Rich Layton & Tough Town “Salvation Road” (Never Lucky Records, 2019)

On the original road to salvation, St. Paul suggests that the wages of sin are death. Rich Layton has avoided that outcome in a lifetime in the rock’n’roll trenches, but has taken a few knocks along the way, and now brings us his ‘Salvation Road’. The title track is a gospel-infused shot at rock’n’roll redemption, which Layton says he performs on Saturday night in the bars and Sunday morning in the church. As he says “Perseverance has been the story of my life, especially where music is concerned”. Continue reading “Rich Layton & Tough Town “Salvation Road” (Never Lucky Records, 2019)”

Ari “Radikoj” (Independent, 2019)

Icelandic Americana? As the genre evolves, the label becomes a useful tag, but ‘What Even is Americana?’ as The Milk Carton Kids asked us. To be honest, it would be a stretch to call this Americana, though it does have some typical instrumentation and familiar tone. It is though a very attractive listen, beguiling, clever, genuinely beautiful in part. Baroque could be a better description, not just for instrumentation – a marxaphone on ‘Wolves’, clavichord on ‘Crossfire’ – but in atmosphere, a lot of these songs are chamber pieces, ‘Cold War Love’ and ‘Repeat’ both starting as piano songs before instrumentation subtly enters and builds. Continue reading “Ari “Radikoj” (Independent, 2019)”

Patty Griffin “Patty Griffin” (Thirty Tigers, 2019)

For her tenth album, Patty Griffin returns after personal crisis with a work of reflection, both deeply intimate and deflective. Rarely specifically autobiographical, Griffin sings tales of others’ longings and travails, exploring women’s concerns and men’s outlooks. Much of this, though, is oblique displacement of her recent experiences, and the songs need to be searched. Her cancer is specifically mentioned once, briefly, in ‘Coins.’ Reflections on life and contemplation generally is a more frequent theme. Continue reading “Patty Griffin “Patty Griffin” (Thirty Tigers, 2019)”

Steve Earle and The Dukes “GUY” (New West, 2019)

In Heartworn Highways, the 1975-shot documentary which now seems like a premonition of the Americana trend, we see an increasingly raucous Christmas Eve jam filmed around Guy Clark’s dining room table. In the background is Steve Earle, barely out of his teens and looking younger. He had just joined Clark’s band as bassist, and they spent the next 40 years bonded in friendship by their love of the song. When Clark died in 2016, Earle said that one of his greatest regrets was that he never wrote a song with Clark. Continue reading “Steve Earle and The Dukes “GUY” (New West, 2019)”

Film review: “Wild Rose” (Entertainment One, 2019)

A British film that doesn’t just feature country music, but is soaked in it, ‘Wild Rose’ is an unalloyed joy, a celebration of the power of three chords and the truth, as tattooed straight down our heroine Rose-Lynn’s arm. Hollywood has made a few of these movies, which tend to come with big hats and bro-country backing. This is very different in approach; every time any character mentions ‘country and western’ they are shouted down with “it’s just country,” but it’s not even just that as most of the music featured sits very nicely with an Americana crowd. Continue reading “Film review: “Wild Rose” (Entertainment One, 2019)”

Jessie Buckley’s star bursts in new movie ‘Wild Rose’

We’ve got news of a new movie coming out next month which you’ll probably want to put on your “to do” list along with verruca plasters and noodles. With a UK release of April 12th, ‘Wild Rose’ is a Cinderella story with the City of Nashville itself representing the prince. Jessie Buckley plays Rose-Lynn Harlen, a “Glasgow ne’er-do-well with talent, a dream and a ‘three chords and the truth’ tattoo.” She’s supported by an impressive cast including Julie Walters and Sophie Okonedo. Continue reading “Jessie Buckley’s star bursts in new movie ‘Wild Rose’”

AmericanA-Z – The Jayhawks

Though the roots of Americana go back decades, it was the early 1990s when the sounds we love started to coalesce into a proto-genre. Generally viewed then as alt-country, two bands on the same circuit emerged and got picked up by major labels, and sparked the alt-country boom in the late 90s from which Americana emerged as the 21st Century force that we love. If Uncle Tupelo were more alt than country and carried the cool edge, the The Jayhawks were more country than alt, and gloriously had the harmonies. Continue reading “AmericanA-Z – The Jayhawks”

Swimming Bell “Wild Sight” (Adventure Club Records, 2019)

Swimming Bell is the solo project of Brooklyn based Katie Schottland, ‘Wild Sight’ the debut album following her ‘The Golden Heart’ EP in 2017. That this gentle music carries nothing of the metropolis is perhaps explained by much of its creation being in the UK with collaborator and producer Oli Deacon (Lowpines), including a spell in Leeds last winter. When Schottland was incapacitated by a broken foot in 2015, she picked up an acoustic and started to play by learning Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’, and some of these tracks are so spaciously produced that you can almost hear that brush on the village dance floor, a gust of wind in ‘Quietly Calling’ for instance. Continue reading “Swimming Bell “Wild Sight” (Adventure Club Records, 2019)”

Dave Ernst “Hickory Switch” (Eastwood Records, 2019)

After nearly three decades in numerous Louisville, Kentucky bands, Dave Ernst releases his debut solo album, and has got it just right. Short and snappy, with no room for filler, Ernst includes six of his own songs – no doubt carefully curated through his time on the scene – carefully matched with two fitting covers. Influences are proudly worn and referenced. Originality is fine, but if you get the basics right like this, the relative lack of freshness is almost a bonus. Strong songs, gutsy voice and lashings of telecasters in a clear mix mean that, in this case, familiarity breeds anything but contempt. Continue reading “Dave Ernst “Hickory Switch” (Eastwood Records, 2019)”

Vandoliers “Forever” (Bloodshot, 2019)

All six band members of this Dallas-Fort Worth troupe have a VFFV tattoo (Vandoliers Forever, Forever Vandoliers). Now that’s a sign of commitment, which is evidenced immediately on this album by raucous enthusiasm.Vandoliers’  third album is noisey and driven. Their first on Bloodshot, the accompanying big push from the Chicago based record label is inevitably going to break their sound through. Joshua ‘Fireball’ Fleming has the kind of growl/croak that makes you reach for a Fisherman’s Friend, but he sounds like he means every last gnarr, and that gets followers. Continue reading “Vandoliers “Forever” (Bloodshot, 2019)”