Ray Davies “Our Country: Americana: Act II” (Sony, 2018)

‘Our Country’ is the follow up to Ray Davies’s first Americana record which was itself preceded by his like-named memoir. The two albums’ artwork are identical other than the original Stars & Stripes silhouette replaced by the Union Jack, and this album has a sense of saying goodbye to a country Davies had long called home. The history of the Kinks in the US was mixed, including the ban for half of the 60’s which blew their chances of joining the British Invasion. Considering that 2004 brought the New Orleans mugging where he was shot and nearly died, he could be forgiven for cynicism, but bathos is the main theme here, even ennui? Continue reading “Ray Davies “Our Country: Americana: Act II” (Sony, 2018)”

Silver Lining “Heart and Mind Alike” (Independent, 2018)

Norwegian Americana? Reviewed in the UK? Why not, Americana is a broad and growing church, and all are welcome. Silver Lining are from Oslo, and have a very gentle approach, producing beautiful music with space and sparsity. With all members contributing songs and voice, harmonies are very much to the front, the acoustic and electric guitars blending nicely. At times the pedal steel sounds so ethereal as to seem divine. Acknowledged influences are Gillian Welch, Union Station & Laura Marling, flavours of which can be heard throughout. Continue reading “Silver Lining “Heart and Mind Alike” (Independent, 2018)”

American Aquarium “Things Change” (New West, 2018)

When, after a decade of constant touring with diminishing returns, the band members of American Aquarium all quit to take civilian jobs, leader BJ Barham would not have been judged for joining them. Newfound sobriety and imminent fatherhood, however, gave him new perspective and a stream of new songs flowed. So he recruited a new American Aquarium from scratch to have another crack at making it. He may well succeed, as this seventh album is by far the strongest and most consistent set of songs he has released, and the key word here is songs. Continue reading “American Aquarium “Things Change” (New West, 2018)”

Sam Llanas “Return of the Goya – Part 1” (Llanas Music, 2018)

As this review was being submitted, news broke in the USA of allegations about Sam Llanas made by Tessa Neumann, stepdaughter of BoDeans frontman Kurt Neumann. Graphic and detailed, they go back to when Kurt Neumann and Sam Llanas were together in BoDeans. Llanas has denied the allegations and at the time of writing, there is no sign that the allegations have been made through any official channels, nor has a formal legal response been made. Continue reading “Sam Llanas “Return of the Goya – Part 1” (Llanas Music, 2018)”

Brent Cobb “Providence Canyon” (Low Country Sound/Atlantic, 2018)

Touring his previous album, Brent Cobb rolled into Manchester to play the day after the Ariana Grande massacre. As effectively the next American up, his decision whether to play attracted a lot of attention Stateside, especially at Rolling Stone. He posted on Facebook “While we do not want to be insensitive to your tragedy, we also refuse to let terrorism win. Our hearts break for your loss and we will be there with you tonight to mourn and help heal.” He started warily, and the depleted crowd, many of whom had walked to the gig straight from the highly emotional vigil, were raw. Continue reading “Brent Cobb “Providence Canyon” (Low Country Sound/Atlantic, 2018)”

Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore “Downey to Lubbock” (Yep Roc, 2018)

Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore have been scene buddies for 30 years, but never recorded together until now. Whilst joint headlining recently they realised the chemistry, and decided they had to get something down, resulting in an album of history sweeping covers and two originals. Alvin started in The Blasters, Gilmore in The Flatliners, but they are now both touring troubadour senior citizens, performing their tales of the new and old west with huge energy and love for their craft, and much respect for each other.  Continue reading “Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore “Downey to Lubbock” (Yep Roc, 2018)”

We Are The West “The Golden Shore” (Independent, 2018)

For the last 6 years, on the Saturday before each full moon, We Are The West transform an everyday Los Angeles underground car park into a performance space where their concerts are supported by, and collaborations made with, a rotation of any and all soundscapes from the LA scene. As their musical story began in a shipping container on a sheep farm in Holland, via an abandoned convent in Brooklyn, it is perhaps not surprising that this doesn’t present as your regular album. Continue reading “We Are The West “The Golden Shore” (Independent, 2018)”

Cold Tone Harvest “After You” (Independent, 2018)

With such an evocative band name, you could be forgiven for presumption about this bands style, and you may be half right. Yes, they are rural, and with Michigan being the Midwest, those winters will be long, and no it is not upbeat. But there is talent and beauty to be found in  ‘After You’, the self-released debut album from Cold Tone Harvest. Though founded in 2008,the laconic sound of their music was matched by the decade it took to get a debut long-player out, Continue reading “Cold Tone Harvest “After You” (Independent, 2018)”

Sarah McQuaid “If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous” (A Shovel and A Spade, 2018)

The cover of her fifth album shows a guitar morphed into a spade. Whilst Woody Guthrie wrote “This Machine Kills Fascists” on his guitar, Sarah McQuaid may as well have put “This Machine Kills Fracking” on hers. The title track opens with McQuaid warning her son not to go too deep in the garden with his shovel, but swiftly moves to ‘Splitting cracks in the rock to free the power inside’. If this is the most overtly political statement on the album, plenty more tracks are connected to the earth, and the moon.  Continue reading “Sarah McQuaid “If We Dig Any Deeper It Could Get Dangerous” (A Shovel and A Spade, 2018)”

The Dead South “Illusion & Doubt” (DevilDuck, 2018)

Canada is a major home of Americana, but not perhaps where you would look to find bluegrass. The Dead South are firmly established as a self described folk-bluegrass outfit, and are finally bringing their second album to the UK. Their basic cello/acoustic/mandolin/banjo set up is enhanced on record by layering and strings, with tempos and lengths varied to get away from the basic bluegrass fast 2/4 template, the band members backgrounds in classical and metal strongly influencing the stylings. Continue reading “The Dead South “Illusion & Doubt” (DevilDuck, 2018)”