Saints Eleven “This Town” (Independent, 2020)

Saints Eleven frontman Jeff Grossman has been described as “an introverted soul” and “a little shy in person”, but you’d never recognise such a man by listening to his music: this is forceful southern rock, with forthright lyrics that have no use for purple prose, and vocals that he spits with complete conviction. Continue reading “Saints Eleven “This Town” (Independent, 2020)”

Shovelin Stone “Shovelin Stone” (Independent, 2019)

Shovelin Stone lead vocalist Makenzie Willox believes there’s an acoustic and folk “revolution” going on right now – name checking the likes of Tyler Childers, Billy Strings and Sturgill Simpson as comrades leading the charge – and it’s a revolution he and his bandmate Zak Thrall wholeheartedly embrace. The Denver, Colorado based duo’s debut self-titled album showcases the shared passion for bluegrass that brought them together, but as Thrall put it in a recent interview, “[made] with a modern twist”. Continue reading “Shovelin Stone “Shovelin Stone” (Independent, 2019)”

The Lone Bellow “Half Moon Light” (Dualtone Records, 2020)

The tracks ‘Intro’, ‘Interlude’ and ‘Finale’ on The Lone Bellow’s fourth studio album are all parts of a hymn. This may seem a little strange for a band hailing from Brooklyn, New York, but The Lone Bellow have nothing but the south running through their musical veins. We hear musical snatches in the first and eighth tracks of the hymn in question (‘The Eastern Gate’, written in 1905 by Isaiah G. Martin), but it’s only on the final track that we hear the unvarnished vocals of lead singer Zach Williams’ grandmother, recorded at the funeral of her late husband. The song carries a message of hope and positivity for what’s ahead and fittingly, there is a lot of that in this album – even as it deals with uneasy themes. Continue reading “The Lone Bellow “Half Moon Light” (Dualtone Records, 2020)”

The Wood Brothers “Kingdom In My Mind” (Honey Jar/Thirty Tigers, 2020)

The new album from the Wood Brothers has a lot to live up to. ‘Kingdom In My Mind’ is the follow-up to their critically acclaimed, Grammy-nominated 2018 release ‘One Drop of Truth’. While it would have been easy for them to return to the same formula that lead them to success last time, the Brothers instead decided to change things up and record this one in a very different fashion. Continue reading “The Wood Brothers “Kingdom In My Mind” (Honey Jar/Thirty Tigers, 2020)”

AmericanA to Z – Kathleen Edwards

I have a few somewhat niche musical interests: the first – unsurprisingly – is that of the Americana and country genres; the second – also unsurprisingly, since it was the era I grew up in – is alternative music of the 90s; the third – actually surprisingly – is that of Canadian artists. I’m not sure exactly how it started, but I’ve got a lot of love for a set of musicians who hail from Canada (many of whom found their biggest success in the late-90s and early-00s). It’s kind of a thrill for me when I can marry any of these specific interests together, and that’s something I can do with Kathleen Edwards. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Kathleen Edwards”

The Southern Fold “Bible Fear” (Independent, 2019)

If the artwork and name of Irish group The Southern Fold’s debut album doesn’t give you enough of a clue as to its prominent theme, then the titles of the songs surely will: ‘Blood of Life’, ‘Sunday Best’, ‘Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost (Not Taken in Vain)’ and ‘The Devil in Me’ are just a few of the thirteen largely religiously-themed tracks. Continue reading “The Southern Fold “Bible Fear” (Independent, 2019)”

Helen Jones’s Review of 2019

Reflecting on 2019, there has been a lot of quality music released – including fantastic records from Sturgill Simpson, The Highwomen and Tyler Childers to name a few – so much excellent music in fact that I must admit found the idea of writing this piece a little overwhelming. So I’ve decided to pare it back and focus on some smaller records that haven’t always had the press that they might have deserved, but ones whose songs have rattled around in my head for days at a time after many a repeat listen. Continue reading “Helen Jones’s Review of 2019”

Steep Canyon Rangers “North Carolina Songbook” (Yep Roc Records, 2019)

Live albums can often feel a pointless affair: a selection of songs you already know usually played to a lesser standard than the studio version, a crowd you weren’t part of, cheering in the background, and no way to witness the performance visually. With major label acts, the live album is often put out there as a money grab, or as a way for the artist to tick another one off the number of required albums in a recording contract. So it is a relief to see that the Steep Canyon Rangers have offered us something different in ‘North Carolina Songbook’. Continue reading “Steep Canyon Rangers “North Carolina Songbook” (Yep Roc Records, 2019)”

Wayne Hancock “Man of the Road: The Early Bloodshot Years” (Bloodshot Records, 2019)

“Got to make it day to night in El Paso / I’m going there as fast as I can go / I’ll take the road anyday / ‘Cause that’s the kind of life I’ve made / I’m drivin’ my young life away,” sings Wayne Hancock on the opening lines of this newly curated collection of his output from more than 20 years past. While the young part may not apply to the 54-year-old Hancock these days, the notion of him being road-weary does as he continues to hit the road “200 days a year”. Continue reading “Wayne Hancock “Man of the Road: The Early Bloodshot Years” (Bloodshot Records, 2019)”

Joshua Radin “Here, Right Now” (Nettwerk, 2019)

It’s hard to begin listening to a Joshua Radin record without it conjuring visions of the kind of melodramatic scenes that might feature in a certain breed of US television drama. Radin first found success in 2006 when actor Zach Braff had a hand in selecting one of his songs for his movie ‘The Last Kiss’, from which Braff got Radin’s songs featured on a number of episodes of his television series ‘Scrubs’. Over the past decade or so, Radin has gone on to become a familiar voice on American network TV, becoming one of a crop of singer-songwriters whose names became ubiquitous with a particular kind of heartstring-pulling drama (his songs were in multiple episodes of ‘One Tree Hill’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, for example). Continue reading “Joshua Radin “Here, Right Now” (Nettwerk, 2019)”