Steve Hartsoe “Gaslighted” (Independent, 2020)

Steve Hartsoe’s new EP, ‘Gaslighted’, comes straight through the front door without opening it, not bothering to knock or wipe its feet. The vocals are as gritty as they come, the solos on the money and this is a fine example of blues rock-influenced Americana.  The vocals are mixed just right and rather than just hearing that impressive voice as no more than a grunt, the fate of many a similar vocalist, you can actually hear the words. Continue reading “Steve Hartsoe “Gaslighted” (Independent, 2020)”

Here are ten notable acoustic guitarists

This top-ten is meant to highlight acoustic guitar music, usually without vocals or vocals that are secondary to the music and not generally what the artist is known for.  I had been thinking about John Fahey and Leo Kottke, Takoma records and what has been referred to as, ‘American Primitive’, guitar.  It’s more a ‘starter for ten’ to an ongoing discussion than a display of any great knowledge on my part. Part of my fascination with this particular musical corner is how often it leads to Indian influences, sitars drones and titles with raga in them. Continue reading “Here are ten notable acoustic guitarists”

Tara Dente “Truth in the Mud” (Travianna Records, 2020)

It’s a fact that there is a wealth of great female vocalists out there – however Tara Dente does raise the bar and there are a couple of tracks on this album that could lead you to believe that her vocal cords are made of some exotic synthesis of Turkish Delight and a Caramac chocolate bar. Vocals as effortlessly rich as this haven’t been heard since the prime of KD Lang. Dente comes from the Asbury Park area which surprises, though it is more difficult to be clear where her home turf might be – but it isn’t there. It also needed checking a couple of times to be sure that she wasn’t English – or indeed Joni Mitchell minus that irritating vocal trill. Continue reading “Tara Dente “Truth in the Mud” (Travianna Records, 2020)”

AmericanA-Z special: Interview with Willie Nile

I’ve been lucky enough to see Willie Nile live on two occasions. Given that they were in Colwyn Bay and Macclesfield respectively, no geographic disrespect implied, it proved to be very much a case of seeking and ye shall find. On both occasions, the performance, personality and the music came together well and Nile was lively, engaging and everyone’s idea of a confident voluble New York rocker. Continue reading “AmericanA-Z special: Interview with Willie Nile”

David Lewis “Among Friends” (Independent, 2020)

David Lewis is less than prolific, having made 5 albums in 25 years which seems slow going by anyone’s standards. Only when you append his professional title does it make more sense; for Lewis is a Professor of Social Policy and Development at the London School of Economics and his professional CV would make you wonder how he has time for anything else let alone playing, touring, recording and song-writing.  A busy man. Continue reading “David Lewis “Among Friends” (Independent, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: The Kursaal Flyers “Speedway”

Dan Hicks and vehicular endangerment (is that a capital offence in the States?) can only lead in one direction; Southend, the Kursaal Flyers and the promise of never again riding the Speedway. Speedway. It still exists – long gone heroes like Ivan Mauger, bikes with no brakes called Jawa’s, mouthfuls of gravel if you stand in the wrong place, races that are won by the first bend (sounds like Formula 1?). What’s not to like? Quite a lot actually and having been forced as a child to watch Workington Comets I speak from experience. Dan and his Cannabis induced paranoia – chicken feed. Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: The Kursaal Flyers “Speedway””

Stornoway “The Farewell Show” (Cooking Vinyl, 2020)

Live albums can be a mixed blessing but in this case, an immensely appreciative audience, a good recording and a vocalist/lyricist of the first order means that this is an excellent package. The album is a valedictory affair recorded in the bands home town of Oxford – their final concert ever – in 2017. Stornoway are filed under an indie/folk/roots label – very English in their subject matter and approach and perhaps wise enough to realise when to call it a day as each of the four members was increasingly drawn to other projects and interests. Three great albums and a busy touring schedule over 10 years all around the world – perhaps more than enough for anyone? Continue reading “Stornoway “The Farewell Show” (Cooking Vinyl, 2020)”

Classic Americana Compilations: Various Artists “Cash Covered” (Mojo, 2004)

Johnny Cash had a career that would take a very large book or two to encapsulate and this Mojo sampler from 2004 offers 15 tracks that only represent the briefest overview with a variety of disparate artists offering their takes on the man’s work.  It is a good selection though and worth a listen; the cover versions fascinate in the way the somehow do. Continue reading “Classic Americana Compilations: Various Artists “Cash Covered” (Mojo, 2004)”

Turkeyfoot “Promise of Tomorrow” (Independent, 2020).

Colorado based Turkeyfoot are essentially new to recording and have only an EP produced in June 2018 prior to this their first full-length offering. Researching the story of its beginnings makes you realise what the term ‘grassroots’ can really mean. Among treats offered to supporters in a Kickstarter funding drive were a chef-cooked meal and a fly-fishing trip. Who could resist? Continue reading “Turkeyfoot “Promise of Tomorrow” (Independent, 2020).”

Classic Americana Albums: Gregg Allman “Laid Back” (Capricorn/Polydor, 1973)

A friend once offered me the thought that music, as with all art, could and should offer the listener the opportunity to experience the depths as well as the heights of feeling. He suggested two examples, ‘Berlin’, by Lou Reed, and, ‘Laid Back’, by Gregg Allman. I’m not intending to review, ‘Berlin’The thing about perceived emotional content is that one man’s meat is almost bound to be another’s poison. Often it seems to relate to nothing more than the faces that are pulled or the amount of sweat generated. But then why do we swear that A is all soulful connection and intent whilst B is lightweight and lacking any emotional depth, based solely on the sound that comes out of their mouths? Why are we seduced into thinking that guitarists that play at one end of the neck are more ‘emotional’ and ‘heartfelt’ than someone at the other? Any answers are very welcome.    Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Gregg Allman “Laid Back” (Capricorn/Polydor, 1973)”