Angus McOg “Beginners” (Independent, 2019)

A hearty helping of warming indie folky Americana from Modena, Italy. Though it could easily be from the USA or anywhere else one might care to mention. The band (Angus himself plus two sidemen collaborators) draw overt influences from the likes of Wilco, The National and Father John Misty. Perhaps a little Teenage Fanclub in there too. It wouldn’t be much of a spoiler alert to tell you that Angus McOg is not this Italian songster’s real name. Continue reading “Angus McOg “Beginners” (Independent, 2019)”

Darren Hayman “Thankful Villages Volume 3” (Independent, 2018)

Released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, this final instalment of the former (indie-folksters) Hefner main man’s triptych focuses not only on the aforementioned villages, but also rural stories in general. As such it contains interviews, field recordings, soundscapes and original songs, running much like a radio show. Given this, it’s very much an ‘English’ folk offering and quite removed from what we might consider to be Americana. Continue reading “Darren Hayman “Thankful Villages Volume 3” (Independent, 2018)”

Michelle Lewis “All That’s Left” (Independent, 2018)

Michelle Lewis makes folk music. This is a broad and unhelpful description. You’re welcome! It’s true though that at the root of this record is a solo performer with acoustic guitar and a rich, sweet voice. However, Lewis infuses this simple, time-tested formula with subtle yet lush electronic and organic musical arrangements. Continue reading “Michelle Lewis “All That’s Left” (Independent, 2018)”

Jonathan Byrd “Jonathan Byrd & the Pickup Cowboys”(Independent, 2018)

Actual country music! And really good country music too! Americana ebbs and flows in different ways, and obviously that’s a good thing. Now and again though, you can find country music produced that’s worthy of the weight of history in the field. Certainly not the factory produced, plastic Music Row atrocities that are increasingly favoured in the UK. Instead, step forward Jonathan Byrd, who’s been in the game for over fifteen years and is held in high regard at AUK towers. Of course he has the hat and beard that’s requisite for his trade, but rest assured readers, he’s the genuine  article. Continue reading “Jonathan Byrd “Jonathan Byrd & the Pickup Cowboys”(Independent, 2018)”

Willie Nelson “My Way” (Sony, 2018)

Willie has always been a crooner at heart. Sometimes overtly, with albums such as ‘Stardust’ and his recent Gershwin songbook record; more often simply in his oh so laid back delivery. No surprise really then that he presents us with an album of songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, reinterpreted in fairly faithful fashion (aided by Trigger, used sparingly to solid effect) and, backed by a swing orchestra which nails every note. It’s his 68th studio album! Continue reading “Willie Nelson “My Way” (Sony, 2018)”

Ethan Hanna “Welcome to the Batlands” (Independent, 2018)

From Northern Ireland, though musically via New Jersey and the gutters of many a wrong part of town, here we have the debut album from Ethan Hanna. With a voice that blends Springsteen and Waits, you couldn’t say this is a cheerful record. Cheerful is hugely overrated anyway; it’s for the weak minded. The ‘rockier’ parts on offer are really quite heavy (‘Fire’), and the fractured guitar ballads are nicely sparse and deconstructed (‘Bad Dreams’). Continue reading “Ethan Hanna “Welcome to the Batlands” (Independent, 2018)”

Tom Baxter “The Other Side of Blue” (Independent, 2018)

It’s a precariously thin line that the singer-songwriter has to tread. The stripped away, intimate, acoustic guitar (or piano) and voice combination is so omnipresent in folk cum Americana; there are precious few new tricks at their disposal. Much of what they’ve got to offer hangs on whether they’re sincere or not – do we believe them? Or is it just trite and predictable? Where does Tom Baxter lie within this? Continue reading “Tom Baxter “The Other Side of Blue” (Independent, 2018)”

Gwenifer Raymond “You Were Never Much of a Dancer”(Tompkins Square 2018)

Firmly out of left field, this is a debut album stuffed full of hugely impressive Americana from the spectacularly talented multi-instrumentalist Gwenifer Raymond. She’s a Welsh native, has a Ph.D. and she looks ridiculously youthful. Sickening, isn’t it? The record is teeming with Delta Blues and Appalachian folky weirdness; Sergio Leone or Tarantino would dream of licensing all of these rolling, pumping American Primitive tracks for any movie soundtrack. Continue reading “Gwenifer Raymond “You Were Never Much of a Dancer”(Tompkins Square 2018)”

Luluc “Sculptor” (Sub Pop, 2018)

Here we have an ethereal, indie-folksy offering from the legendary Sub Pop label. Australians Zoe Randall and Steve Hassett (now Brooklyners) have a host of Grade A fans and collaborators (Sleater Kinny, The National, J Mascis) to call on. This is Luluc’s third album and it’s beautifully downbeat, or perhaps a downbeat beauty. Instrumentation is minimal and fractured throughout. Continue reading “Luluc “Sculptor” (Sub Pop, 2018)”

Murder By Death “The Other Shore” (Bloodshot Records, 2018)

A space western concept album? Really?  Apparently so. Murder By Death have been releasing records for the best part of twenty years and this, their eighth album release, tells the story of two lovers choosing different paths – fleeing a dying earth or holding out on terra firma for something better. All said a bold proposition. Luckily for us, the record delivers as a solid set of songs, whether you choose to buy into the story arc or not. Continue reading “Murder By Death “The Other Shore” (Bloodshot Records, 2018)”