Some Americana songs concerning or concerned with drugs, there may be 10 of them…

The rampant top ten features provide a quick and easy way to access key aspects or themes running through the music that fuels this site and enriches our todays. And now we reach a key influence in many, many of our artists and indeed our own lives. Drugs, of whatever hue, have often provided a spark for creativity and yet they have also in may cases stripped personalities of that very creativity which they seek to communicate. I have not included alcohol in this list which it could be argued has done more damage than any other drug to our particular genre and yet is still celebrated by both artists and listeners alike. Continue reading “Some Americana songs concerning or concerned with drugs, there may be 10 of them…”

Blitzen Trapper “Holy Smokes Future Jokes” (Yep Roc, 2020)

Eric Earley’s Blitzen Trapper’s latest is a delightful confection that feels lighter than its source stimuli may suggest (the Tibetan Book of the Dead for one). It is an album chock full of earworms that have their origins in weird tunings or off-piste lyricism. There is a sense of XTC or Wilco circa ‘Summerteeth’ and not a small hint of early post Beatles McCartney. And this is sometimes mixed with a spoon that may say Prog on the side! Continue reading “Blitzen Trapper “Holy Smokes Future Jokes” (Yep Roc, 2020)”

Shane Casey “Silver Star” (Independent, 2020)

Opening with ‘Oh Father’ Casey’s arresting but ultimately disappointing album goes big on page one. Melancholic lyricism, swooping guitar solos over a frame of a handpicked acoustic guitar. It’s all loud, quiet, loud, quiet and we have been here before, many times but this is done with a chutzpah that somehow overcomes the AOR template until the My Chemical Romance meets Meatloaf ending which is just a bit too much. Continue reading “Shane Casey “Silver Star” (Independent, 2020)”

Samantha Crain “A Small Death” (Real Kind Records, 2020)

An interesting, compelling and exciting album this; written by Samantha Crain upon recovering the use of her hands after a prolonged period following three serious car accidents in three months the last of which left her bedridden for a year and a half. It has an immediacy and a tenderness as well as knack for pop-infused earworms. Continue reading “Samantha Crain “A Small Death” (Real Kind Records, 2020)”

Ondara “Folk N’ Roll No.1: Tales of Isolation” (Verve Forecast 2020)

Nairobi born and Minneapolis resident Ondara unveils his second album, and a powerful thing it is. Opening with the plaintive ‘Pulled Out of the Market’ Ondara nails his colours to the mast early on as a commentator for the working man and woman as ‘a factory worker, market worker’. There is a Springsteen simplicity to the acoustic guitar and vocal call and response. Big and open sounding just acoustic and voice with wide-open emotion; by the time the harmonica comes in it is clear this is a response to ‘Born in the USA’, clearer of attention and perhaps less allusive but similarly aligned in tuning and conviction. Continue reading “Ondara “Folk N’ Roll No.1: Tales of Isolation” (Verve Forecast 2020)”

Matt Hill “Savage Pilgrims” (Quiet Loner Recordings, 2020)

Matt Hill’s first release under his own name rather than the Quiet Loner moniker that has graced a number of high-quality releases in recent years opens with a jaunty banjo-driven lament ‘Stone and Bone’ which sets the tone perfectly with its angry tone of injustice about the forgotten workers who created the ‘square mile’ of London. Hill imagines them coming back and running amok. The instruments are miked close and the vocal is in your ear. Continue reading “Matt Hill “Savage Pilgrims” (Quiet Loner Recordings, 2020)”

The Jayhawks “XOXO” (Sham/Thirty Tigers, 2020)

For many people The Jayhawks were one of the initial gateway drugs to the Americana and alt-country scene particularly with their 1992 classic ‘Hollywood Town Hall‘ with its chiming guitars, extraordinary harmonies and classic songwriting and as time and events have reshaped them and the personnel they have still retained not only their originality but also their identity. This is a proper band with proper tunes and a back catalogue to die for. And a sound! No one sounds like the Jayhawks – think about it. Just like no one sounds like Tom Waits – it is or it isn’t  – simple as that.  Continue reading “The Jayhawks “XOXO” (Sham/Thirty Tigers, 2020)”

Eileen Gogan and The Instructions “Under Moving Skies” (Dimple Disc 2020)

It’s always refreshing to hear a regional accent and Eileen Gogan’s delightful Irish burr spills through every track of this fresh and interesting album. Opening with the jaunty, bittersweet ‘More Time’ Gogan unfurls a regretful narrative to a jangly guitar bed and subtle instrumentation which explodes during a brief guitar solo and then fades into an evocative coda featuring church bells. So far so interesting.

Continue reading “Eileen Gogan and The Instructions “Under Moving Skies” (Dimple Disc 2020)”

Evan Myall “Evan Myall” (Royal Okie Records 2020)

There’s no getting away from the influences that hang over this record. Opening track ‘Supernatural’ is ‘Dear Prudence’ with added Oasis strings but is a jaunty chamber pop song nonetheless. And it serves as a perfect introduction to an album that is steeped in a Beatles influence throughout. ‘Winsome Way’ is a charming melancholic ditty full of Harrison guitar and harmonies from the ‘All Things Must Pass’ period. A slight sense of psychedelia and lush keyboard driving the rhythm. ‘Out of Sight’ extends the influences with a vocoder led song that seems to go nowhere. The lyrics are rendered indecipherable by the vocoder until Myall comes in with the sung verse. It’s call and response but you can’t hear the call. Not since Trans has a vocoder been so upfront in the mix. Continue reading “Evan Myall “Evan Myall” (Royal Okie Records 2020)”

Cormac O Caoimh “Swim, Crawl, Walk, Run” (Independent, 2020)

It’s the fifth time back to the well for Cork’s O Caoimh and his folk-based pop. His previous release built upon a growing reputation and this one should continue the upward trajectory containing as it does some very savvy pop songs, carefully produced and deftly performed. ‘When My Kids Grow Too Old To Hold Hands’ is particularly affecting with its shiny folk stylings and clear depiction of the innocent joy of childhood. Digging deeper we hear Badly Drawn Boy in ‘You Won’t Break Me’ and ‘Desire Lines’ but this is not plagiarism more a flavour and the latter track turns left as the strings come in and we have a plangent, melancholic coda that is a bittersweet delight. Continue reading “Cormac O Caoimh “Swim, Crawl, Walk, Run” (Independent, 2020)”