The Menzingers “From Exile” (Epitaph, 2020)

Artists have responded to lockdown in many ways. After their Australian tour stopped abruptly in March The Menzingers turned their creative juices to existing work. Stuck at home the band wanted to document how working musicians can cope and create with enforced isolation. By rewriting, changing keys, melodies and instrumentation the Scranton PA punk rockers turned last year’s fast and furious rocking ‘Hello Exile’ into the acoustic, reflective and absorbing Americana of this year’s very impressive ‘From Exile’. Continue reading “The Menzingers “From Exile” (Epitaph, 2020)”

Will Johnson “El Capitan” (Keeled Scales, 2020)

Musician, writer and painter Will Johnson, one of Americana’s most prolific creative spirits, has released his seventh solo album, ‘El Capitan’. Stripped back hardly does justice to the sparseness of this recording. It is just him, his Stella acoustic guitar recorded in his house with a little help from a few friends both nearby and afar. There is a simplicity to this record that, far from suggesting anything is missing, only highlights the care Johnson takes in his writing and arrangements. Continue reading “Will Johnson “El Capitan” (Keeled Scales, 2020)”

Mighty Brother “The Rabbit, The Owl” (Independent, 2020)

This double album promises to explore the “emergent theme of duality”. Taken together the two records probe the same concepts from different perspectives. ‘The Rabbit’ is joyful mix of indie rock, folk and some funk. ‘The Owl’ is an altogether more daunting experiment that at times veers towards 1970s prog rock. Mighty Brother is a five-piece indie/folk band based in New Orleans formed around founders and core writers Nick Huster and Ari Carter. Musically their comparators are as diverse as Grizzly Bear, Radiohead, Bon Iver, the Decemberists and the Avett Brothers. Continue reading “Mighty Brother “The Rabbit, The Owl” (Independent, 2020)”

Steven Bruce “Same Time, Same Place, Same Station” (Independent, 2020)

Fredericksburg, VA country rocker Steven Bruce’s debut album mixes cosmic country with a Waylon swagger and Petty riffs, all in a voice pitched between John Prine and Lukas Nelson. Bruce draws most of his writing from his own experiences which, over the past few years, have been mostly bad. Now in his late 20’s Bruce looks back on playing bars, getting married and divorced then losing his beloved grandparents who had encouraged his musical talents from an early age. But he doesn’t wallow in self-pity, he accepts his lot and gets on with it. Continue reading “Steven Bruce “Same Time, Same Place, Same Station” (Independent, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Dale Watson “Tucumcari Here I Come”

Last weeks link in this ever-extending chain of Americana was Lowell George’s classic ‘Willin’’. Obviously Little Feat offer vast scope for another link but how about ‘Willin’’ itself? George sings “And I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari” so who do we find if we take Tucumcari as the next link? Dale Watson, whose resonant baritone powers ‘Tucumcari Here I Come’  from his 2001 album ‘More Songs of Route 66’. Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Dale Watson “Tucumcari Here I Come””

Josh Kimbrough “Slither, Soar & Disappear” (Tompkins Square, 2020)

A side effect of lockdown is how many of us have begun to notice nature either for the first time or perhaps just more than usual. If that curiosity extends to how these perceptions might be set to music then listen no further than ‘Slither, Soar & Disappear’ by guitar virtuoso Josh Kimbrough. Leading with his acoustic fingerpicking style backed by flowing strings and minimal percussion Kimbrough takes us into the woods and skies that lie beyond his North Carolina home. With the absence of any lyrics he strengthens that natural connection. Continue reading “Josh Kimbrough “Slither, Soar & Disappear” (Tompkins Square, 2020)”

The Mammals “Nonet” (Soundly, 2020)

‘Nonet’ is compelling listening for these locked down times. In their blend of classic folk and Americana The Mammals, Mike Merenda and Ruth Ungar plus an ensemble of seven, ask searching questions about our environment and society. What makes The Mammals so compelling is the optimism and good heart of their lyrics and their rich Americana sound. The apt title refers to this being their ninth album and recorded live with a group of nine. That is a large group but they switch deftly between gentle acoustic folk and country-rock. Continue reading “The Mammals “Nonet” (Soundly, 2020)”

Muzz “Muzz” (Matador Records, 2020)

Not just the band’s name, ‘Muzz’ perfectly describes their sound. Fortunately that was the intention according to producer and multi-instrumentalist Josh Kaufman who wanted to describe the texture of the group’s sound without being pinned to a particular genre or time. They chose well. There is a richness to the expansive layers of cosmic and psychedelia that they blend with full-on indie rock in their debut, and for good measure, eponymous album. Continue reading “Muzz “Muzz” (Matador Records, 2020)”

Classic Americana Albums: The Ozark Mountain Daredevils “The Ozark Mountain Daredevils” (A&M, 1973)

Mention the Ozark Mountain Daredevils these days and most responses would be along the lines of “didn’t they have some soft, country-ish single in our charts years ago?”. Yes, that was ‘Jackie Blue’ in 1974 but their repertoire contained far more than 1970s country-pop. For the real Daredevils go back a year to their debut, eponymously titled, album. ‘The Quilt Album’, as it became known, is classic Americana because it takes country-rock as in The Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers not to Nashville but deep into to the real roots of their Missouri home. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: The Ozark Mountain Daredevils “The Ozark Mountain Daredevils” (A&M, 1973)”

Lesley Barth “Big Time Baby” (Clandestine, 2020)

‘Big Time Baby’ is about the importance of realising who you are and being that person. Lesley Barth tells her own story with sincerity and a lightness in the style of Joni Mitchell or Carole King. Alarmed by how much she was conforming to the accepted obsession with achievement Barth decided she had to change. “You can’t perform and live life at the same time” she admits so out went the corporate job to concentrate on music. As Barth confronts this stranger she has become she connects with her real self while offering the listener opportunity to do likewise. Continue reading “Lesley Barth “Big Time Baby” (Clandestine, 2020)”