America 2.0 is an extraordinary album that attempts to examine the very concept of what America is in the Trump era and what it means to be part of the great American melting pot. It is massive in its ambition and scope and it very nearly pulls it off. Messinger is patently a very savvy and politicised observer who use his lyrics and devastating harmonica skills to lead his band through a range of styles and tropes encompassing gospel, dustbowl blues, reggae and straight ahead rock n roll.
This is a re-release of an album which was originally lost in 1973 during one of the regular record business personnel purges that take place as companies buy others out and personal grudges muddy the waters of taste and musicianship. A definite life changing decision as this album possesses all the elements of a classic 70’s country blues and soul album of the type that Aretha excelled at and even Carole King dabbled in. A strong female voice, some great tunes, a stirring horn section and some very snappy arrangements. Somebody made a very poor decision back then. Continue reading “Tracey Nelson/Mother Earth “Poor Man’s Paradise” (Floating World, 2017)”
Opening with ‘Let The Light Go Through You’ Ben Kyle’s first release for seven years in the guise of Romantica is a wash of lush arrangement and hymnal vocals where his Irish inflexions are highlighted. There is more than a touch of Damien Rice here with the narrative vocals and seemingly effortless harmonies. Recorded in a barn in the wilds of Southwestern Minnesota, there is never a sense of the ramshackle or careworn about either the production or the songs. ‘Harder to Hear’ has a beautiful, crystal quality to its chorus and guitar-work that talks of Electric Ladyland rather than Emmet Stussy’s back yard. Continue reading “Romantica “Shadowlands” (At The Helm Records, 2017)”
Opening with the stately ‘Acre of Shells,’ this album sets its stall out from the very off, with crystal clear production illuminating each instrument and elevating the Patsy Cline like vocals to front and centre. This is even evident in the scuzzy, garage rock style second track ‘Bang, Bang’, a shouty, rocky nonsense that leavens the staid pill of track one. This is echoed by the similarly upbeat ‘Paul’ but otherwise this album is more about reflections in a traditional folky/ country style. Continue reading “Sarah Jane Scouten “When The Bloom Falls From The Rose” (Light Organ Records 2017)”
Bursting forth from the grooves with the dynamic opener ‘Fine, Fine Day’ this album announces its presence with brio and verve. A fantastic piece of Stooges like driving rock so breathless that the vocals appear to be struggling to keep up. Second track ‘Strange Heart’ is completely different; a gothic noirish delight with some keening vocals set over an insistent sharp backing with some delightful swirling guitar flourishes. A Southern delight that would not have been out of place soundtracking the first True Detective series. And then it’s gone Continue reading “Banditos “Visionland” (Bloodshot Records, 2017)”
To some, Jeff Tweedy and Wilco were the people that made the noughties worth living with his and their shards of myopic observation and songs of equal delicacy and wanton destruction. ‘Together at Last’ is a collection of Tweedy’s songs stripped bare of ornamentation and simply placed one after another in no particular order featuring only Tweedy on guitar and vocals with the occasional toot of a harmonica to leaven the puritanical taste. And this is the vibe. Respectful, almost hushed reverence as classic songs unfold simply with stark arrangements beautifully produced in the now famed Loft studio. Continue reading “Jeff Tweedy ” Together At Last” (DBpm 2017)”
The Nashville Sound was recorded in the Nashville Sound studios with Dave Cobb producing again and represents Isbell refining his blue collar working man’s songs to a hugely impressive degree. Opening gently with ‘Last of My Kind’ he sings with clarity and pathos of his growing sense of isolation as an artistic conscious member of the American working class. And this is a very downbeat way to start an album of generally introspective observation tempered with the occasionally angry shout. ‘Cumberland Gap’, track 2, is the first of those; a real DBT reference of a song complete with roaring guitars and small town Americana painting as it does a picture of a growing second Great Depression. Continue reading “Jason Isbell “The Nashville Sound” (Southeastern, 2017)”
The stalwart of Isreali musical co-operation and advocacy David Broza has spent his entire career trying to encourage dialogue and co-operation in a land where intolerance is common currency and oppression is a way of life.
This is a retrospective of a 40 yr plus career which has included being a UNICEF goodwill ambassador and performing with everyone from Jackson Browne and Townes van Zandt to the Palestinian rapper Muhammad Mughrabi and Steve Earle. Continue reading “David Broza “The Set List” (Broza Records 2017)”
Hmmmm. This is a short EP that gives a taster of the the acoustic guitar-based duo MYATB (Me You & The Boy). Essentially it sounds as if the duo have taken their busking exploits into a studio and captured the live sound. No bad thing if the songs are sufficiently arresting and inventive and the arrangements compelling. However that is not really the case here. The songs themselves do not benefit from an apparently flat production and the performances although musically competent (apart from one guitar break during “Pennypot Lane” wherein the guitarist appears to get lost) do not grab the listener – after a couple of plays the strident vocal delivery begins to irritate. Continue reading “MYATB (Me You & The Boy) “MYATB” (Independent, 2017)”
Bloody hell. This is the frankly astonishing debut album from the Portland, Oregon native Brue who has been mentored by Justin Townes Earle and produced by half of The Civil Wars and a quarter of the Alabama Shakes and is only 15yrs old. This is Stevie Winwood territory smashing into a scene when still of school age with a prodigious talent that defies convention. Why so good? Not just his age surely? No not at all but that does play into the critical assessment. There is no doubt that the production has lifted the occasional bit of weak material but the majority of this album aims high and invariably hits the target. This is no novelty record. Continue reading “Sammy Brue ” I Am Nice” (New West Records 2017)”