The Mastersons “Transient Lullaby” (Red House Records, 2017)

Married couple Chris Masterson and Eleanor Whitmore, the Texan voices and pens of The Mastersons, have spent a lot of their time in recent years as part of Steve Earle’s touring band The Dukes. They even double up as Earle’s opening act. This is their third album in five years. Clearly they’re busy people! For the most part Transient Lullaby is a gentle, introspective blend of country/pop-rock. Continue reading “The Mastersons “Transient Lullaby” (Red House Records, 2017)”

Mike Felten “Diamonds And Televisions” (2017, Independent)

It’s refreshing to come across an Americana album that’s essentially a fun listen, so kudos to Mike Felten for that feat alone. A Chicago native, he’s been a record store owner, open miker and gigging troubadour for the best part of half a century. Daresay that he’s pretty much seen it all… Continue reading “Mike Felten “Diamonds And Televisions” (2017, Independent)”

Current Swell “When To Talk And When To Listen” (Nettwerk, 2017)

Already quite a big thing in Canada, Current Swell decamped to Nashville to record part of this latest album, with the remainder being finished at home in Vancouver. It’s their sixth full-length release, coming twelve years after their debut So I Say; these guys are clearly in it for the long haul. The four-piece band revolves around their songwriting hub of Scott Stanton and Dave Lang. Continue reading “Current Swell “When To Talk And When To Listen” (Nettwerk, 2017)”

Joe Martin “Small World” (Independent, 2017)

Youthful Red Rose native Joe Martin has crossed the Pennines to begin his musical adventures from a West Yorkshire base, physically at least. Spiritually he’s rooted in the 1970s American singer-songwriter world of Don McLean, Jackson Browne and James Taylor. These songs amply demonstrate that he’s worthy of a seat at their high table. Continue reading “Joe Martin “Small World” (Independent, 2017)”

Cary Morin “Cradle To The Grave” (Independent, 2017)

Cary Morin possesses finger-picking skills that many guitarists would sell their soul for. A Montana native and member of the Crow tribe, Morin’s music rolls together blues, folk, jazz and a host of other flavours into his own style of Native Americana. Plying his musical trade across the USA and wider world for nigh on thirty years, he’s won a host of blues and Aboriginal music awards to boot. Continue reading “Cary Morin “Cradle To The Grave” (Independent, 2017)”

Wesley Stace “Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding” (Yep Roc, 2017)

A dream combination – Stace backed by the Jayhawks. Novelist and compere par excellence, the former John Wesley Harding releases his twentieth record. This time around he’s enlisted the help of Minneapolis’s finest. Stace has always been an intelligent, witty lyricist. His voice is polite and restrained in tone; sitting well with gentler, acoustic song arrangements. Opening track I Don’t Wanna Rock ‘n Roll is unfortunately true to intent – it doesn’t quite rock ‘n roll. If anything it’s an easy listening soft rock exercise which doesn’t mesh too well with Stace’s vocal qualities. Better Tell No-One Your Dreams is much the same – by no means a bad song but not quite as good as it should be.  Continue reading “Wesley Stace “Wesley Stace’s John Wesley Harding” (Yep Roc, 2017)”

Curtis McMurtry “The Hornet’s Nest’ (2017, Independent)

Born and raised in Austin, Curtis McMurtry is following to some extent in his father, Americana stalwart James’s musical footsteps. Pops himself is the son of writer/screenwriter Larry McMurtry (The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, Lonesome Dove, and Brokeback Mountain). The Hornet’s Nest is Curtis’s second album, a follow-up to 2014’s Respectable Enemy. You might say the youngster has a lot to live up to! Continue reading “Curtis McMurtry “The Hornet’s Nest’ (2017, Independent)”

Whitney Rose “South Texas Suite” (Six Shooter Records, 2017)

Six tracks lies somewhere between an E.P. and a mini album, depending on your point of view. Though that’s of little matter when “South Texas Suite” is a thing of such beauty. A Canadian now residing in Austin, Whitney Rose is accompanied here by the seemingly obligatory line-up of musicians who have backed up the great and good (Cash, Willie Nelson, Haggard, The Mavericks) and between them they nail down the groove to perfection. Rose happily describes the collection as a love letter to Texan musical culture; which is hard to argue against with the evidence she presents here. Continue reading “Whitney Rose “South Texas Suite” (Six Shooter Records, 2017)”

The Flat Five “It’s A World of Love And Hope” (Bloodshot Records, 2016)

flat-five 2016The Flat Five are a Chicago based ‘supergroup’ . Between them they’ve worked with Neko Case, The Decemberists. Mavis Staples, Iron and Wine, plus a host of others. Without question an impressive collective pedigree. Ten years and more since their first live collaborations, this debut record is a real gem. Songwriter Chris Ligon is a purveyor of sweet , slightly off the wall, undeniably catchy tunes. The band comprises Chris’s brother Alex Ligon, Alex Hall, Kelly Hogan, Casey Mc Donough and Nora O’Connor. Opening track Florida is pure folky joy, a stone-cold obscure classic, dreaming of the Sunshine State whilst table waiting in cold Chicago.  Continue reading “The Flat Five “It’s A World of Love And Hope” (Bloodshot Records, 2016)”

Rachel Yamagata “Tightrope Walker” (Frankenfish Records, 2016)

rachael-yamagata-tightrope-walkerRachel Yamagata can boast a who’s who of past co-conspirators – Ryan Adams, Bright Eyes and Ray Lamontagne most notably. To consider her purely on those terms, though, would be quite the disservice. Tightrope Walker is her fourth solo record; the first after a long gap of five years. Her muse for the project was Phillipe Petit – the infamous French high-wire artist who crossed between the Twin Towers in 1974. Petit’s reasoning behind the motivation for his feats, essentially ‘just because’ informed Yamagata’s songwriting raison d’etre –why not just quit? Why keep persevering? Just because – that’s why. It’s what musicians have to do!  Continue reading “Rachel Yamagata “Tightrope Walker” (Frankenfish Records, 2016)”