan of Loud Mountains, and there is nothing loud about it but the statement he makes. Sean and Kevin of Loud Mountains made a quiet splash on the Oxford folk scene these last few years and recently went their separate ways when Kevin went off to Nashville; Happily means twice as much music for the world. Continue reading “Steady Habits “Hold In Your Breath (EP)” (Independent, 2020)”

Gretchen Peters “The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury” (Proper Records, 2020)

Inducted into the Nashville Hall of Fame just six years ago after a twenty-year career in music, Gretchen Peters is a singer-songwriter who has enjoyed writing for many notable country artists including Shania Twain, George Strait, and Trisha Yearwood. ‘The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury’ – a collection of covers – is her tenth solo album since her debut ‘A Secret Life’ was released in 1996. Continue reading “Gretchen Peters “The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury” (Proper Records, 2020)”

Luke Sital-Singh “New Haze”(EP) (Raygun Music, 2020)

Americana is a broad church, one which warmly welcomes L.A. dweller and English ex-pat Luke Sital-Singh to its blended choir. Sital-Singh got his big break in 2017 writing a song that was used for Silent Witness and is now based in LA. His acoustic, almost lullaby, singer-songwriter style straddles dream pop and folk, but like most interesting music, defies strict generalisation. Continue reading “Luke Sital-Singh “New Haze”(EP) (Raygun Music, 2020)”

James Hyland “Western” (Independent, 2020)

James Hyland is from Texas. Like many from Texas, he is not just from Texas; he IS Texas.  Hyland started as a member of the South Austin Jug Band, a casual party bluegrass group with no jug back in 2001. Hyland has been releasing solo albums and live albums with SAJB continuously since then. However, a decade has passed since his last recording ‘Celestial Navigation’, and it shows in the sheer length of it. Continue reading “James Hyland “Western” (Independent, 2020)”

James Elkington “Ever-Roving Eye” (Paradise of Bachelors, 2020)

First of all, there must be apologies, as this review is late. However, this delay comes from Americana UK doing such a rare album justice. James Elkington crossed the pond in 2000, taking his guitar and voice and England’s loss was Chicago’s gain. Elkington has been a side-man for Jeff Tweedy and Richard Thompson, part of the band The Zincs, and has collaborated with many Chicago-based artists to produce some fine folk instrumental music. Continue reading “James Elkington “Ever-Roving Eye” (Paradise of Bachelors, 2020)”

Kiefer Sutherland, Cambridge Junction, 24th February 2020

As we get used to the lack of live reviews, a few AUK scribes have dug into their recent archives to offer a few belated reviews… Kiefer Sutherland, yes, you read that correctly, and yes, it is the same running-with-a-gun action star of ‘24′. Son of Donald, Kiefer, an actor turned country singer, is touring to promote his second album ‘Reckless and Me’. The first, ‘Down in a Hole’,  was the surprisingly positive outcome of a bet with a friend. Continue reading “Kiefer Sutherland, Cambridge Junction, 24th February 2020”

Classic Americana Albums: Woody Guthrie “Dust Bowl Ballads” (Victor Records, 1940)

Celebrating its whopping 80th birthday this year, Dust Bowl Ballads remains a prescient and relevant piece of musical reportage and remarkably unique. Woody Guthrie hailed from Oklahoma, settled in Texas, but made his mark in New York. He is well-known for his travels around the South-West in the 1930s, reinterpreting the blues of the area as a new folk troubadour. In this, his first work, he wrote about the plight of the people affected by the dust bowl, a series of droughts and dust storms that swept across the Southern Plains. It is a comprehensive 14 tracks, each one detailing a different aspect of the troubles. Lung and health ailments, buried tractors, refugeeing, crime, poverty, deaths, it is all laid out quietly and matter-of-factly. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Woody Guthrie “Dust Bowl Ballads” (Victor Records, 1940)”