Tom Fairnie “Lightning in the Dark” (Independent, 2020)

Tom Fairnie refers to his music as ‘Celticana’, which is a fair summation of his blended Americana influences and Scottish roots. The bagpipes solo kind of give it away right at the beginning. To cement this claim, Fairlie raised enough money to record this album in Austin, helmed by former Nitty Gritty Dirt Band/Chris Hillman Band member Merel Bregante. Continue reading “Tom Fairnie “Lightning in the Dark” (Independent, 2020)”

Mitch Dean “Holding Back the Levee” (Independent, 2020)

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, Mitch Dean is no spring chicken. Perhaps more of a gnarled rooster. And, as we all know, gnarled roosters make much better records than any spring chickens ever will. Dean’s voice is quite light and tuneful, more than a hint of Petty in there, and his songs are lyrically well focussed (if maybe a little twee in places). The overall sound is organic and quite pleasing, if maybe too mainstream for some tastes. Continue reading “Mitch Dean “Holding Back the Levee” (Independent, 2020)”

Classic Americana Albums: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band “Will the Circle be Unbroken” (United Artists, 1972)

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, pop music was crawling with long-haired folk-rockers from California. Teeming with them in fact. But these god-damn Long Beach hippies, led by Jeff Hanna and McEuen, took themselves off to Nashville and coaxed some of the greatest names in ‘old time’ country and bluegrass music out of semi-retirement and semi-obscurity, to revisit their glory days. Mother Maybelle Carter, Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Merle Travis and Doc Watson all showed up. Bill Monroe flat out refused to have anything to do with these freaks, which he may well have later regretted. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Nitty Gritty Dirt Band “Will the Circle be Unbroken” (United Artists, 1972)”

Ben Kunder “Searching For The Stranger” (Independent, 2020)

Alarm bells start ringing for this writer when faced with a promo picture of a singer-songwriter replete with a beard and sporting the obligatory woolly hat. Fearing the worst, tracks are cued up with trepidation. Phew! Relief! This isn’t one of ‘those’ records. Canadian (Toronto-based) Kunder knows about melody and pop sensibilities. Continue reading “Ben Kunder “Searching For The Stranger” (Independent, 2020)”

Pete Bernhard “Harmony Ascension Division” (Independent, 2020)

Nice and uncomplicated. The world could probably do with a little more nice and uncomplicated these days. The Devil Makes Three’s Pete Bernhard, along with his bandmates, have been gifting the world epic soundscapes of rootsy Americana for almost twenty years. Bernhard has released a small clutch of solo albums too. This is his third. And it’s a gem of a record. Continue reading “Pete Bernhard “Harmony Ascension Division” (Independent, 2020)”

Sylvia Rose Novak “Bad Luck” (Independent, 2020)

Here we find the sweetest of voices, but there’s clearly bad news and ‘Bad Luck’ up ahead in these songs from Alabama native Sylvia Rose Novak. She delivers an uncomplicated, simple sound; vocally reminiscent of Rosanne Cash (though it would be better if that voice was placed just a little higher in the mix). There’s big crunchy guitars, a little slide, add in a no-fuss drummer; a lot to like here. Continue reading “Sylvia Rose Novak “Bad Luck” (Independent, 2020)”

Mr Alec Bowman “I Used To Be Sad, Then I Forgot” (Independent, 2020)

Mr Alec Bowman offers the ears of the world a serving of erudite, melancholy folk. Bowman is something of an English Leonard Cohen, which is a high compliment, and one his doleful baritone is quite deserving of. Indeed his simple song structures, short epithets and simply plucked/strummed guitar across these songs are distinctly Cohen-esque. Equally so is the dark, dark humour nestling in the lyrics. Continue reading “Mr Alec Bowman “I Used To Be Sad, Then I Forgot” (Independent, 2020)”

C.M. Talkington “Not Exactly Nashville” (Independent, 2020)

Where does Rock meet Americana? And where does Americana become just Country? Do any of these lines exist? Are they simply in the ear of the beholder (behearer?) This writer can’t really offer any answers to these big questions, but he can state his own opinion – that C. M. Talkington offers us up a record that’s leaning heavily towards rock, and only just squeezes into an Americana outfit. Continue reading “C.M. Talkington “Not Exactly Nashville” (Independent, 2020)”

AmericanA to Z – Dolly Parton

No, not Gram Parsons. Not even Elvis Presley (though if you don’t consider Elvis to be the epitome of ‘Americana’ then I will fight you right now). Dolly Rebecca Parton (of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee) has written, played and performed it all. And I’m prepared to fight you right now about that too. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Dolly Parton”

The ten worst Johnny Cash tracks

Johnny Cash was a force of nature. There are not enough superlatives in the dictionary to do the man any kind of justice. J.R. was a magnificent songwriter. Just as magnificent, perhaps even more so, was he an interpreter of other people’s songs. However, in an (almost) fifty-year recording career, during a time when labels demanded and released two or three albums per year, The Man In Black gave us over ninety long players. Surely some songs must have slipped past quality control? Particularly during Cash’s ‘lean period’, spanning the mid-1970s up to the first ‘American Recordings’ in 1994? Continue reading “The ten worst Johnny Cash tracks”