This is not a beginner’s guide to anything. From the outset it’s clear that David Keenan is an accomplished singer, nay poet, who is confident in his style and ability. Every song on ‘Beginner’s Guide to Bravery’ bursts with emotion and Keenan gives his all throughout. Keenan hails from a small Irish county town called Dundalk, just south of the border with Northern Ireland. Many of the songs on this album feature stories about the town’s imagined (and occasionally real) past. Continue reading “David Keenan “A Beginner’s Guide To Bravery” (Rubyworks, 2020)”
Gabriel Birnbaum takes us down a mellow path on his first solo record: ‘Not Alone’. This is a stripped back and low key album when compared to Birnbaum’s indie-rock style as part of band Wilder Maker and his work as a jazz and avant-garde saxophonist. Exploring themes of loneliness and solitude throughout, the album is tinged with melancholy. Birnbaum quickly establishes his sound, and most markedly through his occasionally raspy vocal delivery.
‘Parts and Labor’ is the first solo album from Big Medicine Head’s singer-songwriter, Bob Gemmell. It’s packed full of tales of the road, the struggles of working people and themes of personal redemption. Ranging from banjo-led songs to tracks that wouldn’t be out of place in a speakeasy piano bar, it’s a bit of a genre mix. Gemmell has a unique vocal delivery and songwriting style that could have held it all together, but sadly serves to make the whole thing feel a bit disconnected. Continue reading “Bob Gemmell “Parts and Labor” (Sterno Bums International, 2019)”
Charlie and the Rays is a duo comprised of sisters Jordan and Rebecca Stobbe. The sisters hail from Seattle but this most recent record was recorded in New York and produced by Johnny Sangster (Mudhoney, Mark Lanegan, The Posies, Neko Case). The EP ‘That’s Where You Were Born’ also includes support from Gracia Bridges on lead guitar and Jack Brady on drums. Continue reading “Charlie and the Rays “That’s Where You Were Born” (Independent, 2019)”
‘First EP’ is, um…, the first EP from Portland Brothers. However, this is not their first time making music together as band members Steven Adams and Timothy Victor are alumni of the The Broken Family Band which formed in 2001. Their meeting back then at The Portland Arms has surely played a part in the naming of this new venture. Over the years they’ve played together on various projects including indie-rock and folk bands and these influences from over the years are keenly felt in this lovely little EP. Continue reading “Portland Brothers “First EP” (Sunday Mourning Records, 2019)”
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”