Cordovas “That Santa Fe Channel” (ATO Records 2018)

This is a great album, right off the bat all the boxes are ticked and squared away. Delicate triple harmonies, whoozy swooning choruses, deft instrumentation and just enough rootsy grit to keep the listener and the artist honest. Think Dawes, Dead and Jayhawks with a Nashville twang and a dash of the Laurel Canyon vibe filtered through a gauze made by a young Jackson Brown. Really…. I mean really?  Well yes, dear reader, these songs have got legs and may just sneak up on you when you’re not intending to listen. Plenty of the old earworms here.  Continue reading “Cordovas “That Santa Fe Channel” (ATO Records 2018)”

Charlie Smyth “The Way I Feel” (Independent, 2018)

Charlie Smyth has come to Nashville where he now resides, having been a veteran of the 1990s Chicago and Seattle punk scenes of the 1990s – and perhaps he brings some of that sensibility to his songwriting in the occasionally inspired offering ‘The Way I Feel’. Opening with a Neil Diamond cover is a safe bet but one that perhaps leads the listener to an early conclusion that may not be entirely true. It is a joyous sound – all mariachi horns and big vocals  – a ‘Beautiful Noise’ indeed, but slightly out of kilter with the rest of the album. Continue reading “Charlie Smyth “The Way I Feel” (Independent, 2018)”

Jimmy LaFave “Peacetown” (Music Road Records, 2018)

This album arrives under the banner ‘Austin Legend, The Late Jimmy LaFave..’ and as such presents a reviewer with a potentially thorny problem. What if it’s no good? Is there anything to be gained from constructive criticism as the artist themselves will not be able to respond or react?  Luckily any concerns were brushed aside by a double album full of heartbreak and celebration as well as an underlying sense of melancholy entirely appropriate for the material as well as the deeply sad back story. Continue reading “Jimmy LaFave “Peacetown” (Music Road Records, 2018)”

Mike Uva “Lights Coming Up” (Collectible Escalators 2018)

Cleveland’s Mike Uva is an interesting cove if these tracks are solid indicators of the man’s character.  Lots of influences dripped through a lo-fi prism. The acoustic confessional ‘A Proposal’ is sparse but leavened with a gentle harmony, a sweet lead guitar and a voice as dry as a dustbowl. ‘Waco’ is a driving, complex and twisting narrative interspersed with crashes of electronica and almost found sounds. They shouldn’t fit but do. ‘You Let The Devil’ is folk-noir, swampy and threatening, a shoe-in for a True Detective soundtrack. The title track is different again, with an almost Appalachian singalong confessional as the rain comes down and a melody that timeless. Continue reading “Mike Uva “Lights Coming Up” (Collectible Escalators 2018)”

Bennett, Wilson, Poole, St Barnabus Church, Oxford, 31st May 2018

What a night. Torrential rain. Flooding in and out of the venue. A support act using the Oedipal curse repeatedly during the final song of their set despite being in a very beautiful house dedicated to a higher power. Was there going to be divine retribution? In a word, no. This was a brilliant, brilliant gig. Curated by the irrepressible Mike Trotman of Empty Rooms – the promoter of choice in these parts – Bennett, Wilson, Poole delivered their album (in order) and then some, in spades. Continue reading “Bennett, Wilson, Poole, St Barnabus Church, Oxford, 31st May 2018”

The Magic Numbers, Esquires, Bedford, 18th May 2018

Esquires is a grimy dyed in the wool rock venue that has hosted many of the aspiring greats over the years, including Coldplay, Oasis,  Dodgy and Richmond Fontaine to name but the few I have seen (Oasis may have been the Angel – life’s journey has had some impact). So, The Magic Numbers on a Friday night, what could be better? Some glorious harmonies and whip smart tunes in front of a sold out house. Brilliant…..or not as it turned out. Continue reading “The Magic Numbers, Esquires, Bedford, 18th May 2018”

Michael Plater ” Mythologies” (Reverb Worship, 2018)

Opening with the baritone spoken ‘The Officer’s Mess’ a track full of plangent acoustic guitar and melancholy piano lines, Plater lays his cards on the table early on. This is is a dark brew of folk allusion and portent squeezed through a Cave / Willard Grant filter. ‘Pretty Maids’ lifts the pace with a glorious poppy organ and sprightly guitar figure but is still rooted by the half spoken-sung vocal. As the album progresses it’s clear that a night at Michael’s is not going to be a flippant or giddy affair, the sheer weight of his vocal delivery sometimes undermining the really quite arresting production work and instrumentation. Continue reading “Michael Plater ” Mythologies” (Reverb Worship, 2018)”

Joshua Hedley “Mr Jukebox” (Third Man Records, 2018)

Third Man Records is associated with Jack White’s crusade of rescuing the recording industry from the crushing banality of the digital sound and over commercialism that accelerated to the saturation point it currently enjoys. So what’s the story with the debut release from Joshua Hedley’s ‘Mr Jukebox’? Hedley is a highly respected sideman whose fiddle playing is regarded, quite rightly, as sublime by the Nashville trad. and alt-country community. Continue reading “Joshua Hedley “Mr Jukebox” (Third Man Records, 2018)”

Amit Dattani “Santiago” (Independent, 2018)

Fingerpicking roots guitarist Amit Dattani has set the bar high for his debut release ‘Santiago’ which features some beautiful playing as well as some noteworthy songwriting. Opening with the title track, he sets the tone early on. This is going to be a folk guitarist’s album; soft sometimes hushed vocals sitting atop some complex picking. It’s as simple as that but the simplicity of the equation undervalues the overall sense of worth created by this work. Each song is a nugget in a seam of precious stuff – hand hewn and lovingly put together. Continue reading “Amit Dattani “Santiago” (Independent, 2018)”

Brady Harris Band “NoHo Calling” (Independent, 2018)

Opening with the Devoesque ‘Let’s Live’ which is all new wave rhythms and hand claps with catchy choruses, you think you have a handle on The Brady Harris band and their new platter ‘NOHO Calling’ (that’s North Hollywood to you and me!) But the next track ‘Raise a Glass’ is pure barrelhouse boozer blues of the soft country lament variety, all crisp shuffle snare and sweet guitar and piano solos . It could be 1am and the bourbon has run out without it being messy. Continue reading “Brady Harris Band “NoHo Calling” (Independent, 2018)”