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)”

Classic Americana Albums: The Jayhawks “The Sound of Lies” (American Recordings, 1997)

In the winter of 1996 The Jayhawks were still ostensibly reeling from the departure of Mark Olson the supposed key writing partner of Gary Louris and certainly one of the figureheads of the band. The brace of albums that preceded 1996’s ‘Hollywood Town Hall’ and ‘Tomorrow The Green Grass’ were rightly lauded as genre-defining with their swooning harmonies, sharp songwriting and almost spiritual melodies so where would they go from here? Or even where could they go from here? Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: The Jayhawks “The Sound of Lies” (American Recordings, 1997)”

Jeff Crosby “Northstar” (Independent 2020)

Jeff Crosby had his initial break when two of his 2013 tracks landed spots on the biker series ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and this is the fifth album since then and probably represents a clear distillation of his troubadour street poet persona lyricism and his ambitions as a songwriter as the production is clear and strong with each track sounding like a tight band really enjoying themselves. The breezy opening tracks ‘If I’m Lucky’ and title track ‘North Star’ set a modest template of Pettyesque rhythms and vocal inflections with splashes pedal steel but there is a sense that these could be Americana by numbers. All very nice but… Similarly ‘Hold This Town Together’ despite its Tenchlike piano colour. Mmmm. Continue reading “Jeff Crosby “Northstar” (Independent 2020)”

The top 10 Americana music videos

Creating videos to accompany releases has long been the norm in the music business and our particular field of interest, although not generally burdened with the cliche of mainstream releases is still prone to taking the easy route and there are some frankly dull examples. However some have aspired to create a work of art in their own right whether it be social commentary, an amusing narrative or a comment on the human condition as highlighted by the lyric in that particular song. The videos featured are all ‘official’ releases, although there are some great fan videos wherein footage has been added to tracks (Phil Bebbington’s channel holds many jewels from our genre); however for the purposes of this exercise we will stick to the artist’s ‘vision’. Continue reading “The top 10 Americana music videos”

Rookie “Rookie” (Bloodshot Records, 2020)

Bloody hell! Opening with ‘Hold On Tight’ the Chicago-based Rookie channel Boston, Grand Funk Railroad and much more, this album explodes into life as if sprung from the womb of 1975 midwest America. It’s all there: big guitars and drums, screamed vocals, doo-wop backing vocals, screeching guitars and even… Gawd bless ’em … phasing. It’s as if this reviewer has fallen through a wormhole into a glam rock haven forgotten by all but the most fabulous. This is not some grizzled singer-songwriter playing an ancient wooden thing and drinking whiskey brewed in the back yard; these boys are drinking Michelob with Jack chasers.  Continue reading “Rookie “Rookie” (Bloodshot Records, 2020)”

AmericanA to Z – Tom Petty

Tom Petty is one of the strongest and most resonant of all the artists connecting the 1970s to current Americana. In a desperately shortened career that still spanned over 41 years he wrote songs that appealed to the plaid wearing beer-drinking hell raisers, the shiny popsters with their beatboxes and hip shoes, the blue-collar workers heading out to their dead-end jobs singing to their dashboards about freedom and every other social grouping besides.  Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Tom Petty”

El Misti “El Misti” (Independent, 2020)

Much of the debut album from El Misti sounds as if it springs from a well sunk into the ground deep in the redwood forests of California or the scrublands outside Austin, Texas not the hinterlands of Liverpool and Cheshire. The tracks speak of a powerful love of acoustic Americana and blue-collar worker’s music from the dustbowl to the bleachers. Continue reading “El Misti “El Misti” (Independent, 2020)”