Martin Simpson “Home Recordings” (Topic, 2020)

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Martin Simpson needs no introduction. The most nominated individual in the history of the BBC Folk Awards, Simpson is well known as an outstanding writer and musician. He had planned for his next album to be a live one, but a global pandemic put paid to that. Unable to perform or head into a studio, Simpson began to revisit and revise songs he had been playing for years. He has said that the absence of a live audience added a new level of intimacy to the process, and he spent long months repeating and finessing arrangements. The aptly named ‘Home Recordings’ is the ultimate result of this process, and it is a delight. Continue reading “Martin Simpson “Home Recordings” (Topic, 2020)”

Anne Malin “Waiting Song” (Independent, 2020)

Nashville duo Anne Malin (Anne Malin Ringwalt and William Johnson) were all set to head into the studio and record a new album with a group of their favourite local musicians when the pandemic hit. “Waiting Song’ is the album they made instead, recorded and produced by the two of them at their home. The wonderful art-country sound has a real space and strangeness to it, with lots of haunting, layered, pedal steel, and many other strange sounds. This ghostly atmosphere peaks on the seventh track ‘Mountain Song’, which consists of an unsettling spoken word vocal and a jarring, alien soundscape. Continue reading “Anne Malin “Waiting Song” (Independent, 2020)”

Padraig Jack “Making Sand” (Good Deeds Records, 2020)

Padraig Jack was born ten miles off the west coast of Ireland, on the Aran islands, and lists these surroundings as one of his greatest influences, along with James Taylor, Van Morrison, Shane McGowan, and The Eagles. Jack’s father, Barry Ronan, is a bilingual songwriter, and Jack has carried on this proud tradition – writing and performing songs in Gaelic as well as English. Jack is carving out something of a reputation in Ireland, with a host of television appearances, as well as some high profile tours supporting Sharon Shannon. His Gaelic language songs are regularly played on the national Irish language radio station RTE Radió na Gaeltachta. Continue reading “Padraig Jack “Making Sand” (Good Deeds Records, 2020)”

The Loft Club “Dreaming The Impossible” (Lightyear, 2020)

Following a summer supporting Noel Gallagher, Exeter based five-piece The Loft Club bring us their debut album ‘Dreaming The Impossible‘. The record is a sunny mix of jangly guitars and psychedelic twists exploring the well-trodden thematic paths of love, loss, and friendship. Dripping with retro influences, this is an album which is proud to look back and celebrate what has gone before. ‘Dreaming The Impossible‘ is a well-produced album. The guitars sound nice and big, and there is enough interesting sonic stuff going on to stop it being too dull. In terms of creative offering, though, it falls somewhat short. Continue reading “The Loft Club “Dreaming The Impossible” (Lightyear, 2020)”

Courtney Marie Andrews “Old Flowers” (Loose/Fat Possum Records, 2020)

Courtney Marie Andrews has gone from strength to strength since the release of her acclaimed 2018 album ‘May Your Kindness Remain’, earning an Emerging Artist of the Year nomination at the 2018 Americana Music Association Honors & Awards. She has also toured extensively, including shows with Brandi Carlile, The Head and the Heart, and the late John Prine. This latest release continues Andrews’ run of form; ‘Old Flowers’ is an achingly beautiful break-up record of the highest order.  Continue reading “Courtney Marie Andrews “Old Flowers” (Loose/Fat Possum Records, 2020)”

Riun Garner “All We Know and All We Forget” (Independent, 2020)

Canadian filmmaker Riun Garner has been dabbling in music for a long time, recording what he describes as highly personal songs on his phone and not really thinking too much about it. With the help of a few friends, he recorded four of these songs at the tail end of last year; these tracks make up his debut EP, ‘All We Know And All We Forget‘. The first track ‘Fabric‘ opens with some lovely acoustic guitar noodling which has a palpable Nick Drake flavour. Continue reading “Riun Garner “All We Know and All We Forget” (Independent, 2020)”

Dylan Menzie “Lost in Dreams” (Independent, 2020)

Canadian singer-songwriter Dylan Menzie has been cooking up a storm over the past few years, picking up two nominations at the 2017 East Coast Music Awards as well as one more at the Canadian Folk Music Awards the following year. His latest album, Lost in Dreams’, is an inviting mix of vintage-tinged pop and some more classical-sounding Americana (or should that be ‘Canadacana’?). Continue reading “Dylan Menzie “Lost in Dreams” (Independent, 2020)”

AmericanA to Z: Simone Felice

When Simone was thirteen, he died. He flatlined in a frozen New York state January after suffering a brain haemorrhage. No one expected him to make it, but somehow he did. The doctors had to remove a part of his brain associated with music, art, and creativity. He should never have been able to play music, but somehow he did. Felice has spoken about this experience on stage, and about the resultant feeling that his life is borrowed, or somehow not his own. He speaks with a strangeness and intensity that seems to flow out of the depths of his very being. This same, almost spiritual, intensity is embodied in all his music, from the frenetic, joyful caterwauling of The Felice Brothers, to the intimate vulnerability of his solo records. He is Lazarus Presley. Risen from the dead to play rock’n’roll. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: Simone Felice”

The Nautical Theme “Lows and Highs” (Independent, 2020)

The Nautical Theme are an indie-folk duo from Deyton, Ohio. Their second album ‘Lows and Highs‘, continues to develop the sound they established on the 2018 record ‘Float‘. That sounds is a fairly traditional indie-folk offering; piano, guitar, shuffling drum beats and harmony vocals. The whole thing has a nice pop polish to it without being too commercial. The harmonies in particular really lift the overall sound into something more than the sum of its parts.  Continue reading “The Nautical Theme “Lows and Highs” (Independent, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Caitlin Rose “Dallas”

Last week’s chain gang song was ‘House of my Soul‘ by Longhorne Slim. Longhorne Slim lives in Nashville, so I’ve gone for a geographical connection. As you can imagine, this opens up quite a lot of options… The track this week is ‘Dallas‘ by the brilliant Caitlin Rose, taken from her 2013 album ‘The Stand In‘. The song was written by the Felice Brothers and first appeared on their 2011 album ‘Celebration, Florida’. Plenty of potential connections there!