Charlie Kaplan “Sunday” (Independent, 2020)

Charlie Kaplan is a New York based singer-songwriter and Sunday is his debut album written in the wake of his father’s death it represents an exorcism of sorts. “Each song [on Sunday] was an exercise in conjuring light, warmth, insight, guidance, release – my life’s absent emotional palette,” says Charlie. Initial listens highlight influences but deeper immersion reveals a playful, complex album full of nuance and heart.  Continue reading “Charlie Kaplan “Sunday” (Independent, 2020)”

Herman Dune “Notes From Vinegar Hill” (Santa Cruz Records 2020)

Opener ‘Say You Love Me’ sets the scene perfectly – channelling a Dylan vibe circa ‘Lay Lady Lay’ –  heavy on the echo with a vocal that feels authentic and road-used. The horns fill the sound out – a glorious opening – rough and ready but magnificent. ‘ Heartbroken and Free’ follows with a ghostly, playful vibe. All doo-wop backing and barrelhouse piano and just a hint of ‘The Trail of the Lonesome Pine’! Continue reading “Herman Dune “Notes From Vinegar Hill” (Santa Cruz Records 2020)”

Mike McClure “Looking Up” (Independent 2020)

Mike McClure has been a fixture of the Americana touring scene for the past 25+ years both as a founder member of the Red Dirt Band and as a sideman for artists such as the late lamented Jimmy LaFave among others. This is his latest album but his first since finding sobriety, and in the wake of lockdown the first wherein he has spent time with family and been truly ‘present’. Continue reading “Mike McClure “Looking Up” (Independent 2020)”

Classic Americana Albums: Tom Petty “Wildflowers” (Warner Bros.,1994)

Tom Petty’s first studio album for his new label Warner Brothers found him escaping the uber-producer Jeff Lynne whose hand had influenced every musical decision on his previous 3 outings; twice as a Heartbreaker and once as a Wilbury. He needed a fresh start and by God did he get it with Rick Rubin. Stripped down to a hyper-real production sound, Petty was given full licence to write and record what he wanted, when he wanted, with whom he wanted. The album eventually was scheduled to be a double given the amount of material available but record company pressure ensured that half the tracks were shelved – until this year! Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Tom Petty “Wildflowers” (Warner Bros.,1994)”

Jeremy Ivey “Waiting Out The Storm” (Anti, 2020)

Opening with the Beatlesy ‘Tomorrow People’ Jeremy Ivey’s latest album is full of classic rock traits as he documents the various ills of modern America. All the gangs’ here, wailing Hammond, catchy harmonies, driving backbeats, guitar solos et al. all centre around Ivey’s spoken/ sung vocals which sit front and centre of every track. There is more than a passing resemblance to Steve Wynn is his cold and precise delivery – the eye of the musical storm around him. Continue reading “Jeremy Ivey “Waiting Out The Storm” (Anti, 2020)”

This is the Kit “Off Off On” (Rough Trade Records, 2020)

This is an extraordinary album of such charm, brio and musical dexterity that listening demands attention and admiration in equal measure and over time this combination distils nicely into deep affection, not only for the material but also for the performances within each track. Each song is one of Klondite Pete’s finest! (Golden Nuggets for those struggling with the analogy). The Kit’s fifth was rehearsed in deepest Wales and this isolation and exposure to the elements (along with a stint on tour with The National) has turbo-boosted Kate Stables’ songwriting allowing her to deliver a career-high. Recorded pre-Covid but still shot through with anxiety and a hint of panic there is real joy in the grooves and a sense of buoyancy to the production which is both esoteric and compelling. Continue reading “This is the Kit “Off Off On” (Rough Trade Records, 2020)”

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)”