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.

Cave Flowers “Cave Flowers” (Hard Bark Records, 2020)

Opening your first album, first track with the classic one beat drum thump straight into a fast guitar lick may be generic, but it’s a surefire announcement of arrival and intent, and done as well as this lets you immediately know what’s coming. Which is essentially a melange of every US band that has ever felt a little bit country, but really wanted to stay rock’n’roll. Cave Flowers realise that re-inventing the wheel is futile, but really make it revolve gloriously in an album that is simultaneously fresh and familiar, and so enjoyable. Continue reading “Cave Flowers “Cave Flowers” (Hard Bark Records, 2020)”

Elijah Ocean “Back To The Lander” (New Wheel Music, 2019)

From sea to shining sea, Elijah Ocean certainly thinks America is beautiful. Also poignant and filled with as much longing as hope. For his ninth album he takes a different direction, and reflects on the country he has endlessly crossed promoting his work and playing for others. So we start on the east coast in New York State, and end up in California on the west. But that journey is not linear, it covers endless geographical mentions. If you wanted to sit down with pen and paper, you would surely not be far off a full house in a game of state bingo. Continue reading “Elijah Ocean “Back To The Lander” (New Wheel Music, 2019)”

Drew Danburry “Danburry 2003 – 2018” (Independent, 2019)

When a super prolific songwriter has to cull their catalogue for a career compilation, leaving most of their carefully fashioned pieces on an effective second class pile, it must irk. Drew Danburry’s task of reducing his 400+ songlist to just 25 tracks must have been a true labour of love. The only real criteria would be to give an overview of his sound to potential new listeners, and presumably (and hopefully) make it accessible, because Danburry is diverse, disparate and often wilfully challenging. Continue reading “Drew Danburry “Danburry 2003 – 2018” (Independent, 2019)”