Elephant Micah “Genericana” (Western Vinyl 2018)

As has been said many times before Americana is a broad church and thus many musical styles are accepted inside and indeed they add to its rich diversity. However, it is a challenge to consider this particular work part of the Americana genre whatever way you look at it. The PR provided with this music makes reference to the first track ‘Surf A’ as “a virtual holiday destination, where soft waves of AM static crash and synthetic gulls call to a hazy sun. A skeleton-thin drum loop jogs by but these lazy synth tones are just working on their tan. And then, just as the soundscape approaches maximum repose, a gnarly guitar band busts into the mix like an odd choice by a half-baked algorithm.” Make of that what you will but listening to the track itself will fail to make the situation much clearer. Continue reading “Elephant Micah “Genericana” (Western Vinyl 2018)”

Courtney Hartman and Taylor Ashton “Been On Your Side” (Free Dirt Records, 2018)

This is the debut album offering from two friends and fine musicians who have honed their art in the industry for a number of years. Courtney Hartman was until very recently part of Della Mae a five-piece all-girl bluegrass group from Boston and a nominee for the 2017 Americana Music Association Instrumentalist of the Year award for her guitar playing, whilst Taylor Ashton is from Canadian roots group Fish & Bird and a superb clawhammer banjo player. Continue reading “Courtney Hartman and Taylor Ashton “Been On Your Side” (Free Dirt Records, 2018)”

Ben Reel “Land Of Escape” (Independent, 2018)

Ben Reel is an Irish artist who has been in the business for over 20 years, this being his eighth studio album release.  This is a homegrown affair having been recorded and produced in his home studio in South Armagh with Reel having written or co-written all twelve tracks. There is a theme to the album which is one of redemption and understanding which is demonstrated no better than on ‘Fish Out Of Water,’ a haunting track written from the perspective of an exiled immigrant seeking a new life with all the terrors of the journey on show and the many daunting problems at the other end of the journey throwing up the unfamiliar. Featuring a moody organ and drumbeat mimicking guns it is a top quality track highlighting one of the burning subjects of the day. Continue reading “Ben Reel “Land Of Escape” (Independent, 2018)”

The Wood Brothers “One Drop Of Truth” (Honey Jar Records 2018)

The Wood Brothers comprise the trio of brothers Oliver and Chris Wood, along with Jano Rix, and have been around for some time, this being their sixth album release. On this work they have a bluesy style which is redolent of the deep south (although the band hail from elsewhere) and after much time together they are starting to display a multitude of influences. The group have described this album as the most free they have ever done, having treated each song as if it were its own short film, and importantly it seems as if they’ve had fun along the way. Continue reading “The Wood Brothers “One Drop Of Truth” (Honey Jar Records 2018)”

Cowboy Junkies “All That Reckoning” (Proper Records, 2018)

Cowboy Junkies will be known to many given that they have now been performing together for 33 years and were at the forefront of the Americana movement. It’s hard to keep count of the albums they’ve released as they have over 20 to their name, but this is the first studio release for a number of years. The 11 songs on show here break no new ground and are in the laid back and slightly melancholy style that the band are known for. Continue reading “Cowboy Junkies “All That Reckoning” (Proper Records, 2018)”

Old Salt Union “Old Salt Union” (Compass Records, 2017)

Old Salt Union are a five piece traditional old time string band playing music that any fan of the likes of Old Crow Medicine Show or The Infamous Stringdusters will instantly fall in love with. This is however a group with a modern twist with members having a varied musical background including classical and hip hop as well as more traditional bluegrass. The ten tracks on show are mostly written by the group members although there is a superb cover of Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’ with a clever video that you will want to check out mimicking Simon’s original with Chevy Chase. Continue reading “Old Salt Union “Old Salt Union” (Compass Records, 2017)”

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)”