Russell And the Wolf Choir “Every Spark Is An Indication” (Independent, 2017)

A mini-LP with something of a Californian West Coast vibe, yet delivered from the wilds of Essex. On vinyl too! Russell and The Wolf Choir actually nail a power pop/indie sound pretty well in the first part of this record. Big fuzzy choruses abound, with hints of Pixies guitars, Teenage Fanclub harmonies, Tom Petty arrangements (God rest his soul) and suitably non-bombastic vocals. Continue reading “Russell And the Wolf Choir “Every Spark Is An Indication” (Independent, 2017)”

Grant Earl Lavalley “From Lavalley Below” (Exit Stencil, 2017)

Having a vinyl LP to review is a great treat, but such subjective fascinations won’t cloud any impartiality hereabouts. Much. Grant Earl Lavelly as a musical whole, pretty much sums up ‘brooding Americana’. An Ohio native, now working on his craft in the Joshua Tree Desert, complete with long beard and dishevelled clothing fitting of his wild abode. He’s described as a Gothic Gene Clark or a desert dwelling Will Oldham. Both of which seem appropriate. Continue reading “Grant Earl Lavalley “From Lavalley Below” (Exit Stencil, 2017)”

Joseph Childress “Joseph Childress” (Empty Cellar 2017)

Another record born from an authentic American experience – this time Childress’s time in the Old West, including cattle ranching in Wyoming. Nobody seems to write songs in their dingy flat anymore (apart from the handful that Childress wrote for this album in a small San Francisco apartment!) This is his second album, following 2013’s The Rebirths. Musically speaking, Childress isn’t your hardened country cowboy though. He’s a counter-tenor in the mould of Conor Oberst or M.Ward, maybe even a touch of Neil Young too. Continue reading “Joseph Childress “Joseph Childress” (Empty Cellar 2017)”

Woodley Taylor ‘Breathe A Little Deeper’ (2017, Independent)

Woodley Taylor’s bio namechecks many of the classic rock acts that echo through this, his debut album. Perhaps Cambridge is a strange location from which one might develop to pay homage to 1970s Los Angeles, but nonetheless it’s a more than accomplished effort. There’s a handful of conventional Americana influences – some twang and acoustic flourishes – but in the interests of full disclosure, one should state that Fleetwood Mac seem to be the biggest influence on Taylor. Continue reading “Woodley Taylor ‘Breathe A Little Deeper’ (2017, Independent)”

Matt Patershuk “Same As I Have Ever Been” (Black Hen Music 2017)

The back cover portrait photo for Matt Patershuk’s new album may make you recoil in horror at the super clichéd Americana-ness on display. Farmyard, haystack, dogs, Telecaster, beard and hat. All are squeezed in. Fear not – they’re actually his own dogs and his own rural Alberta farmyard. Safe to assume the guitar and beard belong to him too. Despite this early alarm, Same As I Have Ever Been is a damn fine record. Continue reading “Matt Patershuk “Same As I Have Ever Been” (Black Hen Music 2017)”

Wilson “Old School, New Rules” (Independent, 2017)

This is a slice of well-crafted, Seventies-leaning pop that’s light on the power but heavy on the catchy melodies. West Country troubadour Steve Wilson is the writing hub of this four piece. Admittedly, they’re quite hard to define musically, but there are places to start. The harmonies (contributed by the band to most of the tracks) are unswervingly excellent, with echoes of the Beach Boys, the Beatles and 10cc. Whilst the music isn’t too heavy on guitar, Tom Petty is brought to mind on the opening two tracks, Long Road and Pretty Girl In A Small Town. Continue reading “Wilson “Old School, New Rules” (Independent, 2017)”

Pierce Edens “Stripped Down, Gussied Up” (Independent, 2017)

Hailing from North Carolina, Pierce Edens’s stock in trade is a folksy grunge. Musically speaking it’s played very well by Edens along with sidekick Kevin Reese – the songs are suitably dark and foreboding. Vocally speaking, it’s a little harder to pin down. The ‘grunge meets ragged lounge singer’, occasionally bombastic nature of Eden’s voice doesn’t always gel with the eerie, acoustic soundscapes too well. To these ears, Pearl Jam stands out as something of a vocal and song writing influence – a bona fide rock sound as a starting point. Continue reading “Pierce Edens “Stripped Down, Gussied Up” (Independent, 2017)”

I Draw Slow “Turn Your Face To The Sun” (Compass Records, 2017)

As American bluegrass/roots music is essentially born of Celtic roots music, the emerging success of I Draw Slow in the USA is no surprise, although I Draw Slow is quite a strange band name – whether it relates to pencil and paper or six gun skills is a mystery hereabouts. The line that separates these two folk sides of the Atlantic, musically, is indecipherably thin, arguably non-existent. The voices of Louise and Dave Holden dart between the shores with ease and grace, showing strength and subtlety in the right places from Dublin to the Carolinas. Continue reading “I Draw Slow “Turn Your Face To The Sun” (Compass Records, 2017)”

Ed Dupas “Tennessee Nights” (Independent, 2017)

This is a highly satisfying slice of blue collar Americana, with grit and grace in just the right ratio. Dupas may be from the home of the Stooges and MC5, but instead he chooses to kick out the classic Steve Earle-esque jams in a contemporary manner not too dissimilar to the likes of Sturgill Simpson. Even the album’s title guides us to points South, as Ed pays respect to the Volunteer State. Continue reading “Ed Dupas “Tennessee Nights” (Independent, 2017)”

Kaurna Cronin “Euphoria, Delirium and Loneliness” (Songs and Whispers, 2017)

Kaurna Cronin is a youthful Australian singer-songwriter. His bio attests to a number of Antipodean folk awards won, yet this, his third album, is very much an exercise in subtle guitar pop/rock. Cronin has a polite airy voice, perhaps reminiscent of the mighty Paddy McAloon, but not quite emulating the lyrical sharpness of the man. Not to say that Cronin isn’t lyrically astute though – there’s not too many clichés in his words, which are the saving grace of this record. The ten songs do largely fall into the cited folk tradition of story-telling and he paints detailed pictures of his characters, their situations and their woes. Continue reading “Kaurna Cronin “Euphoria, Delirium and Loneliness” (Songs and Whispers, 2017)”