Barry Oreck “We Fit Together” (Ampersand Records, 2020)

Barry Oreck’s new EP; ‘We Fit Together’ is a ‘message’ record, which we know because he has told us so, in unequivocal terms. He has released the record earlier than planned because he believes in its ability to capture the zeitgeist and to speak ‘hard hitting’ truths to power “… five songs that are all highly relevant to the current situation”. Continue reading “Barry Oreck “We Fit Together” (Ampersand Records, 2020)”

Craig Gerdes “Tough as Nails” (Independent, 2020)

Make no mistake this is a country album, a no-nonsense, old fashioned honest to god working-man’s country record. And it’s as fine a one as you will hear this year: if not next year as well, and last year for that matter. It doesn’t flirt with other genres, it’s the sort of record about which people say things like (genuine but misappropriated quotes alert) “This is real country and this is what we’ve been yearning for” or Craig Gerdes has “saved us from Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and all the other sh*tty pop country garbage” or “At last, this young man is true country” or “why oh why don’t they make country like this anymore”. Or… whatever. Continue reading “Craig Gerdes “Tough as Nails” (Independent, 2020)”

Mike McKenna “At the Edge of the World” (Independent, 2020)

With his second LP Mike McKenna jr. has constructed an intricate and finely crafted piece of work that invites us to consider what he calls the “distinct local culture” of his home manor. Given that the location of the ‘manor’ in question is the island of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, Canada it seems entirely fitting that the record is called ‘At the Edge of the World’ and the soundscapes on offer perfectly capture the otherworldly yet hardscrabble nature of such remote locations. Continue reading “Mike McKenna “At the Edge of the World” (Independent, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Lee Ann Womack “The Weight”

Jay Joyce is a reasonably well-travelled producer, a talented multi-instrumentalist and occasional songwriter who is perhaps, given his record, best suited to the first two of these activities rather than the third. He has worked with some cracking artists, some of our fav’s in fact cf. Radney Foster, Patty Griffin, John Hiatt, Emmy-Lou and Gillian Welch as well as outside the genre with Iggy and Brendan Benson for example. Whilst he may not have been a part of the very finest work from any of these artists that’s still a potent career by anyone’s yardstick. Included in this list is the Brothers Osborne for whom he produced their 2017 LP ‘Port Saint Joe‘. Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Lee Ann Womack “The Weight””

James Dixon “Trespassing Light” (Independent, 2020)

James Dixon is clearly very proud of his heritage. He’s grown up in the South West of England with blues and folk music, found rock music for himself and, since the age of 5 when he first strummed his axe, he has been a scholar of the sound. Since that tender age he has studied his music, taken it around the world and now ended up back in Cornwall where, over a two year period, he has recorded his debut LP ‘Trespassing Light’ with the production support of Sam and James Kent. There’s a hell of a lot of time, effort and emotional commitment gone into this record then and, on balance, it’s worth it. He has produced a fine, raw, powerful and melodic collection of 12 mostly self-penned bluesy-folk (folky-blues?) songs. Continue reading “James Dixon “Trespassing Light” (Independent, 2020)”

Dean Owens “The Man From Leith: The Best Of Dean Owens” (Eel Pie Records, 2020)

Dean Owens is a story-teller, in musical form and from a grand Celtic tradition (a ‘blether’ perhaps?). The songs on his ‘Best Of’ collection ‘The Man from Leith’ give ample testament to this fact. Rather than epic, rambling tales of supernatural heroes or gods and goddesses, though, he recounts small stories that draw in turn from his family history, his personal experiences and the tales of others, heard third hand. Each of these yarns is spun into melodic gold and presented to us in a pleasing user-friendly package. Continue reading “Dean Owens “The Man From Leith: The Best Of Dean Owens” (Eel Pie Records, 2020)”

Nikki & the Phantom Callers “Everybody’s Going To Hell (But You and Me)” (Tiny Tornado Records, 2020)

Nikki Speake is from Alabama, Nikki and the Phantom Callers is her band and they currently make Atlanta their home. These are not just simple biographical facts from the PR notes as a way in to the review – well actually they are, but they have more meaning here than just that. The notion that this is her band and that the heritage that built it (and her) is deeply Southern is fundamental to the sound of this record. Ensuring that it is as close as Speake has yet come to delivering her vision of the music she wants to create. Continue reading “Nikki & the Phantom Callers “Everybody’s Going To Hell (But You and Me)” (Tiny Tornado Records, 2020)”

Classic Americana Albums: Robbie Fulks ‘”Country Love Songs” (Bloodshot, 1996)

It’s late July 2019 and my latest Bloodshot records update drops through the electronic mailbox. My excitement is palpable. Finally, after 23 years, one of the finest records ever to pass through my CD laser beams was coming out on vinyl and I would be able to hear (and smell!) it in its full glory.  Robbie Fulks’ ‘Country Love Songs’ was about to become only the third album in my entire accumulation deemed so special as to be purchased on more than one format*. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Robbie Fulks ‘”Country Love Songs” (Bloodshot, 1996)”

Songs for the Rehearsal

As AUK’s resident miserabilist (self-appointed, though there is clearly plenty of competition) I feel it is incumbent on me to offer some kind of alternative background music for the approaching doomsday scenario. Now I’m not saying that we are heading for the end of days, just that sometimes when you wake up and your day slowly blurs into focus, as you re-calibrate your circumstances it can certainly feel like it. Continue reading “Songs for the Rehearsal”

Alpha Mule “Blue Sky Blue” (Giant Meteor Records, 2020)

Alpha-Mule-2020So, is it possible to ‘do music’ as a side-line? Alpha-Mule are a self-identifying “Californian Americana band” – essentially the duo of Joe Forkan on guitars and vocals, and Eric Stoner on banjo and guitar. They have produced new music, spread over two lps, whilst pursuing actual full time salary paying careers in the visual arts and education. So a listen to these records may give some clue as to the answer to that question. This new music is their second outing following well received debut ‘Peripheral Vision’, released over two years ago. Continue reading “Alpha Mule “Blue Sky Blue” (Giant Meteor Records, 2020)”