Eilen Jewell “Gypsy” (Signature Sounds, 2019)

Press releases can be a little overblown at times but in listening to Eilen Jewell’s new release ‘Gypsy’ I would agree with one thing: it’s varied. The subject matter is widespread and the arrangements, instrumentation and vocals vary from track to track – which makes for interesting listening. It’s the eighth studio recording in Jewell’s career and her first of original material since 2015. Continue reading “Eilen Jewell “Gypsy” (Signature Sounds, 2019)”

Carly Dow “Comet” (Independent, 2019)

One thing that reviewing for AUK has taught me is that there are any number of great female vocalists out there. Carly Dow is one such and her album ‘Comet’ is beautifully sung from beginning to end. Dow is based in Manitoba and this is her second release after 2015’s, ‘Ingrained’.  ‘Comet’ is apparently the first to use a group of musicians, and it has to be said that they serve her well.  From what I have heard of her earlier material this is a move from pared down and minimal to a fuller sound.  If the prevailing mood is one of subtle mid-tempo then each track has its own little instrumental highlight.  Her Banjo is often to the fore; there’s a nice bass motif at the start of, ‘Like Coyotes’ and the Accordion distinguishes itself on, ‘Cut and Run’.  There are instrumental contributions everywhere that reward close listening. Continue reading “Carly Dow “Comet” (Independent, 2019)”

Forgotten artists: Leon Russell

Elton John, surprisingly to me, declared great respect for Leon Russell as Russell’s career and life were coming to an end. Indeed I felt a bit affronted that the king of tinsel, both visually and musically, could be associated with a talent like Russell. However if you consider John’s early incarnation as an honorary west coast singer-songwriter on albums such as ‘Tumbleweed Connections’ (‘Ballad of a Well Known Gun’, for instance) then it made much more sense.  Continue reading “Forgotten artists: Leon Russell”

Josh Gray “Songs of the Highway” (Independent, 2019)

Josh Gray 2019Josh Gray, born in San Francisco, raised in Maryland and resident in Nashville, stares out of the windscreen of his car with a weary look in his eye and a row of skyscrapers in a receding background. No prizes then for getting the message – ‘Songs of the Highway’.  Apparently 30,000 miles in 2015 and this disc is the result of his ruminations during that journey.
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Gillian Nicola “Dried Flowers” (Independent, 2019)

Gillian Nicola is a fledgling recording artist though apparently performing since she was 13. ‘Dried Flowers’ is her first full-length album though there have been two previous E.Ps, ‘No Place to Call’ from 2016 and ‘Chasing Winds’ from 2013. In fact, the final track of the former, ‘Stay’, could well be a standout in her career so far – worth checking out.
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Massy Ferguson “Great Divides” (North and Left, 2019)

In January 2017, AUK colleague Dave Cowling posted a positive review of a previous release by Massy Ferguson, ‘Run it Right into the Wall’, and came to the following conclusions: “‘Into the Wall’ encapsulates everything that is both good about them and this genre …. MF are the kind of band that are the bedrock of this genre…. they make records that are beautifully crafted and worthy of a wider audience but are destined only for diehards; which is a shame.” Continue reading “Massy Ferguson “Great Divides” (North and Left, 2019)”

Jo Schornikow “Secret Weapon” (Keeled Scales, 2019)

This album raised two questions – what are the furthest limits of Americana and how do you review music that is not inherently to your taste, but is likely to appeal to someone, somewhere?  Both these issues led to some interesting discussion with AUK headquarters.  Beware of investing in this debut offering if you think it sits at the heart of what you might think of as Americana.  Of course it may not be intended as such and may just be the right music reviewed in the wrong place by the wrong person.  There are those who think it, ‘gorgeous bare bones indie-folk’.  You might struggle to agree. Continue reading “Jo Schornikow “Secret Weapon” (Keeled Scales, 2019)”

Vicky Emerson “Steady Heart” (Independent, 2019)

The cover of Vicky Emerson’s new CD ‘Steady Heart’ is a picture of a strong and confident woman. It is those qualities that are apparent in her music. A level of self-assurance means that inside you will find a relaxed and warmly understated offering musing on relationships and love.  A steady heart indeed. This is in great part due to the quality of her voice, which manages to be both pure and seductively smoky at the same time; it draws the listener right in. This is aided and abetted by some quietly sympathetic violin (OK fiddle if you will) and bass playing. How often does acoustic bass add a dimension that electricity just fails to provide? Continue reading “Vicky Emerson “Steady Heart” (Independent, 2019)”

The Crooked Jades “Empathy Moves the Water” (Independent, 2018)

The Crooked Jades are new to me despite their 24 years and 9 albums.  Listening to this offering I am reminded that somebody once said to me, of a student placement, that over and above all the evidence and reasoning you might produce that the only real question is – have they passed or have they failed? Let me tell you straight away that I think you will find that with this release they have passed with distinction. Continue reading “The Crooked Jades “Empathy Moves the Water” (Independent, 2018)”

Andrew Leahey and the Homestead ‘’Airwaves’’ (Skyline Music, 2019)

36 year old Andrew Leahey was born in Virginia and is now based in Nashville.  He currently fronts The Homestead and has been previously with Hobson’s Choice and The Opera House.  His current release is his second, entitled ‘Airwaves’.  Leahey suffered a concerning hiatus to his career in 2013 due to ill health and is apparently recovered and back to his music. He is known as a touring musician and has added his guitar prowess to others including Rodney Crowell, Elizabeth Cook and Drew Holcomb. Continue reading “Andrew Leahey and the Homestead ‘’Airwaves’’ (Skyline Music, 2019)”