Deep Dark River “King of the Forest” (Independent, 2019)

Self-described as artsy, folksy, classical “Deep Dark River” are a Toronto based duo comprising Morgan Rider on guitar, piano, synth and vocals and Nathen Morrison on cello. “King of the Forest” is their second album, though the first for Nathen, and features seven original compositions for guitar, cello, piano and voice; and they do feel more like compositions than songs if that makes sense. By way of context their previous work includes an eponymously titled ten-track debut album released in 2018 and prior to that a cover of “Wayfaring Stranger” sung deep and dark a la Nick Cave. Continue reading “Deep Dark River “King of the Forest” (Independent, 2019)”

Norrie McCulloch “Compass” (Independent, 2019)

As many of you will no doubt appreciate early Americana is deep-rooted in traditional Celtic folk music that emigrated over to North America from Scotland and Ireland.  No surprise then that Ayrshire born Norrie McCulloch is fully at home and at ease bringing together Celtic folk and Americana in this his fourth album ‘Compass.’ This pleasantly constructed, thoughtfully produced album brings to mind the songs and sounds of  Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt, The Grateful Dead with some Eagles-esque harmonies making it a delightfully easy on the ear, songwriting tour de force.

Continue reading “Norrie McCulloch “Compass” (Independent, 2019)”

Secret Emchy Society “Mark’s Yard: The Campfire Covers” (Independent, 2018)

This is the second full length offering from Oakland, California’s “first lady of queer country” Cindy Emchy and her spirited band of folky musician friends.  As the title suggests it’s an open air politely rambunctious lo-fi acoustic affair set around the campfire captured on a single mic. No less than twelve vocalists are credited on the album accompanied by a couple of guitars, lap steel, mandolin, upright bass and percussion.  Billed as a bourbon and wine-fuelled musical jam cum sing-a-long it aspires to capture the rare magical “post-show jam” atmosphere, the musician’s church, their sacred time.  Continue reading “Secret Emchy Society “Mark’s Yard: The Campfire Covers” (Independent, 2018)”

JJ Cale “Stay Around” (Because Records, 2019)

‘Stay Around’ is a posthumous collection of previously unreleased JJ Cale tracks curated by longtime friend and manager Mike Kappus and Cale’s musician widow Christine Lakeland Cale. Rarely can there have been such a rich treasure trove of unreleased material to draw on.  The album is jam-packed with familiar riffs, strum patterns, licks and lyrical phrases. Throughout a nearly half-century career Cale steadfastly refused to vary his trademark instantly recognisable laconic noodling guitar style and shuffling rhythms. He did what he did and that was it. And so it is with ‘Stay Around’; the vibe and groove is reassuringly consistent across all the tracks perfectly reprising a lifetime of understated musical genius. Continue reading “JJ Cale “Stay Around” (Because Records, 2019)”

Kelly Hunt “Even the Sparrow” (Rare Bird Records, 2019)

Kelly Hunt’s debut album ‘Even the Sparrow’ is exceptionally good. The wistful soulful voice, the mellowness of the vintage calfskin tenor banjo, the frugality of the arrangements all combine to produce an album that is near perfect. It’s a real treat to discover a new artist with such depth and maturity. The songs feel alive and relevant and yet grounded and permanent like they’ve always existed and were just waiting to be discovered. The daughter of an opera singer and a saxophonist Kelly Hunt is originally from Memphis, TN and now lives and records in Kansas City. ‘Even the Sparrow’ took almost two years to record in collaboration with local fiddle player Stas Heaney and engineer Kelly Werts and is set for release on May 17th 2019. Continue reading “Kelly Hunt “Even the Sparrow” (Rare Bird Records, 2019)”

Luke Sital-Singh “A Golden State” (Raygun Records, 2019)

Luke Sital-Singh was, reportedly, a fan of loud rock music in his teens, but finding inspiration in the energy and passion of Damien Rice’s legendary live shows he ditched the metal band and converted to the angsty folk singer-songwriter we’ve come to know and appreciate. A string of EPs released around 2012 (produced by Snow Patrol’s Iain Archer) caught the eye of Parlophone records and the subsequent release of the single ‘Nothing Stays the Same’ in October 2013 made the UK top 100. Having come a long way from singing ‘Canonball’ at open mic events, ‘The Fire Inside’ album peaked at 43 in the UK charts in 2014. While the two studio albums have explored creativity and inventiveness, notably using big multi-tracked harmonies to great effect, the core appeal of Luke Sital-Singh is a remarkable voice, sad songs, and impassioned emotional performances. Continue reading “Luke Sital-Singh “A Golden State” (Raygun Records, 2019)”

Kristina Stykos “River of Light” (Thunder Records, 2019)

‘River of Light’ is the fifth studio album from Vermont based singer-songwriter Kristina Stykos. For the most part it’s an upbeat optimistic collection of songs which have the distinct feel of poetry set to various styles of traditional Americana music. Indeed, some of the lyrics are spoken not sung. Stykos explains the meaning behind the album title as follows; “Luckily humanity will come together as tributaries do, when it rains hard enough and each twisted stream straightens out its path with unerring focus. That’s right. It’s time, for we are the River of Light.” Thought provoking, spiritual, mysterious, full of deeper meanings and insights wrapped in clever word play is basically what we’re getting here. What we’re not getting is catchy hooks and memorable refrains. It’s an album one needs to sit and listen to in a contemplative frame of mind rather than sing along to while doing the dishes. Continue reading “Kristina Stykos “River of Light” (Thunder Records, 2019)”

Jackson Pines “Gas Station Blues and Diamond Rings” (Independent, 2019)

Acoustic duo Jackson Pines are singer-songwriter guitarist Joe Makoviecki and stand-up bassist James Black.  Originally from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey they are now based in Philadelphia and have received multiple local awards (Asbury Music Awards/Jersey Acoustic Music Awards).  On tour they have opened for Old Crow Medicine Show, Margo Price, The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Joe Pug, Nicole Atkins, The Felice Brothers and Band of Horses over the last few years across the U.S. and in the U.K. Continue reading “Jackson Pines “Gas Station Blues and Diamond Rings” (Independent, 2019)”

Whoa Melodic “Whoa Melodic” (Wiaiwya, 2019)

Having previously played with Singing Adams and the French Drops and The Hayman Kupa Band, the anagrammatically eponymous ‘Whoa Melodic,’ aka Michael Wood, has released his first solo album featuring ten delightfully melodic indie-pop tunes. Patiently hand-crafted in his home studio — a “cupboard under the stairs” — and following a process he likens to an artist adding layers of paint to a canvas; multi-instrumentalist Michael Wood demonstrates an extraordinary knack for catchy hooks and memorable refrains reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub and Squeeze with echoes of World Party. Continue reading “Whoa Melodic “Whoa Melodic” (Wiaiwya, 2019)”

Haint Blue “Overgrown” (Independent, 2018)

Haint Blue are a popular seven-piece folk pop/rock outfit from Baltimore, Maryland with a loyal fan base and a four track eponymously titled EP under their belts released back in 2015.  Judging from posted videos their live shows are uplifting and energetic featuring strong lead male vocals, layered harmonies, duelling fiddles, banjos and mandolin and whoops and hollering a plenty. Their debut album ‘Overgrown’ is due out February 15th according to the promo pack and features eleven tracks all of which demonstrate solid confident songwriting, strong musical performances and creative arrangements staying well within the bounds of their chosen genre and yet still sounding fresh and very entertaining. Continue reading “Haint Blue “Overgrown” (Independent, 2018)”