Darren Jessee “Remover” (Bar/None Records, 2020)

In ‘Remover’ Darren Jessee communicates a deep introspection through his direct lyrics and expansive sound. There is a sequence to the tracks so to fully appreciate Jessee’s musing and sonic scope listen from start to finish without interruption or distraction. Jessee’s musical career has been varied. Many will recall him as the drummer in the 90’s indie band Ben Folds Five, after which came Hotel Lights, Hiss Golden Messenger and work with War on Drugs and Sharon Van Etten. His debut solo ‘The Jane, Room 217’ was a great deal more meditative, a direction he has taken further with ‘Remover’. Continue reading “Darren Jessee “Remover” (Bar/None Records, 2020)”

Interview: Billy Prine on a life with brother John, recording and podcasting

A  few days after what would have been John Prine’s 74th birthday Americana UK’s Lyndon Bolton spent a fascinating hour chatting over Zoom with his younger brother Billy in Nashville. With him was Billy’s good friend and musical partner, Michael Dinallo. As in their ‘Prine Time’ podcast, Billy and Michael proved amusing and insightful company on a musical sweep of over half a century.  Naturally, John was never far away as was the palpable sense of Billy’s deep love for his brother. Continue reading “Interview: Billy Prine on a life with brother John, recording and podcasting”

Cordovas “Destiny Hotel” (ATO Records, 2020)

On ‘Destiny Hotel‘ Cordovas blend country and southern rock with a lightness of touch that takes them deep into the roots of Americana. Above all soar their magnificent harmonies as Cordovas create a sense of total abandon from the day to day drudgeries of life. Songwriter, bassist and vocalist Joe Firstman may have formed the four-piece band but this third studio album is very much a product of the band’s communal lifestyle. They all live together on a farm near Nashville. Continue reading “Cordovas “Destiny Hotel” (ATO Records, 2020)”

Chris Page “Decide To Stay And Swim Again” (Independent, 2020)

Ottawa based songwriter Chris Page is this reviewer’s latest source of fine music perfectly crafted for these sombre times of isolation. Page took an album he released nearly 20 years ago, ‘Decide To Stay And Swim Again’, then stripped it bare to record an acoustic version. Just him and his guitar at home he creates not only a sound but a complete atmosphere that blends the fatigue of lockdown with a dogged determination to see this thing through. The songs may have been around for a while but Page’s new interpretations will captivate a listener keen for escape. Continue reading “Chris Page “Decide To Stay And Swim Again” (Independent, 2020)”

Darlingside “Fish Pond Fish” (Thirty Tigers, 2020)

Darlingside are all about four-part harmonies around a swirl of string arrangements. Whether studio album or performing live that is how they have honed their unique sound described as “baroque folk”. If that sounds rather abstract then blend early Crosby, Stills & Nash with Fleet Foxes. As the four Boston based musicians were tying up their their third album the pandemic struck sending them home to finish by virtual collaboration. The result is ‘Fish Pond Fish’, a magnificent work that takes their mix of sonic exploration and harmonies to a completely new level. Continue reading “Darlingside “Fish Pond Fish” (Thirty Tigers, 2020)”

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””