Loren Cole “For The Sake Of Being Honest” (Independent, 2018)

Loren Cole is a young artist based in Los Angeles, California and the sunshine from that State exudes from this album from the start of the very first track. Echoing the style and vibe of Fleetwood Mac Cole has written ten songs of great maturity and positivity without straying into the formulaic mainstream dross leaving us with a superb debut. The opener ‘God Only Knows Why’ is an uplifting ditty which has traces of the ’60’s flower power about it but with more depth and intelligence. ‘Follow’ could be lifted from many pop songbooks of years past with a catchy hook and a horn section to boot. Continue reading “Loren Cole “For The Sake Of Being Honest” (Independent, 2018)”

Tracy Grammer “Low Tide” (Independent, 2018)

Tracy Grammer has been in the business some time and was part of a folk duo with Dave Carter in the 90’s until Carter’s death in 2002. She has released a number of albums since but this is her debut as a songwriter with all bar one of the ten tracks here being penned by Grammer. This is a departure from the folk sound of her early work demonstrated immediately by the opener Hole which is a driven pop track lamenting the singer’s failure in her love life followed by Mercy featuring a clear bass groove and electric guitar with a catchy recurring riff. Continue reading “Tracy Grammer “Low Tide” (Independent, 2018)”

Romantica “Outlaws” (Independent, 2018)

Minnesota based Romantica have been around for quite some time, having four previous albums to their name. However, there is some poignancy in this release which has been compiled from leftovers and tracks by frontman Ben Kyle that didn’t make it onto earlier albums for one reason or another because he was struck down by Lyme Disease two years ago and is still on the road to recovery. The experience certainly impacted Kyle significantly and the compilation of this album appears to have been a therapeutic and necessary diversion for him. Continue reading “Romantica “Outlaws” (Independent, 2018)”

Niall Thomas “Night Sky Blue” (Independent 2018)

This is the second solo album from Dublin based singer-songwriter Niall Thomas which showcases ten self-penned thoughtful songs delivered in a mainly acoustic style. Thomas himself describes each song as forming a snapshot of time drawn from personal experience and the surroundings in Dublin’s North Inner City, where he has lived for fourteen years. What the songs do demonstrate is that this a man who has a keen eye on the human condition and a social conscience as these are pieces of work displaying real depth and feeling. Continue reading “Niall Thomas “Night Sky Blue” (Independent 2018)”

Helen Raven “Helen Raven” (Phonic Box Records, 2018)

This four-track EP from UK based Helen Raven is her debut release with all tracks having been written, recorded and produced by the artist. Raven describes the genre of her work as “Folk Noir” which is presumably a reference to the heavy influence of the French chanson style which gives a melancholic tinge to the songs. Accompanied only by guitar, Raven’s at times erotic voice is very much to the fore, although her singing style means that the lyrics are often hard to follow especially on the opening track ‘La Rou Ronsard.’ Continue reading “Helen Raven “Helen Raven” (Phonic Box Records, 2018)”

Gerry Spehar “Anger Management” (Independent, 2018)

Despite the title of this excellent record Gerry Spehar is clearly a very angry man, the subject of his ire being mainly about a certain US President. However, this is not a one dimensional piece but rather a protest record in the grand tradition of years gone by with anti-war sentiment and concern for the downtrodden.  A little background for anyone who is not familiar with Spehar – he is from Colorado and started performing in the 1970’s, although having a family meant that financial necessity drove him to hold down a non-musical job for a while before returning to what is his musical calling.  This album of 13 tracks is co-produced by Spehar and Paul Lacques of I See Hawks In L.A. and backed up by most of that band. Continue reading “Gerry Spehar “Anger Management” (Independent, 2018)”

The Magic City Trio “Amerikana Arkana” (Independent 2018)

This is a somewhat quirky but truly original offering from London based group The Magic City Trio who, according to their website take their inspiration from pre-war country music, The Carter Family, through to modern hillbilly noir found in the novels of Daniel Woodrell. The band comprises Frank Sweeney (Guitar, Vocals and Harmonica), Annie Holder (guitar, vocal and kazoo) and Adi Staempfli (bass and vocals) and it seems that they have written at least some if not all the ten tracks that comprise the album. That being the case they have indeed been seeped in the music as the songs are intelligent, original and authentic. The opening track ‘Black Dog Following Me’ will immediately take you to the opening scene of a spaghetti western such is the sound landscape that accompanies this clever track about mental fragility. Continue reading “The Magic City Trio “Amerikana Arkana” (Independent 2018)”

Dan Hartland “Great Novels” (Independent, 2018)

It’s always good to come across homegrown talent which is what is firmly on show here with the first full length record from Dan Hartland. Intelligent lyrics, hummable melodies and some rather fancy top notch guitar playing all add up to a very listenable eleven track album. The title track ‘Great Novels’ is, as the title hints, all about writing and inspiration accompanied solely by Hartland’s guitar which on this track in particular is top drawer and indicative of the overall folk acoustic style. Continue reading “Dan Hartland “Great Novels” (Independent, 2018)”

Simon Linsteadt “February” (Stormy Deep Records 2018)

This album exudes relaxed California cool, which is just as well really as the artist is a native of that State. Without the knowledge that this was a new release it is likley that you would assume that the music here hails from the early 70’s. There are many comparisons that can be made such as America, Poco (indeed Linsteadt’s voice is not unlike that of Timothy B Schmit) Seals & Croft and almost all of the Laurel Canyon brigade. There is a gentleness to the whole work which is essentially acoustic demonstrating Lindsteadt’s guitar skills. Continue reading “Simon Linsteadt “February” (Stormy Deep Records 2018)”

Anjana Vasan “Too Dark For Country” (Folkroom Records 2018)

Anjana Vasan is an actress who now demonstrates a new side to her talents as a singer / songwriter with a really impressive four track debut EP ‘Too Dark for Country’. This is essentially an acoustic folk record with the essence of blues and country on show. Vasan has a strong and powerful voice which she uses to full effect on each track. Continue reading “Anjana Vasan “Too Dark For Country” (Folkroom Records 2018)”