Yo La Tengo, EartH, London, February 17th 2019

From the apologetic shuffle onstage and into the woozy beat driven ‘You Are Here’, Yo La Tengo made sure that the faithful who had gathered to see them in this extraordinary venue knew that they were witnessing true artists at work such was the low key nature of both entrance and performance. It fitted perfectly with the surroundings – a repurposed cinema where the stage was in everyone’s view and which had the sense of a scientific lecture as the audience disseminated every movement and instrumental switch made by the band. The feeling was heightened by the minimal lighting that often left the band in a murky darkness whilst the audience was bathed in purple. Continue reading “Yo La Tengo, EartH, London, February 17th 2019”

William the Conqueror “Bleeding on the Soundtrack” (Loose, 2019)

Opening with the hugely anthemic and frankly Coldplayesque ‘Path of the Crow’ William the Conqueror, the band project driven by singer-songwriter Raurri Joseph, seem to be making their bid for the big time in a very grand fashion. It’s open sky music with squealing guitars and a huge peeling melody line. However, this is a false dawn as the listener is immediately wrong-footed by ‘Thank Me Later’ a funky, jazzy walking narrative with half spoke/sung lyricism. It reminds of Paul Simon or Lou Reed but it is neither as it builds and builds.  Continue reading “William the Conqueror “Bleeding on the Soundtrack” (Loose, 2019)”

AmericanA to Z – Peter Bruntnell

Since his 1995 solo debut ‘Cannibal‘ Peter Bruntnell has slowly built a canon of songs that would stand up next to the best of best within the Americana genre and way, way beyond. Sensible folk scratch their heads with incredulity at his lack of mainstream commercial success and marvel at the thrill of witnessing such a talent in small venues around the country on a regular basis. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Peter Bruntnell”

William Blackart “Return” (Independent, 2018)

Opening in fine style with ‘Devil May Care’ this album promised much. A great opener, all discordant slashes of electric guitar and gravelly vocals set over a melancholy acoustic figure. Terrific. The following track lowers expectations with its anodyne acoustic offering wherein Blackart’s voice is the only outstanding highpoint. A treacly, old as the hills, lamenter. Continue reading “William Blackart “Return” (Independent, 2018)”

Jack Lukeman “Magic Days” (Independent, 2019)

A big sprawling album of styles and influences this is Lukeman’s latest foray into the album market in a career that is bejewelled with high points and successes. First breaking through in the late nineties he enjoyed great success Stateside and in Europe with a series of albums that took college radio by storm as well as producing an album of Randy Newman covers that he performed in a series of live shows with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and garnered praise from the man himself.  Continue reading “Jack Lukeman “Magic Days” (Independent, 2019)”

Laura Merrimen “This Time And From Now On” (Independent, 2018)

Laura Merrimen opens her third album in full on Lucinda Williams mode. A slow, smoky, southern gothic drawl which highlights some deft songwriting allied to some elegiac violin. Big on atmosphere, it lulls the listener into a false sense of intrigue. The following track is far more straightforward. ‘As the Crow Flies’ is a gallop, all country and folky splashes. Continue reading “Laura Merrimen “This Time And From Now On” (Independent, 2018)”

The Yearlings “Skywriting” (Sonic Rendezvous, 2018)

Hailing from that mecca of Americana …..Utrecht, I give you The Yearlings with their latest, long-gestating release – 3rd album in 16years! – “Skywriting“. Not an obvious location for an album chockful of big songs that speak of big skies and carry breezy melodies by the score. Think  – The Dunwells or The Whybirds – these are Pettyesque songs played with brio and verve and the harmonies really chime. But the joy is in the production details. ‘New Job’ features some subtle but highly effective pedal steel, ‘My Deliverance’ has vocals that bounce along as double tracked reverb-soaked harmonies whilst the guitars ramp up, ‘Evelene (You’ve Got To Know It)’ allows a Wilburyesque guitar line lead the listener to a Jayhawks/Byrds chorus.  Continue reading “The Yearlings “Skywriting” (Sonic Rendezvous, 2018)”

Jesse Matas ”Tamarock” (StoNote, 2018)

With its opening that feels like a lost track from Bill Callaghan on a song with Nicolai Dunger on the ‘Tranquil Isolation‘ sessions, the listener is immediately hooked. ‘Tamarack’ (the song concerned) is a delight that gently unfolds with stately vocals and the sweetest of piano highlights that play gossamerlike over the melody. So entranced are you that the chiming Youngesque guitar intro of track two ‘Walking Human’ comes as a real shock. Continue reading “Jesse Matas ”Tamarock” (StoNote, 2018)”

Nick Panken “Consequential Breach” (Independent, 2018)

Nick Panken hit these shores supporting Ian Felice on his recent jaunt through the UK and proved compelling as a lone troubadour with a simple rig featuring guitar, vocal and occasional harmonica – and this release follows that template. Available only on cassette (with download code) or via Bandcamp this guy is either wilful or commercially naive – or possibly both! However, that doesn’t detract from the stark beauty of this release. Continue reading “Nick Panken “Consequential Breach” (Independent, 2018)”

J.Mascis “ElasticDays” (Sub Pop, 2018)

J.Mascis is a familiar figure from the Alt-Rock scene of the 90s and noughties who latterly has started to produce a body of solo work that stands up very nicely against his more ragged glory of Dinosaur Jr. ‘Elastic Days’ raises the bar once again as the singer-songwriter comes to the fore. Opening with the bright and shiny ‘See You At The Movies’ the template is set – breezy arresting rhythms and Mascis’s affecting vocals – all melancholy and sanguine emotion combined with a beautiful high register guitar solo that bursts through the production – almost a second voice. Continue reading “J.Mascis “ElasticDays” (Sub Pop, 2018)”