AUK’s Chain Gang: The Jayhawks “I Hear You Cry”

Taking the massive helping hand from Mr Kerr last week, this link in the chain is forged of pure rock ‘n’roll gold. Gary Louris is a songwriter whose reputation should be far greater than it is (Jayhawks, Tedeschi Trucks, Dixie Chicks, Golden Smog etc.etc.) but how often have we said that about an artist operating in our particular sphere?  To illustrate the point this is a track that was a bonus only on the European original release of ‘Sound of Lies‘. Later editions did not even feature it until the remastering a few years back. It is a beautiful, melancholy delight that gives and gives. Enjoy it loud or hushed.

Wilco “Ode to Joy” (dBpm Records, 2019)

Approaching an album by Wilco is an interesting proposition for a committed Wilco fan. Is it going to be a magnum opus – ‘A Ghost Is Born‘ or ‘Yankee Hotel Foxtrot‘; a slight but fuzzy affair ‘Star Wars‘ or ‘Schmilco‘, or something different again – and there’s the rub. Wilco fans like different but not too different  – they are cut from the same cloth as Old Shakey.  They like it that he sticks the middle finger up to doing what’s expected but… but they’d really like to hear a new ‘On the Beach‘.
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Brady Harris “Keep Your Cover” (Independent, 2019)

This is a sweet and simple confection that punches above its short minute count on the strength of its songwriting, production and musicality. Opening with ‘Tell Me Why’, you could be fooled into thinking you’re getting a Neil Young cover, instead of which there’s a Macartneyesque ditty complete with whistling and some gorgeous harmonies and choruses.
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Josh Rouse “The Holiday Sounds of Josh Rouse (Yep Roc, 2019)

Josh Rouse is the master of intelligent soft rock with a West Coast twist. Over the last couple of albums he appears to have lost his mojo somewhat but this collection of songs, old and new, celebrating the festive season, really marks a return to form as he ploughs his traditional furrow of slightly jazz inflected guitar based songs.
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AmericanA to Z – Buffalo Springfield

B is for… Could it be The Byrds, Bardo Pond, The Band, Bill Mallonee, The Bible, Bill Fay, Bennett Wilson Poole, Ben Howard, Ben Folds, Beck, Band of Heathens, Band of Horses, Barzin or any of the countless others in my collection beginning with B that could be considered Americana? Well it could but for this article it’s the Buffalo Springfield!  Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Buffalo Springfield”

Chance Meyer and the Bloody 98s “Ashdown” (Independent, 2019)

Coming from a classic Americana standpoint the Bloody 98s’ album ‘Ashdown’ is a thing of beauty. This is hewn from the same tree as The Rustlanders, Whiskeytown and Bruntnell circa ‘Shot from a Spring’ or ‘Here Comes the Swells’. Big, wide-open sounds, full band and fuller harmonies on the choruses, bruisy guitars, pedal steel and lyrics drenched in the blue-collar experience. Continue reading “Chance Meyer and the Bloody 98s “Ashdown” (Independent, 2019)”

M.Cambridge “Sea Songs: Anatomy of a Drowning Man” (Kirkinriola Records, 2019)

This album is almost a thesis rather than an album in the conventional sense. It feels like an investigation rather than an entertainment. As well as some beautifully crafted songs there are tracks of exposition interspersed with the original numbers. The second track in ‘Shanties Ashore’, for example, opens with a description of sea shanties before Cambridge begins to sing his narration on ‘My Sailor Boy’. There is a further talking track concerning a sailor on a skiff owned by Neil Young! Continue reading “M.Cambridge “Sea Songs: Anatomy of a Drowning Man” (Kirkinriola Records, 2019)”

Jason Tyler Burton “Kentuckian” (Independent 2019)

Kentuckian is a straight down the middle Americana roots album full of all the delights of the genre. Some stirring playing, acoustic rhythms and rhymes, some keening harmonies, strong blue-collar songwriting all topped off by Tyler Burton’s authentic voice. Starting with the upbeat ‘High Road to Harlan’ the bar is set pretty high as Burton Tyler lays his Ray LaMontagnelike burr over guitar and fiddle with subtle percussion to tell the tale of his 84-year-old father and himself and how the world they share has changed almost beyond recognition to the previous generation.  Continue reading “Jason Tyler Burton “Kentuckian” (Independent 2019)”

Karine Polwart “Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook” (Independent, 2019)

From the opening crystal clear repeated note pattern, this album sets about the whole notion of a covers album with a fresh and distinctive voice. This is original and stirring stuff. ‘The Whole of the Moon’ is completely reinvented as a joyous pean to life with gentle production and beautiful harmonies.  Continue reading “Karine Polwart “Karine Polwart’s Scottish Songbook” (Independent, 2019)”

Leslie Stevens “Sinner” (Thirty Tigers, 2019)

Jonathan Wilson is a hugely talented producer, as well as a solo artist in his own right, and when he produces an album the great and the good sit up and take notice (Dawes, Father John Misty, Roy Harper, Treetop Flyers et al). And this album by Leslie Stevens is no different. Possessed with a traditional, honeyed and heart-stopping voice (that could sing the phone book and make grown men and women cry) on ‘Sinner‘ Stevens also reveals a strong lyricism and an ear for a catchy tune. Continue reading “Leslie Stevens “Sinner” (Thirty Tigers, 2019)”