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)”
Nicol and Elliot are Andrew and Rachel, respectively. A duo who met at Celtic Connections in their hometown of Glasgow. Two string musicians whose languid guitar and fiddle stylings perfectly correspond as much as their vocals contrast. Sadly, there are only four tracks to enjoy, but each note takes its time and makes itself worthwhile; there is no filler here. With two previous singles out on Electric Honey at the end of last year, they are songwriting quickly and well, which is a good sign. They are accompanied by fellow Glaswegian Attic Lights pedal steel player Tim Davidson on both ‘The Long Way Down’ and ‘So Long Ago’ which is a welcome addition on this dusty cowboy of an EP. ‘So Long Ago’ echoes Nick Cave’s ‘Wild Rose’, with its dark harmonies and smoky strings but without being derivative, while the title track has the lazy trip-hop feel of Morcheeba’s ‘Part of the Process’. Continue reading “Nicol and Elliott “My Heart Will Wait (EP)”(Independent, 2020)”
Stories of the West is Tim Francis, a singer-songwriter from the Twin Cities, whose past is shrouded in mystery, or at least absent. There are no album notes, no bio, only a simple website to stream the album from making it apparent that the launch was sudden and probably independent. This means that the music speaks for itself, and it speaks volumes. Reminiscent of ’90s Alternative bands such as Better Than Ezra, and Ben Folds Five, ‘Maybe That’s Good For You‘ is excellently produced, and very well played. Francis has clearly been playing the guitar for a long time and in a variety of styles. Continue reading “Stories of the West “Maybe That’s Good for You” (Young Ancianos, 2020)”
Like many Americana artists, Bart Budwig is 90% cigarettes and beard, but unlike many, this one is 10% Hawaiian shirt. Mysteriously self-identifying as a “son of Idaho”, Budwig’s appearance is visually striking before the band even plays a note. Luckily for us, his voice is similarly striking but stylistically grounded.
I From North Saanich, Canada to L.A., Sam Weber is the musical ambassador for British Columbia. Touring since 2013, this talented multi-instrumentalist has written ‘Everything Will Come True’ both on the road and on his parent’s piano. Starting out at Infinity Studios in Victoria, working on Chris Ho’s ‘City of Dust‘, it is apparent that this, his third album, has been recorded by a producer’s producer. Acoustic guitar, pedal steel, slide guitar, baritone guitar, electric Spanish guitar, all blend effortlessly with flawless vocals, trombone, trumpets, drums, and mellotron. The fact that he still goes back to his first recording studio for additional production and continues to write in his parent’s living room is a testament to the importance of roots to Weber, even when the songs are about life on the road. Continue reading “Sam Weber “Everything Comes True” (Sonic Unyon, 2019)”
Deep within the rustbelt, May Erlewine has written her 20th release to date bringing another slice of Big Rapids to the international stage. A multi-instrumentalist with soul, the daughter of Allmusic founder Michael Erlewine, and a member of the Earthwork Music Collective, May is all about independent Michigan. The rustbelt is often overlooked as a source of Americana, but with artists like Bob Seeger and Jason Molina drawling and twanging the industrial blues, it certainly deserves more attention. Continue reading “May Erlewine “Second Sight” (Earthwork, 2019)”
His most Pop and Rock release to date, Midwestern artist Dan Israel changes his life and with it his musical style. From the first trumpet blast, it is apparent that this album has diverged from the twelve or so previous and rightly so given that Dan finally quit his day job to write this. His musical career started back in 1993 and this latest album is steeped in the alt-rock of the ’90s. Continue reading “Dan Israel “Social Media Disorder” (Independent, 2019)”
Texan trucker Will Beeley proffers his overdue follow up to his 1979 drifter ballad album. This album is as slow and considered as the big horizons and roads upon which it was written. Almost forty years after his previous and debut album, this truckin’ man creaks out a story of life on the road, Jack Daniels, and of singing lullabies to grandkids. Continue reading “Will Beeley “Heartattacks & Highways” (Tompkins Square, 2019)”