The ‘Roots to Rise Live’ album shows very clearly that award winning Irish Band We Banjo 3 are a fantastic live act. Packed full of intricate banjo and fiddle playing, some beautiful vocals and lots of enthusiastic audience participation, it’s clear they are not a band to be missed when touring. Recorded live on February 27 and 28 at The Ark in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the album is a celebration of roots and bluegrass music and includes a mixture of original and traditional tracks. Continue reading “We Banjo 3 “Roots to Rise Live” (Sonas Recording, 2019)”
Not seen since 2009’s ‘Whatever Happened to the Great American Bubble Factory’, Drivin N Cryin are back with a powerful and accomplished album produced by Aaron Lee Tasjan. The album, ‘Live the Love Beautiful’ is a great rock album, edgy with punk in places, steeped in fantastic melodies and insightful lyrics. It feels like an album that should be heard live. Hell, it feels like an album that is live. This is testament to Tasjan’s production approach as many of the songs were recorded in a series of live takes at Welcome to 1979 Studio in Nashville, Tennessee.
‘Grounded in the Clouds’ is the second album from Bristol, UK-based folk singer, Lauren Bradford. Previously hailing from San Francisco bay, Bradford has also lived across the UK taking in Liverpool, Leeds, London and Bath. Unsurprisingly, the theme of travel is apparent in the album, but equally strong are representations of love, lust and loss. Continue reading “Lauren Bradford “Grounded in the Clouds” (Independent, 2019)”
Kris Kelly’s self-released album ‘Runaways’ is packed full of evocative lyrics and otherworldly vocals set to a backdrop of chamber pop and folky guitars. Kelly wrote the album following a stint travelling in South America. It was during this time that he met his now husband. The album vocalises themes of journey, home, love and loss. Continue reading “Kris Kelly “Runaways” (Independent, 2019)”
Had it not been for The Felice Brothers headlining the Rhythm n’ Blooms festival in Knoxville, Tennessee back in 2014 , I would never have found my way to the indie-Americana goodness that is Sam Quinn. He has popped up in various guises at the festival over the years, most recently as bass guitarist, singer and songwriter for The Black Lillies, but also with bands such as King Super and the Excellents, Glass Magnet, and Sam Quinn and The Taiwan Twin. One of life’s retrospective regrets was realising I’d missed a reunion set for his band the everybodyfields at the festival in 2013. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Sam Quinn”
Rich Hopkins and Luminarios latest release ‘Back to the Garden’ is definitely full of guitars. From acoustic to jangly backing to soaring electric solos, there are guitars aplenty. What results is a big sound for the album with some tracks meandering along letting the music lead, perhaps to the detriment of the vocal and lyrics. That’s not always the case though, it’s just a bit of a mixed bag. Hopkins has worked with a number of bands over his career (spanning three decades) including the Sidewinders, Sand Rubies, Underbelly and many other projects. However, it’s Luminarios who are his constant. Singer-songwriter (and Hopkins’ wife), Lisa Novak features strongly on this latest release providing songwriting as well as lead vocals and harmonies. Her influence can be felt throughout bringing melody to this gritty and at times rough-round-the-edges album. Continue reading “Rich Hopkins and Luminarios “Back to the Garden” (Blue Rose, 2019)”
The ‘Deepest Light’ from Portland-based quintet The Get Ahead, is a difficult album to categorise. Embracing the sounds of americana by way of some floaty ’70s disco rock: songs catch you unawares. Not overly disconcerting, it all keeps you interested and wondering where they’re taking you next. The variety of genres in The Get Ahead is in part due to the unique makeup of the band. Comprising two married couples, Juliet Howard and Nathan Earle (who leads on vocals) along with Angie (sax, violin and backing) and Danny Johnson (drums). They are joined by friend, Sean Farrell (bass). The resulting three-part harmonies underpin some of the band’s most delightful tracks. Continue reading “The Get Ahead “Deepest Light” (Jullian Records, 2019)”
Izzy Heltai is an indie-folk, singer-songwriter from Northampton, Massachusetts. His new four-track EP ‘Only Yesterday’ tells tales of love and loss that perhaps belie his 22 years. Arrangements on this record are deliberately simple with layering of guitar, piano, trumpet and fiddle kept to a minimum: Heltai wanted to explore how uncomplicated instrumentation can support songs that are lyrically rich. There is a line between lyrically rich and overly wordy, and some tracks, particularly ‘Mountain’ and ‘Common Sense’ struggle to get the balance right. This results in a slightly clunky, discordant listen.
Darlingside’s latest release is an EP of outtakes from 2018’s ‘Extralife.’ It’s fair to say though that any of the songs on ‘Look Up & Fly Away’ would have been well-deserving of a place on that album. This is an exceptionally delicate listen; the intricate wording and stories in the songs are like a peek into someone’s private life, into their passing through life and beyond. It feels a little intrusive at times, but ultimately you feel lucky to have been allowed into something so special. Continue reading “Darlingside “Look Up & Fly Away” (More Doug/Thirty Tigers, 2019)”
It’s easy to imagine you are listening to a live set in a smoky dive bar in the French Quarter, New Orleans when you hear ‘Megg Farrell & Friends.’ Led by Brooklyn-based Megg Farrell, the album is a mix of covers and originals set to a mix of jazz, ragtime and country. Farrell has a strong, bluesy voice reminiscent of Billie Holiday and it comes through in songs like ‘New Orleans Waltz’ and ‘New York Love Song.’ Obvious in both these song topics is her attachment to place and her bio indicates she’s travelled the length and breadth of the USA as well as living a while in Paris, France. Continue reading “Megg Farrell “Megg Farrell & Friends” (Independent, 2019)”