Ben Bedford “Portraits” (Cavalier Recordings, 2020)

“I hope this retrospective proves to be an enjoyable introduction for the uninitiate, as well as a satisfying listening experience for the long-time fan.” So writes Mr Ben Bedford himself, succinctly self-reviewing. That his prose flows is no surprise, as he must be heading towards polymath status? As well as being a tuneful, literate and humane songwriter, he has a warm, strong and clear singing voice matched by his bright and resonant guitar style. His website shows many of his artworks (mainly sold), and very relevantly, his degree is in History. (His sideburns almost deserve an award themselves.) Continue reading “Ben Bedford “Portraits” (Cavalier Recordings, 2020)”

Classic Americana Albums: Witness “Under A Sun” (Universal Island, 2001)

I fell in love with this album the first time it was played, it seemed faultless and distinct then (and still does two decades later) but never quite understood why it made such an impact for me. I had zero concept of Americana then, so was unaware that the fledgeling AUK made ‘Under The Sun’ its very first Album of the Year, in 2001. In reflection, that makes so much sense. If it was released in 2020 in the context of the Americana genre topicality, and marketed correctly, it would surely be hailed as one of the best UK Americana albums. Which I guess is what I’m now claiming? Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Witness “Under A Sun” (Universal Island, 2001)”

Will Hoge “Tiny Little Movies” (Thirty Tigers, 2020)

Top class writing with a great sound and a sense of authenticity could be a recipe for the perfect Americana album, and Will Hoge delivers that full package in abundance with his 11th album ‘Tiny Little Movies.’ A master storyteller, Hoge has each of these tracks tell a short tale evoking life in Middle America, but mix and matches up the musical stylings. There are quieter songs, but this album is tending to the rockier part of the Americana spectrum, but full of heart and soul, melody and harmony and so easy to listen to and enjoy. Continue reading “Will Hoge “Tiny Little Movies” (Thirty Tigers, 2020)”

Jason Simon “A Venerable Wreck” (BYM Records, 2020)

Few artists reviewed by AUK have had a Peel Session, but back in 2001, Jason Simon (as part of his still extant band Dead Meadow) recorded one for John Peel in Fugazi’s home studio. An energetic mix of psychedelia and heavy rock, Dead Meadow settled into a career of stoner rock. Simon has had a parallel career of solo, more experimental music, and from the very first heavily percussive banjo strike on the opening track  ‘The Same Dream’, strongly announces that this is music from the backwoods of America. Continue reading “Jason Simon “A Venerable Wreck” (BYM Records, 2020)”

Ayla Brook and The Sound Men “Desolation Sounds” (Fallen Tree Records, 2020)

It was Captain George Vancouver himself who, whilst mapping the (now) British Columbia coastline, named the deepwater of Desolation Sound, claiming that “there is not a single prospect that is pleasing to the eye”. Of course we now look on the spectacular fjords, calm warm waters and forested mountains as an ecological paradise, with a seemingly perverse ironic name. The only community there is Refuge Cove, from where Ayla Brook conceived this collection of songs and stories about family and friends, and which names the penultimate track, an elegy to his father and their time there. Continue reading “Ayla Brook and The Sound Men “Desolation Sounds” (Fallen Tree Records, 2020)”

AmericanA to Z – Hoyt Axton

OK, you’re left with X, Y & Z they said. Not wanting to give short shrift to any Zandt or Young icon, Hoyt Axton contains an x and a y, but is he Americana? Well he started as a folk singer, ended as a country fixture, and in between had a TV special called ‘The Hoyt Axton Country Western Boogie Woogie Gospel Rock and Roll Show’, which touches a lot of Americana bases. Without ever being a major star, Axton’s talents exhibited an almost Zelig-like tendency through his career, not just through music, but on screen. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Hoyt Axton”

Luther Black and the Cold Hard Facts “Luther Black and the Cold Hard Facts” (D.A. Records, 2020)

“There’s an old adage that your first album is your best album because you had your whole life to write it. Well that gives me a big advantage releasing my first album at my age”. So says Rick Wagner, which also explains the title of the opening track ‘59’, a tale of his wild blue yonder, in both time and geography. Adopting the persona of Luther Black and the Cold Hard Facts, Wagner is singer, player, writer, producer, publicist. Everything essentially, other than musical friends adding strokes. Continue reading “Luther Black and the Cold Hard Facts “Luther Black and the Cold Hard Facts” (D.A. Records, 2020)”

Anna Lynch “Apples In The Fall” EP (SJ21 Music, 2020)

It’s been seven years since Anna Lynch released her debut album (little heard but first-rate) and returns with this poignant EP steeped in American rurality. A wanderer around her country, her roots in the apple growing Sonoma County in Northern California are referenced in the title track, where she returns from her sojourns to find change, the old apple picking traditions and buildings replaced by grape harvests and the wine industry. As on all these tracks, Lynch’s voice is centre prominent, supported by her acoustic. Continue reading “Anna Lynch “Apples In The Fall” EP (SJ21 Music, 2020)”

Marcus King “El Dorado” (Fantasy Records, 2020)

Marcus King is a genius. Bonafide. A child prodigy on blues guitar, he experienced tragedy, suffering and struggle as a teen that came through so clearly in his first three albums, that Clapton sought him out. That trio of releases were done with his own band, but this is his first stand-alone material, and it feels like a major push to establish him as the next …? Which is the query here. The raw blues have been largely tamed, and it’s more King’s vocals which are the focus, a high, anguished voice, raw, intense, but perhaps pushed too far past his register. Continue reading “Marcus King “El Dorado” (Fantasy Records, 2020)”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Nick Lowe “Cruel To Be Kind”

More cruelty this week, from Americana royalty Nick Lowe, but from over four decades ago, when this was always on TOTP and it was seen as power pop. Endless chains could come from this, bands – whether backing, past or future, collaborations, productions, his wife (that’s his real wedding footage), her family in the background etc. Great fun. Next.